On Online libel of the CyberCrime law: Writing Well is the Best Defense

There has been a lot of anxious speculation in social media and the blogsphere about the possible chilling effect of the new cybercrime law (officially the “Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012″, Republic Act No. 10175) on the freedom enjoyed by netizens in cyberspace. All this hand-wringing is premature. A cursory reading of the law will reveal it to be simply an updated version of a hodge-podge of existing laws.

For instance, libel has always been a crime, whether committed online or the old-fashioned, printed way. Thus, it is Article 353 of the Penal Code that defines libel as “a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or nay act, omission, condition, status or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one already dead. “ What the new cybercrime law simply does is make reference to the commission of libel through an electronic medium or Libel 2.0.

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Why Noynoying is Annoying

It’s sooooo annoying talaga,  these people! Grabe! (Or words to that effect)

It’s not me talking but Mr. Conrad De Quiros in yesterday’s Inquirer. In his almost apoplectic excoriation of the exponents of “Noynoying”, he takes everything and everyone to task, from Wikipedia to leftist youth groups to Manny Villar (?). Villar is as trapo as they come, but to connect him to the rising phenomena of Noynoying is stretching it a bit far.

Calling it puerile and a “horrendous contratemps”, De Quiros equates Noynoying as breaking faith with President Aquino’s “heroic” and “epic” efforts to fight corruption. He fears that that the spread of Noynoying would be playing into the hands of Gloria Arroyo’s propagandists and lead the young to perdition and the country to ruin.

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Yes, but is it sexual harassment ?

The case of alleged sexual harassment raised by Cristy Ramos against 2 members of the Philippine national football team, the widely (and wildly) popular Azkals, has brought the issue of sexual harassment into the forefront once more, this time in the area of team sports.

The details of the incident has been widely reported elsewhere, and need not be repeated here. Suffice it to say that it has led to wide, and sometimes acrimonious, debate online and off among those who would condemn the perceived sexual “offenders” and those who would defend, or at least offer explanations for,  their actions.

First the disclaimer: The Ramos sisters were good friends and our neighbors at the subdivision where we grew up. The Ramoses are family friends, FVR and my dad having gone to college together. However, we drifted apart during our college years, having attended different schools, although I would bump into the recently-departed Jo once in awhile, she being a popular campus figure in U.P. Diliman.  I would also see Cristy’s husband, Freddy Jalasco, socially from time to time although I have not seen him in years.

There are two particular articles which I found most enlightening, all the more so for being from the point of view of women who are no strangers to the atmosphere and psychology of men’s team sports. One is by Lia Cruz (Sexual Harassment in mens’ locker room should be challenged) and the other by Mika Palileo (What is sexual harassment? On Sofia Cristina and the woman question), both at the AksyonTV website. Their insights are fascinating and cast light on one of the darker aspects of popular sports.

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Miriam makes her point

Emphatically, as always. In taking to task the prosecution team in the C.J. Corona impeachment trial for their scattershot approach which led to the sudden and unceremonious withdrawal of 5 of the 8 articles of impeachment, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago let loose with a few choice and colorful words.  Just Miriam being Miriam, the other senator-judges seemed to say, until Atty. Vitaliano Aguirre signaled his displeasure by a contemptuous act which he defiantly stood by. An even bigger uproar ensued.

Which led to Fr. Catalino Arevalo, S.J., in a homily at the EDSA Shrine, to denounce Miriam “as worthy of the fires of hell” for having called the members of the prosecution panel “fools”. This according to the Bible. Never one to suffer fools gladly, Miriam was quick with a retort. The Constitution provides a wall of separation between Church and State, said she, and a priest cannot violate the law in the guise of criticizing a senator-judge with the ulterior motive of promoting his own (presumably anti-Corona) political agenda. Moreover, the Bible can be interpreted in an almost infinite number of ways. Even the devil can quote scripture to suit his ends, she might have added.

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Revive blog and Constitutional law

The time has come to revive my moribund blog. I stopped writing and posting as the well had run dry, so to speak, and I found myself at loose ends as to whether I wanted to continue blogging or not.
But the most gripping legal drama of the decade began to unfold over the past two months and I felt the urge not to let the event go unremarked.

My views are, to borrow Thomas Merton’s phrase, that of a “guilty bystander”. I am guilty of many things, not least of which is a recurring apathy and indifference towards events swirling around me, and an unhealthy tendency to focus on my own peculiar miseries. What Merton called “a spurious self-isolation in a special world”. This is an attempt to break out of my shell and once again engage with the world at large. If only through the blogosphere.

For starters I wanted to write about something arid yet compelling, oftentimes insufficiently understood but nowadays a subject of much heated debate – constitutional law. I am far from being an expert, or even an assiduous student, of the Constitution. Yet it is my conceit that I have something worthwhile to say on the subject, if only from the point of view a curious observer.

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Public Deaths

Death is one of the most universal of taboos. Not the rituals of grief, burial and mourning which are many, varied and almost always public in character. I mean the actual act of dying. This most mysterious of earthly transitions is done in private, even for the most well-known of persons, with a few family and close friends in attendance and maybe a man or woman of God around to ease the way.

Public deaths, on the other hand, serve a social purpose. For instance, public executions are meant to be cathartic events in which society extracts its pound of flesh, as it were. It supposedly serves as a deterrent to criminal or aberrant behavior and reflects the manner by which justice is served within a community. It’s also morbidly entertaining and can even be interactive, such as in the practice of stoning or the spectators’ participation in the gory events in the Roman Colosseum.

