Philippines: Anti-Cybercrime Law Denounced as ‘Cyber Martial Law’
by Karlo Mikhail Mongaya from Global Voices
More voices in the Philippines are questioning the Cybercrime Prevention Law as the oral arguments on the petitions against the law are being heard in the Supreme Court (SC) starting last January 15, 2012. The next schedule for the oral arguments will be held on January 22.
The controversial law was signed by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III last October despite massive protests and questions on its constitutionality.
Fifteen petitions were filed against the law last year, hence compelling the Supreme Court to issue a 120-day Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on its implementation. The said TRO expires on February 6 of the present year.
Arguing that the anti-cybercrime legislation will curtail freedom of expression and is equivalent to “Cyber Martial Law,” critics have stepped up both online and offline actions for the junking of the law. Hackers also vandalized several government websites last week to protest the Cybercrime Law.
They say that the law significantly raises the penalty for libel committed online and provides the government overwhelming “draconian” powers to clamp down on critics and conduct online surveillance, as in the case of a 62-year old anti-mining activist who was arrested for a ‘libelous’ Facebook post last November 2012.
Social networking sites have become venues for posts, memes, and heated discussion against the law. Here are some of the conversations on Twitter:
@tribong_upos: I am for a #cybercrimelaw, but I am against libel as a crime, warrant-less searches, and unauthorized collection of cyber data.
@bisdakpride” The internet is a powerful venue for LGBTs to freely express gender/sexual rights but not at the expense of other people #notocybercrimelaw
Alay Sining a group of artists based in the University of the Philippines, released an Infographic on the dangers of the Anti-Cybercrime Law.
Cyber Freedom Law
A milestone in Philippine legislative history involved the crafting of a “Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom” (MCPIF) through crowdsourcing. This is proposed by netizens as an alternative to the Anti-Cybercrime Law.
Youth legislator Raymond Palatino, also Southeast Asia Editor of Global Voices Online, also filed an Internet Freedom Bill in the Lower House last October 2012. The bill was drafted in a public consultation with netizens, IT experts, and legal pundits held at the UP College of Law last year.
The Center for Media Freedom and Response (CMFR) issued the following Question of the Week: Is it better to encourage observance of a cybercode of ethics vs cybercrime law? Here are some of the reactions to the CMFR Question of the Week:
Alfie Smith: There are aspects that need to be legally enforcable such as sexual exploitation of children at home or abroad. Also other dodgy trading on line … the bill is necessary but not in it’s present form which prevents freedom of speech.
Nonoy Espina: There is no doubt about the need for a cybercrime prevention law. The problem with the one we are contesting is that it seeks to classify perceived abuses of free expression as crimes instead of what they rightly are, lapses of ethics and good manners. Personally, I see this as deliberate, part of the efforts, not just of an administration but of a whole political system notorious for its intolerance for criticism, to limit free discourse, much as the refusal to pass the Freedom of Information Act. Although the speed with which the Internet has evolved and the proliferation of social networks may seem to be overwhelming, they are, in fact, still in the early stages and the culture/s and ethics that inform our online behavior are just starting to evolve.
Julius Mariveles: The law is prone to abuse especially with the kind of government officials that we have, a substantial number of them are onion-skinned. Besides, responsibility must become a force of habit, not something that must be forced upon someone.
Len Olea: Journalists, netizens must not be punished for exercising freedom of expression and press freedom. A code of ethics is most welcome.
Meanwhile, two women legislators of the women’s party Gabriela proposed amendments to the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) Law to include E-VAW or VAW using information and communications technology.
This is in response to those who justify the cybercrime law as necessary to protect women and children against online prostitution, pornography, and other forms of violence in the internet.
“Kontra pa nga sa kababaihan ang Cybercrime Law na ginagamit ang maling depinisyon ng prostitusyon sa Revised Penal Code. Tinatrato nito ang prostituted women bilang mga kriminal, at hindi bilang mga biktima ng kahirapan at iba pang inhustisyang panlipunan,” said Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus.
“The Cybercrime Law is even against women by using a wrong definition of prostitution in the Revised Penal Code. This treats prostituted women as criminals and not as victims of poverty and other social injustices,” Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said.