27 January 2010

DSWD Attacks Blogger

DSWD slams blogger with libel case for posting about 'rotting' relief goods
NIKKA CORSINO, GMANews.TV 01/23/2010 | 05:48 PM

Despite the absence of laws specifically regulating Internet activity, a libel suit has been filed against a blogger by a Cabinet official. The move has prompted questions from analysts about whether blogs can fall under the jurisdiction of existing libel laws.

This week the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed a libel suit against a blogger named “Ella" at the request of former Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Esperanza Cabral.
'Ella' criticizes warehouses “Ella" put up a blog post entitled “Aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo?"accusing the DSWD of hoarding relief items in its warehouses on October 21, 2009 after the devastation of typhoons in Metro Manila and nearby regions.

Screen capture of the original blog post by 'Ella', which criticized the DSWD for its supposed inability to deliver relief goods to typhoon victims. Picture grabbed fromMabuhay.multiply.com

The blog asserted that the DSWD was not distributing towering piles of relief goods to victims, and that the department lacked enough volunteers to do so.

Cabral, now health secretary, belied the accusations, saying that the goods are still subject to inventory and that volunteers “can come and go as they want." She also stressed that “people were busy," explaining the absence of people in the warehouse described in the blog.

Legal definition of a blog The Revised Penal Code delimits published material as a “means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means." “We will have to see if the courts will define the blog as such," said blog analyst Juned Sonido, emphasizing that the intent to effect malice to the entity must be proven for the case to prosper. Libel is defined as a “public and 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 one who is dead." Setting a legal precedent Sonido observed that there has not been any landmark case in the Philippines prosecuting bloggers of libel. Nevertheless, Sunido adds, “A blog is like an article [in a newspaper]. As a blogger, you have to be responsible for what you write," Sonido says, stressing that bloggers “must make it a point to get both sides." Meanwhile, blogger Jane Uymatiao says the libel case against “Ella" “will set a precedent" in the justice system’s treatment of libel cases involving online material. 'Anyone can take an alias' Sonido admits that the relative ease of Internet access today is the principal cause of the proliferation of attacks on entities online. “You can start a blog in about five seconds," Sonido explains, adding, however, that the internet may be difficult to regulate because of the sheer number of people in it. Sonido added that the verification of bloggers’ identities is a more complicated matter “since anyone can take an alias" online and may therefore not be directly identifiable. He underscored the difficulty with the current case against “Ella," who has not yet responded to the NBI’s summons for a polygraph test. Sonido recalls the controversial mauling incident last year on a golf course between Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman and Delfin de la Paz. De la Paz’s teenage daughter Bambee was sued by the Pangandamans for libel for allegedly tainting their family’s name in her blog entry. The case, however, was withdrawn and settled out of court. - TJD, GMANews.TV
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