Press Release
March 10, 2014

(Guest speaker during Communication Week at Assumption College,
held on Monday, 10 March 2014)


I am happy to speak on the theme, Social Justice and Responsibility for communicators. This topic was an advocacy of Saint Marie Eugenie of Jesus, founder of the Religious of the Assumption. I was privileged to be invited to her canonization ceremonies conducted in Rome by the pope, who lovingly gave the Filipinos an audience. It was a numinous experience, and hence I have a special place in my heart for St. Marie Eugenie.

Good governance is founded on the participation of civil society in the government's decision-making process, and in instituting the rule of law. UNESCO posits that good governance will flourish, if people actively: fight corruption; defend human rights; demand transparency and accountability by governments; and move for ways to reduce poverty in the country.[1]

This means that we will have to invest time in making sure that the government works for the welfare of its citizens. Going to the streets, sending letters to errant officials, commenting on social media sites - all these are ways of participating in the political process, and in ensuring that the government does its job. If we want change, we have to work for it. You may think that you are just a student, whose voice is too small to be heard; but if there are enough advocates and like-minded individuals, the government will be forced to listen to the people. In the past, these marching voices were even able to topple two presidents, who failed to hear the people.

I respectfully encourage you to broaden your knowledge of what happens outside your school. By knowing more about your surroundings, you will be able to formulate opinions, and make informed decisions when participating in the political arena. Getting involved in social issues will teach you not only to sympathize, but also to empathize with others, and to see their problems as your own. For example, you may think that human rights violation, such as the the killing of journalists, is not your problem. But you must remember that the guarantee of the inviolability of human rights, such as the right to life, freedom of speech and access to information, is a precondition for a functioning society.

There is no such thing as a perfect government or a perfect society. But through your participation in the government's decision-making process, and in instituting the rule of law, the government is forced to become responsible for, and to, its citizens; rather than rule with an authoritarian hand over them.[2]


Another foundation of good governance is an independent and strong media. The media should be free to probe, monitor, and criticize government policies and state actions. Known as the fourth estate, the media plays a crucial role in disseminating information and in ensuring that players in the political field do not abuse the democratic process.[3]

The media serves as the eyes and ears of the people, especially in areas where face-to-face participation by the citizens is not possible. Media helps the people remain vigilant and help form public opinion. Thus, independent media does not only increase awareness among the people, but also drives them to participate more in the public arena. For example, it is through the media that we are able to determine the openness and transparency of the elections. It is also through them that we found out about the pork barrel scam.

The media therefore determines what is newsworthy and what is not. On the one hand, this has a positive effect with the media bringing into the open, controversial issues and information which an ordinary citizen would not be able to access. On the other hand, this power to determine what should appear on the news has created a breed of corrupt media practitioners. These so-called journalists are bribed by traditional politicians who want extra media mileage. Nonetheless, the media is not an all-powerful entity. Some of the obstacles they have to face are: censorship, denial of access to government information, restrictive laws, heavy fines, and even imprisonment for reporting against the government.


The media referred to as the fourth estate generally means the traditional media - print, radio, and television. However, there is another media platform where traditional media and the ordinary citizen can converse - social media.

Social media encourages participatory democracy. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the big three social media services where large numbers of people can easily and inexpensively contact each other through a variety of services. Other social media platforms, such as Tumblr and Instagram, also play an active role in gathering people to share their opinions and experiences. Social media therefore lowers traditional socio-economic barriers to commanding the spotlight. The power of the rich politicians becomes more porous, and the political warlords have less control.[4]

The future of political warfare will take place online. According to an article by Tim Unwin[5] and a blog entry posted by the World Bank[6] major political changes, such as what happened in the Middle East, can be seen as a direct result of the use of social media. Social media works in such a way that it breaks the barriers between national borders and government structures.

I therefore urge you - students of Assumption College - to fight back against social evils, using your wit and with your words. Use social media to air your grievances. Be the tide that will cleanse the Philippines of the corrupt and the useless. Weaponize social media. Fire up your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, and Instagram accounts on demanding social change. You can do this by posting content that does not only inform, but also entertains and motivates. For example, create memes against the plunderers in government and create infographics showing how much embezzled money by government officials could have been used to fund social services and public works. Learn graphic design, videography, and programming language. This way, you will be more equipped in creating riveting content that will arouse, organize, and mobilize the masses.


Social media can be used to protect democratic freedoms. Its low or no cost for set-up, potentially wide reach, and quick or instantaneous sharing of messages[7] are characteristics that make social media an ideal platform for digital advocacy. It is also one of the areas where the freedom of speech remains free and unabridged. However, the libel provision in Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Law intrudes on the freedom of netizens to express themselves in the online realm.

Our Constitution provides that freedom of speech is a fundamental right. Article 3, Section 4 states: "No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances." In this context, the controversial law penalizing online libel makes a gross mistake in juxtaposing traditional media and social media. These are two completely different universes. Social media does not operate within the same universe as traditional media. In TV, radio, and print, once you are maligned, it is extremely difficult to get your side aired.

For example, if your enemy is a corrupt politician, his unexplained wealth would enable him to publicize a libelous article or even false information against you. By contrast, it would be very difficult for you to receive equal space and equal time in publishing a reply. This position of inequality does not apply on the internet. On the internet, if someone posts something against you, you have the full right to answer him in kind and you do not have to pay anything.

