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Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Opinion - #Si­len­tNoMore From ‘stupid, silly’ Ex­pla­na­tion Lim­its

SOME writ­ers in so­cial me­dia called Sen. Vi­cente “Tito” Sotto III “pla­gia­rist” and “rapist” be­fore: the first over al­leged copy­ing of huge portions of at least three Se­nate speeches in Au­gust 2012 from blogs; the sec­ond for his al­leged cover-up in the rape of bold star Pepsi Paloma in ther 1980s to get his two broth­ers off the hook.

Sotto re­jected the la­bels and en­dured tons of ad­verse press but didn’t sue. If he did, the pub­lic didn’t know what hap­pened to it. And he got elected de­spite all that, earn­ing his fourth Se­nate term in 2016.

Last Nov. 20 though, Sotto filed be­fore the Pasay City pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice a com­plaint for li­bel un­der Re­vised Pe­nal Code and Anti-Cy­ber Crime Law against blog­ger Ed­uardo An­gelo Dayao, a.k.a. Coco Dayao who last Septem­ber wrote the the blog #Si­len­tNoMore-PH.

Dayao al­legedly called Sotto a “pla­gia­rist” and “rapist” -- and this: one of the seven “Mala­cañang Dogs,” all iden­ti­fied with the rul­ing party.

The new la­bel pinned by Dayao on Tito and six col­leagues in the Se­nate was for their re­fusal to sign a res­o­lu­tion cir­cu­lated by the Se­nate mi­nor­ity con­demn­ing the killings in the cam­paign against il­le­gal drugs. Dayao erred. They didn’t sign be­cause it was not pre­sented to them. Ul­ti­mately, the Se­nate passed a sim­i­lar res­o­lu­tion with ev­ery se­na­tor’s sig­na­ture in it.

The senators ini­tially called Dayao’s blog “stupid and silly.” And they didn’t press the plan to sue. Only Sotto chose to lit­i­gate.

Sotto said the other six senators by Dayao are with him on the law­suit: maybe in spirit as only he signed the com­plaint. He ad­vised Dayao and other blog­gers “not to be judg­men­tal,” which must make them won­der how they could write “click-bait” pieces with­out pass­ing judg­ment on the peo­ple they blog about.

Ob­vi­ously, Sotto is hop­ping mad. And it must not just be their be­ing com­pared to dogs. Or is it? Dayao didn’t use “lap­dogs” or “tuta,” which would mean the same thing, per­sons in­flu­enced or con­trolled by another, but def­i­nitely more fa­mil­iar and maybe less abra­sive. Law­mak­ers are eas­ily net­tled but usu­ally they don’t go to the pros­e­cu­tor or the court. Their be­ing elec­tive of­fi­cials, who must not ap­pear “onion-skinned” to the pub­lic, may be a rea­son. Another ex­pla­na­tion is that they can hit back within Congress it­self.

The senators turned the ta­bles on blog­gers when they grilled Mocha Uson and other con­tro­ver­sial web­site writ­ers dur­ing a com­mit­tee hear­ing on fake news. Leg­is­la­tors can use that form of reprisal, along with the threat of con­tempt on hos­tile or un­co­op­er­a­tive wit­nesses. But Dayao, act­ing shrewd or scared, was a no-show at the Se­nate.

Sotto ap­par­ently is not con­tent with leg­isla­tive bul­ly­ing. And he re­jects any of­fer of apol­ogy. He wants the blog­ger pun­ished.

Cy­ber li­bel is vir­gin ter­ri­tory in crim­i­nal law ju­rispru­dence. With Sotto’s com­plaint, let’s see how the lim­its on free speech and free press in tra­di­tional me­dia will work on the gen­er­ally li­cen­tious be­hav­ior in so­cial me­dia.

Is “dogs of Mala­cañang” defam­a­tory? A House com­mit­tee prob­ing Supreme Court Chief Jus­tice Sereno’s im­peach­ment merely deemed as dis­re­spect­ful “the dog and pony show” tag made by her lawyers. The Se­nate Blue Rib­bon com­mit­tee just thought the Tril­lanes name for it, “comite de ab­suelto,” was un­eth­i­cal.

Se­na­tor Sotto, to be sure, is not un­der-re­act­ing here.

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