[JURIST] The Philippines Supreme Court [official website] ruled Tuesday the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Act) [text], which penalizes libel online, is constitutional, despite a number of petitions challenging the law [materials] on the grounds that it unjustly limits citizens’ rights including free speech. The Act combats various online crimes such as hacking, identify theft, child pornography and libel. While the Act was suspended shortly after it passed in 2012, the law will now go into effect following Tuesday’s ruling, with certain limitations. The judges upheld libel executed online as a criminal offense, but only the original author of the libelous information may be charged; not individuals that merely receive, share or comment on the information. Also, the court decided the criminal penalties on libel should be mitigated from the 12-year maximum prison sentence or a minimum fine of USD $4,400 dollars under the law as written in 2012. Notably, the judges ruled parts of the law unconstitutional, such as the provision that real-time surveillance by authorities is allowed without a court order.
Since passing the Philippines legislature in the middle of 2012, the Act incited controversy in the Asian country and it has faced a number of temporary suspensions over the past two years. Last February the Philippine high court stopped [JURIST report] the government from enforcing the Act. In October 2012 the court suspended [JURIST report] the Act for 120 days after it officially went into effect in September 2012 when President Benigno Aquino III [official website] signed it into law [JURIST reports].