Renee Karunungan, a human rights and climate justice advocate, filed a criminal complaint against supporters of presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for cyberbullying and online harassment.
She filed a case for violation of the Revised Penal Code, Cybercrime Prevention Act and the Omnibus Election Code against up to 20 individuals.
Karunungan actively campaigns against Duterte because of his human rights record, and when she posted a meme last March 22 that described Duterte as the “lazy choice”, it went viral. It garnered over 13,000 reactions and 4,000 shares, before it was reported to and taken down by Facebook over complaints from supporters of the mayor.
“Obviously, the supporters were offended by it. A lot of them reported it and it was taken down. I was also blocked by Facebook for four days,” she recalled.
That wasn’t the end of it. After it was taken down, she received around 200 messages on Facebook, most of which contained threats.
She said the messages contain relatively tame insults, such as “bobo ka,” (You are stupid) “baboy ka,” (You’re a pig) and “tanga,” (Stupid) – but there were also messages filled with actual threats of grave harm, such as “mamatay ka sana,” (I hope you die) “ma-rape ka sana,” (I hope you get raped) “ma-massacre sana pamilya mo,” (I hope your family gets massacred)
She took a screenshots of the threats and compiled them in an album.
In a press conference, she took a stand against the online bashing and ad hominem attacks:
“My rights offline are the same as my rights online. There is a difference between freedom of speech and speech that incites violence. It is time that people know the difference. We should not condone violence especially on the basis of political views. This kind of behavior is unacceptable and is a threat to our democracy and violates our basic rights,”
“We need to start relearning civility in public discourse and respect for the opinion of others.”
Atty. Jose Jesus Disini Jr., Karunungan’s counsel, said the Facebook users who threatened her should be held criminally liable for their actions.
“Under the Revised Penal Code, it is considered grave threat when you threat somebody of physical harm. In this case, there’s threat of rape, threat of physical injury. And because it’s done online, it’s also cybercrime under section 6 of the law.”