By JOAN GARCIA
VIGAN CITY, Ilocos Sur –In what appears to be a portent of things to come with the enactment of the Cybercrime law, students from the Data Center College of the Philippines-Vigan have been threatened with a libel case and disciplinary action from their school due to a group text message and posts in their Facebook group, Tropang Data.
The group, which was created last year, already has 172 members up to this date. It was created by students from the DCCP-Vigan as a way of faster communication amongst themselves and to better acquaint themselves with their schoolmates.
The posts are typical of college students- teasing about their crushes and the latest news on campus. However, recent events and the flurry of questioning posts seemed to have reached the campus administration.
Last September 18-22 was the Intramurals for the school with a Ms. DCCP-Vigan pageant on the last night. The fee that was collected for the activity amounted to P500 per student with P100 allotted for the tickets during pageant night.
However, during the pageant itself, no ticket was collected from the audience and the show was opened for free viewing.
Students then trooped to their Facebook group and cell phones to express their disappointment.
The first post regarding the pageant was posted before the day of the event itself. The student was asking what the penalty is for those who would not be able to attend since the pageant was scheduled to start at 6p.m. and end at 12 midnight.
Other posts soon followed.
By Monday, September 24, the students who posted and even those who commented and liked the posts were asked to appear before the College Administrator’s office. Those who sent text messages were also summoned.
Jan Garcia, a 2nd year BSIT student of DCCP-Vigan, was one of those called by the school administration.
According to Garcia, the College Administrator Mrs. Luzviminda Quilenderino said they could be charged with libel and asked him to have his lawyer ready. Garcia then explained that they were merely voicing out their opinion.
Garcia added that Quilenderino also said that the alumni who commented and liked the posts in the group would not be given their Official Transcript of Records.
Garcia was also told that he would be suspended since it is already his second offense. The first offense was supposedly because of a previous Facebook post regarding the Student Council elections.
Threatened with expulsion
Another student, Darwin Bañaga, is also facing disciplinary action because of the supposed group text message that he sent on the night of the pageant.
In the text, Bañaga questioned where the money paid for the tickets went.
During the first meeting with Quilenderino, Bañaga was told that the text message was below the belt and that if they want, they can report him to the police.
Last September 27, Thursday, Bañaga was given an option whether he would prefer a 10 day suspension provided he issues a publicly apology and write a promisorry note or face expulsion.
Due to fear, Bañaga chose the suspension and was made to sign a statement that was supposedly made by him.
However, in the statement, it was written that instead of the text message, Bañaga supposedly said it out loud in front of the Head of Student Affairs and a security guard.
The next day, despite signing the paper that was given to him, the administration still informed him that him will be expelled from the school.
Terry Ridon, national president and legal counsel of Kabataan Partylist explained that this is the reason why the partylist group opposes the Cybercrime Prevention Law especially the provision on libel.
“Facebook, although it is a social networking site, is still a personal venue for individuals especially the students to voice out their grievances without restrictions. Their conversations in their group are as private as them talking in person about the issues in their school. To file a case against them on the basis of their posts is tantamount to silencing them”, Ridon said.