Press Release
March 3, 2014

Opening Remarks on the Cybercrime Hearing
By Sen. Ralph G. Recto
Chairman, Committee on Science and Technology
March 3, 2014

Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat. Welcome to the Senate hearing on various cybercrime-related bills.

Perhaps to underscore the importance and the nuances of this subject, four committees are jointly hearing this.

But it will take more than four committees to forge the necessary laws.

Thus, we will be crowdsourcing ideas, because on this complex matter, the Senate needs all the inputs, from the widest sources, it can get.

In fact, that is the emerging template in lawmaking. Gone are days when physically appearing before a congressional panel is the only way in which one can be heard.

In the Internet age, tweets can be the threads of the fabric of legislation. Search engines have replaced summons. Even the best-stocked congressional library has no match to the encyclopedic Wiki.

In the electronic republic, you can send your views with the click of the mouse.

There is also another reason why we are issuing this invitation to netizens.

In general, the IQ - or ICT quotient - of Congress remains low.

Despite our image as IPad-toting, Facebook-sharing, selfie-taking, Candy Crush-playing class, there is still a deficit of knowledge when it comes to ICT rule-making.

That shouldn't come as a surprise. Because historically, there is a lag time between technological innovation and legislation.

In the case of automobiles, for example, the car came before the cart of traffic laws. The other reason is that ICT rules have not been codified yet. And for an institution which likes to probe anything at a drop of a pin, there is the reluctance to wade into ICT matters out of fear that such intervention can be a monkey wrench that will slow down innovation in such a vibrant sector.

All of these conspire to make cyberspace the last frontier of legislation. It is one largely unexplored territory in lawmaking that few of us dare to go.

As you very well know, this hearing was triggered by some unsettled issues on cyberlibel, despite the Supreme Court's decision upholding its constitutionality.

There are several proposed bills, however, which address the issue by going to the source, by decriminalizing libel, by delisting it from the Revised Penal Code.

I am one of those proposing that approach.

To those who fear that decriminalizing libel would make defamation a national sport, I say that there remains other means to penalize slurs and smears.

Any person who has been subjected to scurrilous and defamatory remarks which damage his reputation can initiate civil action for damages.

As Justice Leonen pointed out, the Civil Code provides other means of preventing abuse and unwarranted attacks on the reputation or credibility of a person.

Those I think are more than enough to deter malicious attempts to ruin a person's honor through unfounded claims.

There remains a shield a private, ordinary citizen can use when he is assaulted by harsh tags.

We need these safeguards because one of the best apps of civilized society are laws which allow a private individual robbed of honor to seek restitution. As to politicians, their being regularly taken to task for things they were elected and paid to do, even in language most foul, goes with the territory.

A public official who complains about, say, a bad press is like a ship captain who complains about the sea.

Besides, all public officials have resources and opportunities to rebut lies.

Dito nga sa Senado, pwede ang isang senador na tumayo at magsalita tungkol sa anumang bagay, mag-akusa ng kung kahit sino, na walang pangamba na s'ya ay maasunto o makakalaboso.

However, that is just one senator's opinion on libel, and I dare not guess that it is the majority sentiment at the moment. Others may have a different take, and I could only respect and even welcome those who would offer contrarian views.

And that is how a bill evolves into a superior law, through debates which polish its rough edges. Sometimes, even abrasive disagreements are needed for a bill's brilliance to shine.

And I think that rule applies to good netizenship as well. The maturity to listen to other ideas and entertain other views. To extend to others the same rights one practices.

Sa araw pong ito, hindi lang isang bahagi ng Cybercrime Law ang ating bibisitahin. Meron pa pong iba. Halimbawa, nandyan ang panukala ni Senador Miriam at Senador Bam - ang isang comprehensibong Magna Carta for Internet Freedom.

Meron ding panukala na itayo ang Department of ICT.

Sa usapin po ng Cybercrime Law, I think there are two schools of thought at the moment. One wants to push the reboot button. The other contends that the good provisions outnumber the bad ones so what is needed is just the removal of bugs. Ito po ang order ng pagsasalita. Hihingan po natin ng pahayag ang mga Chairman ng kasama nating mga komite.

Susunod po ang mga kinatawan mula sa civil society at pribadong sector. Huli po ang mga kinatawan ng mga ahensya ng gobyerno.

To those who are not here, but are watching the hearing, on whatever media, rest assured, we will trawl discussion forums, harvest tweets, look into social media chatter and feedback for opinions that will help us in crafting legislation.

I cannot promise you lawmaking by flash mob, kasi imposible po yun, kasi sa takdang oras dalawampu't apat na mga indibidwal lamang ang magpapasiya pero makakatiyak po kayo na batid nila ang inyong saloobin.

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