The Cybercrime Prevention Act is a law that should not be. It came like a horse-kick that dealt a black eye on our freedom of expression. Drawing widespread criticisms, it is now facing several petitions that are seeking its annulment by the Supreme Court. Shoddily crafted, it lacks finish and the intricate details for refinement that could make it look like a flawless gem—no cracks, no holes. Its context and substance clearly show that the law was flimsily enacted—like a food that is either inadequately or incorrectly cooked, say, a hamburger grilled on the engine hood of a car. Thanks to its authors, some of whom have great understanding of law.
One of its flaws is the requisite that the complainant must file the case at his place of residence. So a Filipino national in Japan must file it in Japan? Conversely, if a local sues a Filipino national in another country, our courts cannot acquire physical jurisdiction over the accused, unless the latter voluntarily appears in our court. This looks dopey. A law that imposes undue burden upon a party-litigant, making it impractical or impossible to prosecute a case, is a bad one and must be struck down as unconstitutional.
The jail term the law imposes must be deleted. It is repugnant to the rule on double jeopardy. A victim of electronic libel can seek redress both under this law and the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and may win two judgments against the same defendant for the same offense. Worse yet, the jail term under the cybercrime law is longer than that prescribed under the RPC, which would make the accused vulnerable not only to double but even to triple jeopardy.
Another flaw of the law is that it vests the justice secretary the power to block, freeze or stymie any cybermessage from floating, if at first glance, the message seems libelous. An unlimited discretion or power lodged in an office—with no mechanism for review, revocation, correction, censor or reversal as to the exercise thereof by a separate entity—is a fertile ground for abuse or misuse of such discretion and power, thus making the law very defective. This will not work in a system where “check and balance” is a necessary tool of discipline.
A TRO stopped the cybercrime law from implementation until January, the month lawyers from both sides will meet at the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, post those messages no mother can swallow, enjoy them like a picnic of hamburger cooked in a real oven—not on the engine hood of a jeepney.