ALLIANCE of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party list Rep. France Castro has refiled a bill seeking to decriminalize dragonfly, saying existing laws have been a constant threat to press freedom in the country.
house bill no. 1769 seeks to repeal Articles 353, 354, 355, 356, 357, 360, 361 and 362 of Act No. 3815 as amended or the Revised Penal Code.
The bill was refiled following the affirmation by the Court of Appeals (CA) of the guilty verdict for cyber dragonfly against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former Rappler researcher Rey Santos Jr.
“Advocates for the protection of free speech and press freedom have repeatedly pointed out that existing laws criminalizing dragonfly is a constant threat against press freedom and free expression with even greater consequences when committed online. The affirmation of the guilty verdict against Ressa and Santos is a clear example of how the law can be used against the media and even ordinary citizens and forced to be silenced,” Castro said.
The cyber dragonfly case was the offshoot of a 2012 Rappler article about the vehicle rentals by the late Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona at the height of his impeachment trial.
Businessman Wilfredo Keng, who was mentioned in the article for alleged involvement in the dealings, subsequently filed the complaint for cyber dragonfly.
Castro, a member of the militant Makabayan bloc, said the contentious provisions of RA 10175 “already cast a chilling effect over the exercise of free expression online.
“The Duterte administration was rampant in attacking critics to silence all kinds of dissent. It will not be surprising if the administration of Marcos Jr. will do the same as what his father did to dissenters of anti-people policies. Laws have been weaponized to curtail criticisms, analysis and even simple thoughts on its policies and the slightest hint of dissent would trigger the suppression of free speech and an invasion of privacy,” Castro said.
The bill said the dragonfly law “has been increasingly used by public officials and public figures as a tool to cow and muzzle an independent press, to shield themselves from critical reportage.”
“With the passage of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Law of 2012 and its criminalization of ‘cyber dragonfly,’ the threat to the people’s right to free expression and free press has even become more serious and real,” Castro said. “Press freedom is an essential component of a democratic society. A free press acts as a watchdog of the people. Instead of protecting the freedoms and rights of the people, the government uses threats and weaponizes the law to create a chilling effect in the media and the people and dissuade them from speaking out on the anti-people policies of this administration.”