SC Spokesperson Atty. Ted Te on Cybercrime Law

I first met professor Ted Te during the CMFR Policy Forum on the Freedom of Information Bill. He's a very articulate lawyer with superb attention to detail in terms of legislation (at least to a non-lawyer citizen like me).

There was a draft of the FOI bill that was presented to us and he criticized many provisions therein but there was one part that really enlightened me. He proposed adding a comma to one of the sentences. I don't even remember what exact sentence it was but it made me realize how legislation could easily be misinterpreted. It's so scary if you imagine how one missing comma in a law could already be used as a loophole by criminals or  a means by authority to abuse power.

It seemed to me, during that forum, that he was on the side of freedom.

On the video below, from almost a year ago, Maria Ressa asks, "Ted, what is wrong with this [Cybercrime Law]?"

To which professor Te answers without hesitation, "well, long and short, the law basically offends the constitution, particularly the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press, double jeopardy. Many portions of this law is actually a violation of the constitution. That's what's wrong with this law."

A few months after shooting this video, he is appointed as the new Supreme Court spokesperson. I do find it ironic that he will be the same person who will be announcing that its provision on online libel along with most of the Cybercrime Law's sections as constitutional:

The provisions below are judged as unconstitutional and it delights me:

  • Section 4 (c)(3) which pertains to unsolicited commercial communications 
  • Section 12 which pertains to real-time collection of traffic data 
  • Section 19 which pertains to restricting or blocking access to computer data
But then the section on online libel remains.

Freedom of speech is not a right to talk about the weather. It is an inalienable right to say controversial things (see also The Ethics of Liberty: 16. Knowledge, True and False by Murray Rothbard).

Aside from threatening freedom of speech, I fear that online libel will also be a precedent for the government to turn truth into treason. It saddens me that whistleblowers who can't afford expensive lawyers can easily be discredited and put in jail for many years for posting something controversial online. I don't understand how "conventional libel" could be imposed to every single person who publishes online whether it be a long blog post like mine or a simple 140-character expression of opinion on Twitter.

I strongly believe that the examples of how social media helped in the Arab Spring in toppling tyrannies and giving freedoms to millions should be glorified and not prevented from flourishing using ridiculous legislation of online libel.

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