Despite continued attempts of some political quarters to mislead and confuse the public, the statements of the Presidential Spokesperson in his press briefing yesterday were clear: The arrest of Esperlita Garcia did not arise from the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. This transcript will bring to the fore that this is a case of libel filed under the Revised Penal Code. It is also of record that the Presidential Spokesperson found in doubt how this case arising from a Facebook post could have prospered notwithstanding a Supreme Court decision on the issue of publication when it comes to libelous statements in cyberspace.
Excerpt from the press briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda:
On the temporary restraining order on the Cybercrime Prevention Act and the arrest of Esperlita Garcia
[2F Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañan Palace, on October 22, 2012]
Q: Sir, and the leader of anti-mining group in Cagayan was reportedly arrested for posting an allegedly libelous account about mining issue in Cagayan.
SECRETARY EDWIN LACIERDA: The claim of Anakbayan is that this is based on the Cybercrime [Prevention] Act. We verified it with them, with the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation], who effected the arrest. The basis for the arrest was not the Cybercrime [Prevention] Act, which we all knew has been restrained by the Supreme Court.
The case stemmed from a libel case filed by the mayor. As to why it was able to pass and the judge was able to issue a warrant of arrest in spite of a Supreme Court decision on the issue of publication when it comes to libel online, that’s something that the courts and also the fiscal would have to answer to. But this was not a case filed under the Cybercrime [Prevention] Act. Let’s just be clear with it.
Q: Sir, with this, do you think the government should give a more intense information drive regarding the Cybercrime Act?
SECRETARY LACIERDA: No. There is no Cybercrime case. This is not a Cybercrime case. This is a case of libel filed. In fact, if you notice, the bail posted was P10,000. The penalty for online libel is prision mayor, which is higher than the penalty imposed under the Revised Penal Code. Obviously, this is a case filed under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code. So this is not a case of e-libel.
Let me be clear, let me also inform our good friends from the Anakbayan—and I hope they don’t ride on this issue but apparently they have already rode on it—but they’re claiming that this the start of “e-martial law”. Let me tell Anakbayan, please don’t be ignorant of the issues. You’re entitled to your opinion but you are not entitled to your facts.
Q: Sir, pa-clarify lang what you said that this is not e-libel. ‘Di ba, even without the Cybercrime Law naman there are existing provisions under the RPC [Revised Penal Code] on online libel, which means this is e-libel?
SECRETARY LACIERDA: No, it’s not. There is already Supreme Court decision which has a problem with filing cases based on cyberspace. The issue, one, is of publication. There’s a question of publication. That’s why Supreme Court said that there is no—you cannot file a case against that. It’s already been decided by the Supreme Court. So as to how the fiscal handling this particular case was able to file a case against the anti-mining activist, that’s something that I, myself, as a lawyer is wondering. But this is a case, very clearly, filed under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code.
Q: Sir, kapag ganito anong klaseng redress ang puwedeng makuha?
SECRETARY LACIERDA: May redress pa naman. They can file a motion for recon because this is a resolution issued by the state prosecutor or the fiscal, or they can file a petition, or rather a [...] motion for judicial determination of probable cause before the judge.
Q: Pero sa level, sir, ng DOJ [Department of Justice] parang hindi nila kailangang i-cascade sa mga fiscals and prosecutors natin na suspended ‘yung Cybercrime Law?
SECRETARY LACIERDA: Number one, [...] alam ng mga fiscals dito and I would expect the judges to know also na may TRO ‘yung Cybercrime [Prevention] Act. That’s why it’s very clear this was not… The warrant of arrest was not issued on account of the Cybercrime law but on account of a case for libel under the Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code.
Ang cause kasi nito galing sa Facebook e. Kaya nagtataka rin kami bakit may Supreme Court decision na on the issue of publication pagdating sa cyberspace; bakit ito natuloy pa. So that’s why kung ang tinatanong mo may redress ba ang akusado, may redress. May motion for recon before the fiscal, or mayroong petition for review before the DOJ proper dito sa Manila, or puwede siyang mag-file ng motion for judicial determination of probable cause. There are still redress of grievances but may remedies pa rin ’yung akusado.