“¿Para qué estáis en el gobierno?”

An interesting article from the Philippine Inquirer came out yesterday. [1] This appears to be resulting from the online backlash against Senator Sotto over his purported role in the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, especially as to the Senate insertion of the Section 4(c)(4) pertaining to Internet libel. [2]

If the newspaper’s quotes are to be taken to be accurate, Senator Sotto allegedly said [3]:

“Gusto nila magpa-file naman ako ng bill, alisin na natin ang libel para pwede ko na rin silang murahin (If they want, I will file a bill to remove libel so I can also engage them in mudslinging),” Sotto said in an interview over radio on Wednesday.

“Pwede, alisin natin para parehas na ang laban. Maganda yan, pag-aaralan ko yan hanggang Lunes (We can remove that to have a fair play. That’s a good idea. I will study that until Monday),” he said.

“Alisin na natin ang gag sa masama broadcast, sa radyo, sa TV. Kung malaya sa Internet, pwede silang mambastos, mambaboy…gawin na din natin sa media. Kailangan pare-parehas,” Sotto added.

Asked if he was serious about his proposal, the senator said, “Oo, tinatabla lang natin sila sa inyo (Yes, we’re just levelling the playing field.)”

“Hindi na decriminalizing, removing. Magda-draft ako in the next few days (We will no longer decriminalize libel, we will remove it altogether. I will make a draft in the next few days),” he said.

It would be somehow expected that reactions to these statement would be to the effect that such statements would be adolescent, and not one expected from a legislator. I leave that sentiment to others, as my attention is elsewhere.


I. What can we say and how we go about it?
II. For whose interest are legislations made?


I. What can we say and how we go about it?

Should one be allowed to articulate what he/she wants to say without restraint, however coarse it may be, however it may affect anybody? OR should one be allowed only to articulate what he/she wants to say within accepted parameters of expression approved by society, else by government entities and the laws that they promulgate? Should the emphasis be on speech? OR should the emphasis be on public order? The last questions do not imply a complete disregard of one for the other, but the question remains as to what should be more preferred.

It would seem that the preference would depend on individual circumstances. If you speak about something, or someone, how far should it go? AND if one speaks about your acts, or about you, how far should it go? The discussions on libel and free expression somehow revolve around these questions. Should speech be regulated according to the present libel laws in the Philippines, notwithstanding its limited scope of the defense of truth, and qualified privilege? OR Should the present and unbridled nature of showbiz talk, alluding to public figures, be the standard for everyone else?

Should we amend our libel laws to tune them to the requirements of our present time? [4] OR should we merely remove the imprisonment aspect of the punishment provided for by our libel laws? [5] OR should we repeal our libel laws, since they do not provide a level playing field for those who would wish to abide by the law?

Sotto’s statements emphasize two extremes, i.e. sticking to the present form of the libel laws, or disregarding these altogether. For the purpose of promoting discussions on the present state of Philippine libel laws, the statements are quite welcome. For the purpose of actual legislation, reservations are in place.

II. For whose interest are legislations made?

It is manifest from the statements, that the proposed legislation to do away with libel laws completely, emanates from the Senator’s reaction to articulations, criticisms, and attacks made against him for his alleged insertion of the cyberlibel provision in RA 10175, compounded by those also made against him for his allegedly unattributed excerpts in his speeches during the RH Bill discussions.

The present statements somehow provide discomfort, but emphasize the reality as to whose interest are legislations made.

A legislator’s office is a public office. Section 1, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution provides “Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.” Would the proposal for such law in pursuance of this duty? Or would it merely emphasize an act which is subject to the growing dissent against public officials who appear to take on public office as a personal entitlement after they are elected therein? “¿Para qué estámos en poder?” [6] one legislator had allegedly said in a distant past in Philippine history.

Section 2, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution provides “The Senate shall be composed of twenty-four Senators who shall be elected at large by the qualified voters of the Philippines, as may be provided by law.” [7] On the other hand, Section 5 (1), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution provides “The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than two hundred and fifty members, unless otherwise fixed by law, who shall be elected from legislative districts apportioned among the provinces, cities, and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants, and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio, and those who, as provided by law, shall be elected through a party-list system of registered national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations.” [8] Considering that such legislators have constituencies, and are elected to office to represent such constituencies, do they consult with their respective constituencies in the formulation and passage of laws? OR in opposition to proposed legislation? OR in deliberately NOT supporting or pursuing a specific legislation?

One would claim that Salus populi est suprema lex [9] but, in present Philippine reality, is it? Between personal persuasions and interest, as against the welfare of the public, which appears to be more prevalent?

