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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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

The Pangandaman Libel Suit Against Bambee

Over the past few days, I have been queried by bloggers about the possibility of facing a criminal case for libel for something they post online. It seems their anxiety, in part, has been fueled by the reported filing of a libel suit by Mayor Nasser Pangandaman, Jr. against Bambee De la Paz before the Lanao del Sur Prosecutor’s Office in Marawi City. It was Bambee’s blog which brought public attention to the mauling incident at the Valley Golf Club, for which Mayor Pangandaman and his companions, including his father DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, Sr., are allegedly responsible.

I have previously written about the legal ramifications of libel on the internet, which can be read here and here.

The Unlawyer has also written a lucid overview on the nature of libel as it relates to the Pangandaman-De la Paz feud. Likewise, the Cebu Daily News previously carried a comprehensive two-part article on libel, it nature, remedies and venue by Judge Gabriel T. Ingles, which can be accessed here and here.

The legal aspects of libel having been covered extensively elsewhere, I need not repeat them here. But to address the question posed by some bloggers on whether there is possibility that they can be sued for libel for something posted online, the answer is yes. There is always the chance that they might publish something (blogging is a form of electronic publication) which will offend some person or institution for which they will be hailed to court. Continue reading

Blogging Comes of Age

No less than a dean of Philippine journalism and incisive political analyst Amado Doronila has acknowledged that bloggers have become a potent force for disseminating information and shaping public opinion. Writing in his regular Inquirer column, Doronila tackles “Blog Power” and what this “new” element has done to influence the direction of public discourse. He uses the example of the De La Paz – Pangandaman feud to point out the advent of a new era of citizen journalism which he considers an aspect of ” a new people power movement, lodged in the Internet, (which) has emerged and has intervened forcefully to seize the public opinion initiative“.

The encounter marked for the first time the clash between the denizens of blogdom inhabited by users of Cyberspace and the official holders of power in the formal structures of government. The golf club encounter unveiled the constituency of this new and powerful force in public opinion which was mobilized to join the fray by a blog report written by De la Paz’s daughter, Bambee, 18, who narrated the details of the assault. The report became the basis of the criminal complaint lodged by the De la Paz family ahead of the counter-complaints also alleging physical injuries and child abuse on the part of the family victimized by the Pangandamans. The counter-suit lodged by the Pangandamans, which came within hours of the complaint filed by the De la Paz family, was reduced to copycat versions after Bambee jumped the gun on the use of new technology and stole the initiative from the Pangandamans, whose experience in counter-suits has been defined by the nomenclature of old politics which favors people holding power. Continue reading

Why the Pangandaman Issue Refuses to Die or At Least Abate

Images from Komiklopedia

Images from Komiklopedia

L’ affaire Pangandaman, ten days after the incident at Valley Golf, refuses to leave the front pages. The Inquirer carries an item on page one in which Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman appeals to the public, particularly bloggers, “to stop vilifying his family” and says that he is “hurting“. He states that “the past few days have been very painful” to his family and allegedly refers to bloggers who have posted angry comments against them as the specific source of their distress. This is no doubt true, up to point. That the blogosphere played a key role in bringing the narratives of the parties to public awareness can hardly be disputed. But Secretary Pangandaman gives too much credit to the bloggers in explaining why the issue refuses to abate.

Even persons who have never heard of blogs and wouldn’t know a blogger from an illegal logger have been kept well informed of the incident and its developments, via the traditional media. Why so ? Apart from the fact that the story of the golf course fracas is compelling in itself and therefore newsworthy, there may be social and cultural factors which influence why such a relatively minor episode has grabbed a lot of attention. The factual and legal aspects of the incident are already the topic of much debate, pro and con against either party, and need not be discussed here. Just a few observations, though, on context in which the controversy rages. Continue reading

Why We Blog

Andrew Sullivan in theatlantic.com writes a lucid and thought-provoking article on why he blogs, and the reasons he sets forth hold true for all of us. Aside from the need for self-expression, the standard explanation, there’s the adrenaline rush of thinking on your feet, and trying to put your musings and ideas into words with the immediacy inherent in the medium. It is “the spontaneous expression of instant thought“. As such, blogging can be addictive. Continue reading

Anthony Bourdain Was In Manila and I Didn’t Even Know It !

Photo from travelchannel.com

Photo from travelchannel.com

Anthony Bourdain of “No Reservations” fame was in Manila to film his show and I wasn’t even aware of it until weeks after he left. My wife knew, but didn’t say a word, not knowing or caring who Mr. Bourdain was.

As always, I found out first from the blogs, notably marketmanila.com and food-stylingmanila.com. I was on the verge of tears and dying of envy of everyone who had a chance to interact with the Great Bourdain. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of the show and when I got a copy of “No Reservations” the book, around this time last year, and saw that he had never been to the Philippines, I knew that it was only a matter of time before he landed on our fair shores and sampled our unique cuisine.

Well it happened, and he and his crew went in and out the country like ninjas, stealthily but effectively. They had no choice, I suppose, as the resulting media frenzy would have kept him from sampling the authentic grub which was their real objective. And they did their homework, zeroing in on the authoritative people who could give them a broad sampling of honest Filipino cooking at its best during their short stay. Guys like Market Man, Claude Tayag and Gene Gonzales. Continue reading

Bloggers As A Social Force

The recent Philippine Blog Awards drew hundred of bloggers to the wind-swept venue at the One Esplanade at the Mall of Asia complex last Sunday for an evening of celebrating the best in the Pinoy blogosphere. Food and drinks were good and plentiful. Senator Mar Roxas was the keynote speaker. Jayvee Fernandez gave an insightful closing speech on the transformative experience of blogging.

Despite technical glitches and other missteps common to events of this nature, a good time was had by all. Or so it appeared to me. I had a great time just people-watching and marveling at the variety of creatures who call themselves bloggers.

Congratulations to the winners and kudos to the organizers.

There will be detractors, of course, who will find fault in many aspects of the awards and the occasion itself. Much as Filipinos revel in awards-giving, an undertaking such as this would not be complete without one controversy or another to spice up post-event discussions. Continue reading

Bloggers’ Choice and Philippine Blog Awards this Sunday

The annual Philippine Blog Awards is set for this Sunday, 21 September 2008 (for those old enough to remember, the anniversary of Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law ) at the One Esplanade, Mall of Asia complex along Roxas Boulevard.

All bloggers are invited to attend and traipse down the red carpet in their show-stopping finery. Or better yet, just come as you are. All will be welcome, regardless of gender, age, creed or political persuasion (or lack thereof). It’ll be a blast. Registration starts at 5:00 p.m. and the awarding ceremonies start at exactly 6:00 p.m. Prizes and surprises await you, with a party afterwards. So get there early. Continue reading