The Filipino people won its first battle against the impending imposition of e-martial law when the Supreme Court issued a TRO against the implementation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Now the Aquino government is confused as to what to do. Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile is passing the buck to the Supreme Court. He said any amendment to the controversial law should wait for the decision of the Supreme Court, which will hold its oral arguments on the 15 petitions on January 15, 2013. A gmanews.tv report quoted him as saying, “So we have enacted it into a law, let us not blame each other, lahat tayo nagkulang. Let the SC now make a decision.”
Malacañang, on the other hand, is urging lawmakers to pass amendments to the cybercrime law before the Supreme Court holds its hearings on the petitions. The bill’s principal author Senator Edgardo Angara, on the other hand, is confident that one of the most controversial provisions in the law – online libel – will be retained.
What do we make of this?
I say let us push for the scrapping of the law altogether. There is no sense in amending a law that serves to curtail our freedom of expression. Let us not let a law that restricts a medium that provides an opportunity for citizens to express their opinion on matters that affect them – from the laws, policies, and actions of the government and that of other countries, as well as international multilateral agencies, to culture and the arts – without fear of censorship. Let us not let a medium where the truth could be propagated, where the lives, issues, and struggles of the oppressed and exploited could be written about – without the impediments being imposed on corporate media – be impaired. We should not allow a law that, instead of empowering the Filipino people, provides those in government, as well as local and foreign big businesses such as mining and pesticide companies, with another weapon to harass those who expose their destructive and corrupt ways and to silence any opposition to their rule.
In the first place, if the real intent of the Aquino government in passing the cybercrime law is to curb child pornography, shut down cybersex dens, and put a stop to the violence being committed against women through the posting of compromising videos on the internet, it should have just amended Republic Act No. 9262 or the Anti-Violence against Women and Children Law and Republic Act No. 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law. If this does not suffice, it should have passed a law specifically to address this issue.
The US passed cybercrime laws that cover fraud – because identity fraud is a common crime there – child pornography, and copyright infringement (for very obvious reasons.)
But the Aquino government passed an all-encompassing law that curtails the freedom of expression by giving it the power to monitor traffic data, restrict access to websites, and provides it with another weapon to silence critics: cyber-libel. It even increased the penalties by one degree higher.
One could not help but think that the real intent in passing the controversial law is similar to the basis why China is blocking access to Facebook. It is also not a coincidence that a study by the Dubai School of Government revealed that social media such as Facebook and Twitter was effectively used by activists during the Arab Spring uprisings to organize and spread awareness about protests.
The reason behind the passing of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 is suspect and its basic framework fundamentally flawed.
The law that we need is one that guarantees and expands access to the internet not one that curtails it. Let us not stop until this oppressive law is repealed and we have effectively put an end to the threat of “cyber-authoritarianism.”