Huwag Mo Kong Salingin (Noli Me Tangere)

By N. Mark Castro

I had thought that after a slew of public outcry on the arrogant misbehavior of Sen. Tito Sotto on his plagiarism, that he would quietly sit back to let the issue simmer and wane, which would have been a good strategic political move. The issue would eventually die down, the public would forget, and move on to the next issue.

My assumption on the extent of Sen. Tito Sotto’s massive hubris and depth of his utter stupidity was clearly mistaken. And clearly, so was the rest of the almost 100 Million Filipino who are currently reeling from the latest action of this former TV comedian and serial plagiarist.

SO WHAT HAPPENED?

According to reports, Sen. Tito Sotto inserted provisions in Republic Act 10175, particularly, the Libel Clause, which says:

(4) Libel. — The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.

At a time when the the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has already determined that the criminal sanctions imposed on those accused of libel in the Philippines violate Article 19, paragraph 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the entire Republic of the Philippines has so freely given its covenant signature:

Article 19

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

But the Philippines, through its public representatives, has never been known to fully embrace the spirit of its agreements with international bodies, especially if it conflicts with their own political interests. And what is truly embarrassing is that while human rights activists have been clamoring for the repeal of the libel clause in the Philippine constitution, here they come again inserting it to include the cyberspace.

THE BUZZ

The contentious R.A. 10175 includes the online libel clause, which is an extension of the Philippine Libel Laws under the Revised Penal Code Article 354.  Simply put, online publication of “malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of the dead” shall likewise be punishable.

In a nutshell —

Tinatanggal na nga sa batas dahil nakakahiya na to at higit sa lahat eh matanda pa ke kopong-kopong eh siningit mo pa uli para lang makalusot ka sa pangongopya mo. Pre, ang labo mo.

A Plague In Both Your Houses

According to Creative Director and Political Adviser Dennis Garcia, while it has taken years for the Philippine Congress and Senate to debate on the contentious RH BILL, the new provisions on  Republic Act 10175 has breezed through both Houses and had quietly gone into the night.

Regardless on whether they actually read or not the provisions inserted in Republic Act 10175, for which they have signed their acquiescence,  including the President himself, what matters is that an immediate repeal should be implemented. Although this requires a tremendous degree of political maneuvering without putting them in an embarrassing position, such act would be favorable to the decaying freedom of speech in the Philippines.

The only question is … when was the last time that they did that?

WORDS NOT SWORDS

And so it is understandable that the morning after effect is now ablaze and the majority of the citizenry of the country are up in arms against this “inserted” clause by Sen. Tito Sotto. Whereas before, in order to prove himself right, he had to prove his critics wrong; but with this new law, all he needs to do is sue you.

It would be politically interesting to see if the netizens of the Philippines would voluntarily submit themselves to the punishment provided by Republic Act 10175. Fill the jails. Sue one another. Let the entire police force, nay, armed forces of the country, as well as the entire judiciary, be burdened by this highly litigious and globally ridiculous law, to demonstrate to the Honorable Sen. Tito Sotto the economic repercussions of his hubris.

The Cost of Acquisition alone in legally processing each and every case would be economically illogical for a government that can be barely sustain its operations to uphold.

The Solution

Since, however, the repeal of Republic Act 10175 is but a mere dream that we have yet to see, I managed to discover the ultimate remedy to this dilemma. If we are but to cover our ears from his abominable mistake by our founding fathers, if we could merely dip ourselves for a bit in this childish dream, we may yet be able to uphold the logic behind Sen. Tito Sotto’s brilliance in inserting his own provisions in Republic Act 10175. If we could all gather our strength the way our dead heroes of the past managed to do, if we could but repeal this law … then we ease the burden of Sen. Tito Sotto who knows full well what is good for the country. Repeal this and we solve it all.

Here it is:

The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines guarantees in Article III – Bill of Rights – freedom of expression (Section 4), privacy (Section 3) and the right to information (Section 7).

23

Section 4 of Article III reads as follows:

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.

Tama Na, Sobra Na, Palitan Na

The problem with the dumb is that they are not aware that they are, especially those that have been elected to positions of high power. They are not aware of the painful embarrassment they wreak among those they step upon. We fought for this freedom, others have died for this freedom, and here we are today, 40 years since Martial Law, enacting into a law such legal measure that, ironically, was signed by the current President of the Republic of the Philippines, whose own father, the assassinated Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr.,  had suffered from his vocal opinion against the ruling president then.

Such is life. And so it goes.

If by any stroke of luck that Sen. Tito Sotto is not impeached by the entire country — and not the legal body — then, come election day, he shall know.

If not, then as God Himself witnesses our developments, then we truly deserve Sen. Tito Sotto.

About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the chief political communications strategist for PT AsiaLeads, a political and communications policy-making body based in Jakarta, Indonesia. He is also the Executive Director at the Southeast Asia Consulting Group, an investment advisory company assisting clients roll out their presence for the ASEAN Economic Integration in partnership with government. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on September 20, 2012, in General, Politics, Religion and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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