Other public deaths, such as the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, serve as a catalyst for social upheaval and change.

Suicide is a more complicated phenomenon in which no easy generalizations can be made. It can be done privately or in plain of view others, but even the most secretive act of taking one’s life assumes a public aspect upon the discovery of the body. The act itself is shocking under any circumstance, being so contrary to what we normally know and expect of human behavior. Thus, the ripple effects of a suicide extend beyond the immediate family or social circle of the victim to the society at large. I knowingly use the word “victim” as I believe those who kill themselves are casualties of one or another of life’s events which makes continued living unbearable. However, some suicides are more publicly significant that others. Continue reading

Pilipinas Kay Praning

Philippine Star columnist Yoly Villanueva-Ong wrote an impassioned piece in support of the discredited and scrapped “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” branding campaign of the Department of Tourism. Ms. Villanueva-Ong is the founder and head of the Campaigns and Grey ad agency, which helped conceptualize the aborted undertaking. By her own admission, she is not a disinterested observer.

In rather purple prose, she expressed her indignation at the “coordinated online outrage” by a “Gruesome Malicious Army” and “net-dicts” intending “to wreck havoc on the new, popular government“. It’s GMA and her stooges and a shadowy cabal “who fancy themselves divas of righteousness” behind all this, you see, and it’s all politically-motivated. “Politically-motivated” being the standard, catch-all retort of those caught in the act of bending the rules for their own benefit.

But this argument skirts the central issue of the whole brouhaha, which is that the whole concept was a bad idea to begin with and was simply called out for being what it was – a bad idea. And which is why the head of the new, popular government shelved the whole scheme. Continue reading

PAL Pilots Fly to Greener Pastures

Almost four year ago, I wrote an entry “Flying the Coop” in which I observed:

A recent news item says that more pilots have been leaving the country for greener pastures overseas. Philippine Airlines, Inc. (PAL) has lost about 20% of its pilots over the last three years and more are about to fly the coop. This is an alarming development in our continuing brain drain. Even our best trained and highest compensated professionals are packing their bags. A desperate policy resolution from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration limiting the number of pilots who can work for international airlines has failed to stem the tide.

Things have apparently gotten worse since. Over the weekend, at least 23 international and domestic PAL flights have been cancelled due to the fact that there were no pilots to fly PAL planes. Eight more flights were cancelled today. Continue reading

Plagiarism in the Supreme Court

Justice Mariano Del Castillo is being accused of plagiarism in not properly citing the scholarly authorities used in the decision in Viduya vs. Executive Secretary, which he penned. An ethics committee has been formed to investigate the matter, chaired by Chief Justice Renato Corona, with Justice Teresita de Castro as the working chair and Justices Roberto Abad, Jose Perez, and Jose Mendoza as members.

But did he actually copy the words of an article written by Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association, and passed them off as his own ? Mr. Ellis’ article, entitled “Breaking the Silence on Rape as an International Crime”, was published in the Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law and makes the case for considering rape as a crime against humanity, like piracy, genocide and other heinous offenses, and therefore “ subject to universal jurisdictions under customary international law”.

The Viduya ruling, in disposing of the claims of Filipino victims of Japan’s wartime policy of forcing women to work as sex slaves serving Japanese soldiers, held that the Philippines is under no obligation to assist in pursuing the comfort women’s claims. It essentially becomes a diplomatic issue. According to the Court, since “ The Executive Department has determined that taking up petitioners’ cause would be inimical to our country’s foreign policy interests, and could disrupt our relations with Japan thereby creating serious implications for stability in this region”, the Court cannot compel the government to take up the cudgels for the victims. The petition was accordingly dismissed.

Although it may appear from a quick and superficial reading of the Ellis article and the Viduya ruling that they espouse differing views on how rape should be treated under international law, they are actually on the same page. Both seem to “ fully agree that rape, sexual slavery, torture, and sexual violence are morally reprehensible as well as legally prohibited under contemporary international law”. But it was precisely in explaining the immediately preceding quote that Justice Del Castillo might have sailed into intellectually dishonest waters. Continue reading

Great Expectations

jobless-man
Photo by Anton Sheker of Blogwatch.ph

It was a good start, as these things go. The air was festive at the site of the presidential inaugural ceremonies, in the sense that it felt like a campaign rally for Noynoy Aquino. The predominance of yellow was expected although still a bit grating to those of us who were not enamoured of the President to begin with.

The entertainment segment preceding the formal oath-taking was entertaining, although some elements were a bit off. Juana Change as mistress of ceremonies, removed from the context of anti-government rallies, looked lost, fat and freakish. The songs were rehashes of campaign ditties with a few revisions to make them more “inclusive”. There was an earnest attempt to give life to a theme of reconciliation but it was still sounded and felt like a victory party for President Noynoy. Fair enough. He won and is now the Head of State.

P-Noy looked embarrassed at times at the outpouring of love and acclamation. Jojo Binay looked alternately bored and annoyed, slumped next to his boss, but came to life when it was his turn to take the oath of office. The foreign dignitaries looked bemused and bewildered at all the hoopla. Erap Estrada looked pensive, maybe looking back at the many lost opportunities. Kris Aquino appeared troubled but the rest of the Aquino sisters were glowingly beautiful. Chief Justice Renato Corona was putting a good face to an awkward situation. Continue reading