To Mr. Lao:
The first time I wrote about you on this blog, you were an unfortunate guy who drove through a flood, had your ungraceful moment aired on national TV and Youtube, and got bullied online for it. Now you’re a lawyer and staunch supporter of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Law.
I watched a forum on ANC on this controversial law the other day and you were one of the panelists. You explained why online libel should merit imprisonment. It was an evil act, you said, and a crime not just against persons but against the state. You spoke in legal gobbledygook but it was obvious, of course, that your stand on the matter was largely influenced by that painful experience last year. You talked about the emotional trauma you went through, how you even became suicidal because of all those cruel and slanderous criticisms.
I cannot presume to understand how horrible it must have been for you and your loved ones, and I am truly sorry that you had to go through that. It only makes sense that you would want strong punitive measures to be meted out against hateful people who willfully destroy reputations. The problem is the Cybercrime Law you support will not bring about the justice you seek.
Mr. Lao, bullies are cowards. They mock and taunt and spew vindictive words while hiding behind false names and online avatars. There were people who went out of their way to create fake Facebook accounts just so they could post nasty things against you with reckless abandon. If a malicious person is intent on maligning your character, he can freely do so even with RA 10175 in place. After all, it’d be tough to file a libel case against an egg avatar on Twitter.
The libel provision of the Cybercrime Law will not curb online bullying or promote decent and responsible behavior on social media. It will only stifle public discourse and scare off people from exercising their basic right to freedom of expression. It will not be able to catch and punish spiteful bullies and character assassins. It will only make journalists, bloggers and netizens vulnerable to harassment and repression.
Mr. Lao, there was no excuse or justification for the abuse heaped on you. People can have an unbridled capacity for meanness and when we have such a powerful tool as the internet along with the anonymity it affords, the results can be brutal. Please consider though the real danger that the Cybercrime Law could pose. People can be mean but an oppressive law is a far greater evil.
We were born in the mid-80s, when the Marcos dictatorship was about to be overthrown and democracy was at hand. The generation before us declared “Never again!” They paid for freedom dearly, a lot of them died for it. Let us not be the generation that will allow a poorly crafted piece of legislation to weaken this freedom.