The controversial libel provision in the Cybercrime Law violates at least two widely-accepted principles of constitutional law. The first principle is the "void for vagueness" doctrine. As presently worded, the provision on online libel is so vague that you hardly know who are covered by it. The Supreme Court ruled that it is only the sender who is liable, not the person who is commenting or receiving, but we must ask: Who is the sender? Is it the service provider, the individual netizen, or a group? How do we identify them? Worse, if they are not using their true identities, how are you going to go beyond what they profess to be their identities on the internet? These questions emphasize how different the internet is from traditional forms of media.

The second principle that the provision violates is what is known in constitutional law terms as the "overbreadth doctrine." According to this doctrine, a law is unconstitutional if, in proscribing unprotected speech, it also tramples on protected speech. It is a basic principle that the law should be confined within very strict limits. Thus, here we have a case that, unfortunately, appears to be jurisprudence trailing after technology, because of the lack of information on how the internet operates in society.

I humbly submit that the Supreme Court ruling on online libel is erroneous. And I call on all netizens to magnify our efforts to pass Senate Bill No. 53 or The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom (MCPIF). This is a new law that I have filed from internet crowdsourcing. It was not me who crafted this law, but all the netizens coming from different professions, such as lawyers, civil engineers, and technology savvy-people, among others. Under my bill, the State is obliged to protect and promote the freedom of speech online, the right of the people to petition online for redress of grievances, and the right of the people to publish material and distribute information online. It also upholds the privacy and security of data, ensures the freedom to innovate and create without permission, and guarantees the protection of intellectual property.

Under my bill, there is no internet libel if there is no malice or intent to injure, and if the person claiming to be a victim of internet libel is not explicitly or positively identified in the libelous speech. The bill also codifies the exceptions to libel that have been carved out by a long line of Supreme Court decisions.[8] My bill, therefore, still penalizes internet libel, but does not impose a criminal penalty. It merely imposes civil penalties. This means that online libel is not a crime, and is therefore "decriminalized." The victim can sue for damages.

Another highlight of my bill is that it punishes an even graver offense: hate speech. Internet hate speech is "a public and malicious expression calling for the commission of illegal acts on an entire class of persons, a reasonably broad section thereof, or a person belonging to such a class, based on gender, sexual orientation, religious belief or affiliation, political belief or affiliation, ethnic or regional affiliation, citizenship, or nationality, made on the Internet or on public networks." [9] This provision is absent in the present Cybercrime Law, hence the urgent need for a new law.


To ensure good governance, it is imperative that a positive relationship should exist between the state and the media. The government should therefore implement a legal and regulatory environment which encourages freedom and pluralism, rather than stifles the sharing of information. It is up to us, the citizens, to take the lead in assisting media outlets to become independent and economically self-sustaining.

The media promotes vigilance by fostering investigative journalism, promoting the openness of court, legislative and administrative proceedings, and access to official and public documents. Since corrupt practices prevent the government from ensuring the best life possible for their people, the government should therefore protect the media and whistleblowers. Good governance can only be achieved when the government sees the media as an investigative ally and not as a threat.[10] It is entirely possible that the 2016 presidential and senatorial elections will be determined by social media. When he first ran the American presidency, Pres. Obama relied heavily on social media. It later helped him to win the Nobel Prize.

When I ran for president in 1992 - remember I won in the voting, but lost in the counting - like all the other candidates, I had to go to all the major cities throughout the country, to deliver campaign speeches. Many of my opponents rented their crowds, meaning that the candidate provided the buses and jeepneys, gave the food, and even paid every person who went to the rally.

I had no money, so I merely relied on the energy and courage of young people. They begged for rejected wood from lumber yards and built the campaign stage, which sometimes crashed to the ground because it was overcrowded. I was cheated, only because my youth volunteers could watch the counting only by staying sleepless for three straight nights. When my volunteers went home to sleep, the power brownouts began all over the country. That rendered us helpless.

Today, social media has changed the rules of the game. Anyone can participate in the extended debate to distinguish the truth from the propaganda of moneyed candidates. There will be less rallies and motorcades. The crooked candidates will hire armies of professional to dominate and maybe even crash the social media. But while the youth continues to fight, the candidates with immoral wealth and their criminal campaign contributors will get a beating. Such is the power of social media. Claim it!

The best test for the 2016 presidential elections would be a presidential debate. This was started in 1992, when I ran. Again, today is a far cry from the past. Almost every family has a TV or a family member who can access YouTube. I endorse a presidential debate, because the best test for leadership is intellectual, not financial.



[1] Media and Good Governance. . Last accessed on 28 February 2014.

[2] Id.

[3] . Last accessed on 4 March 2014.

[4] Defensor Santiago, Miriam. "Weaponizing Social Media for the Ongoing Political Campaign; and the Tubbataha Disaster." 12 February 2013.

[5] "Social Media, democracy, and good governance." . Last accessed on 28 February 2014.

[6] "#9 from 2013: Using Social Media for Good Governance." . Last accessed on 28 February 2014.

[7] Using social media for digital advocacy.<>. Last accessed on 28 February 2014.

[8] "Questions and Answers on the Magna Carta of the Philippines for Internet Freedom." . Last accessed on 4 March 2014.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

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