We don’t have to go too far to find an illustration. Section 26, Article II of the 1987 Constitution provides “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”. Then again, has the State prohibited political dynasties for the past twenty five (25) years since the ratification of the 1987 Constitution? Has Congress (The Senate and the House of Representative) seriously tackled this? [10]

One could point out that Section 5 (a), Republic Act 6735 [11], provides for the avenue, notwithstanding Congress’ failure to enact an enabling law for Section 26, Article II of the 1987 Constitution, to wit:

Section 5. Requirements. — (a) To exercise the power of initiative or referendum, at least ten per centum (10%) of the total number of the registered voters, of which every legislative district is represented by at least three per centum (3%) of the registered voters thereof, shall sign a petition for the purpose and register the same with the Commission.

But then again, for Philippine legislators, who are increasing in numbers by apportionment of new legislative districts — through their own legislation — without regard to the import of Section 5 (4), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution [12], “¿para qué estáis en el gobierno?”


Endnotes

[1] Ager, Maila. “Sotto: Let’s scrap libel law and let’s start mudslinging” Philippine Daily Inquirer. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/282350/sotto-lets-scrap-libel-law-and-lets-start-mudslinging.

[2] LBG. “Sotto cries foul over being online whipping boy”. GMA News. http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/276625/news/nation/sotto-cries-foul-over-being-online-whipping-boy; Malig, Jojo. “Why Sotto must read the Jan. 24 Senate journal on cybercrime law”. ABS-CBN News. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/-depth/10/01/12/why-sotto-must-read-jan-24-2012-senate-journal.

[3] See Footnote 1

[4] I have articulated some thoughts on this at my 2 October 2012 Blackout and Republic Act 10175 Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 articles.

[5] At the time of writing, I still had to write on this matter. Note: Subsequently, a post was created for this. See Decriminaling Philippine Libel Laws?

[6] Spanish. “What are we in power for?”

[7] Provisions of previous Constitutions and Organic Laws provide:

Section 2, Article VI of the 1935 Constitution provided “The Senate shall be composed of twenty-four Senators who shall be chosen at large by the qualified electors of the Philippines, as may be provided by law.”

Previously, the first paragraph of Section 16 of the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916 (Jones Law) provided “That the Philippine Islands shall be divided into twelve senate districts, as follows:

First district: Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Ilocos Norte, and Ilocos Sur.

Second district: La Union, Pangasinan, and Zambales.

Third district: Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, and Bulacan.

Fourth district: Bataan, Rizal, Manila, and Laguna.

Fifth district: Batangas, Mindoro, Tayabas, and Cavite.

Sixth district: Sorsogon, Albay, and Ambos Camarines.

Seventh district: Iloilo and Capiz.

Eight district: Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Antique, and Palawan.

Ninth district: Leyte and Samar.

Tenth district: Cebu.

Eleventh district: Surigao, Misamis, and Bohol.

Twelfth district: The Mountain Province, Baguio, Nueva Vizcaya, and the Department of Mindanao and Sulu.

Before that, the members Philippine Commission under the Philippine Organic Act of 1902 (Philippine Bill) were appointed by the President of the United States.

[8] Provisions of previous Constitutions and Organic Laws provide:

Section 2, Article VIII of the 1973 Constitution provided “The National Assembly shall be composed of as many Members as may be provided by law to be appointed among the provinces, representative districts, and cities in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio. Each district shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact, and adjacent territory. Representative districts or provinces already created or existing at the time of the ratification of this Constitution shall have at least one Member each.”

The first sentence of Section 5, Article VI of the 1935 Constitution provided “The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than one hundred and twenty Members who shall be apportioned among the several provinces as nearly as may be accorded to the number of their respective inhabitants, but each province shall have at least one Member.”

The second paragraph of Section 16 of the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916 (Jones Law) provided “The representative districts shall be the eighty-one now provided by law, and three in the Mountain Province, one in Nueva Vizcaya, and five in the Department of Mindanao and Sulu.”

The last sentence of Section 7 of the Philippine Organic Act of 1902 (Philippine Bill) provided “Said Assembly shall consist of not less than fifty nor more than one hundred members to be apportioned by said Commission among the provinces as nearly as practicable according to population:Provided, that no province shall have less than one member: And provided further, that provinces entitled by population to more than one member may be divided into such convenient district as the said Commission may deem best.”

[9] Latin. “The welfare of the people is the supreme law.”

[10] See David, Randy. “What’s wrong with political dynasties?”. Philippine Daily Inquirer. http://opinion.inquirer.net/38012/whats-wrong-with-political-dynasties

[11] Republic Act 6735. LawPhil. http://www.lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra1989/ra_6735_1989.html

[12] Section 5(4), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution provides “Within three years following the return of every census, the Congress shall make a reapportionment of legislative districts based on the standards provided in this section.”


Note: Reformatted 20 November 2012.

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One response to ““¿Para qué estáis en el gobierno?”

  1. Pingback: Decriminalizing Philippine Libel Laws? | Berne Guerrero

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