A Sad Day for Internet Freedom in the Philippines

Cyber Crime Law

Cyber Crime Law

When Tim Berners Lee shared the Internet to the world, the World Wide Web was born. One of his objectives was to open up a world where the participants can freely share beneficial information. 23 years later and as the world moves forward, the Philippines takes a step back.

Today marks the implementation of the new Philippine law referred to as the Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Commonly known as the Anti-Cyrbercrime Law, it generally aims to address common Internet crimes such as cybersex, child pornorgraphy, and unsolicited communication.

While its noble purpose and provisions were stated above, it has a number of poorly and ambiguously-worded provisions which can serve as dangerous loopholes that people with negative intentions can abuse towards misinterpretations of the law.
Effectivity of that law is not conditioned upon the adoption of the IRR and the setting up of the Office of Cybercrime.  No legal impediment for the law’s implementation, given the absence of a TRO or injunction,” sends Dept of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima through SMS  to newsinfo.inquirer.net.

Some problems of the new law (including the Data Privacy Law) that I realized as discussed by Atty. JJ Disini in the recent Digital Influencers Marketing Summit in SMX are the following:

  1. A number of clauses and provisions were poorly worded with a lot of loopholes.
  2. Ambigiuos statements leading to misinterpretations.
  3. Section 6 raises punishment (from the Revised Penal Code) to all crimes committed through ICT (including libel or any crimes you can think of),  a degree higher with a lot of dangerous implications.
  4. Being an accessory to a cybercrime act such as ‘liking‘ or ‘sharing‘ a social network status can actually be used as basis to arrest a person.
To give the situation a big picture perspective, here is a less technical approach in explaining the situation through this Youtube video:

Stop Cyber Martial Law

Stop Cyber Martial Law (Image from pifa.ph)

What Now?

As humble as the readership of this blog may be, I hope it makes lawmakers of the Philippines realize these scenarios. Different society groups have also expressed their opposition to the Cyber Crime Law.

The law has been passed and is currently in effect; but it’s not too late. A temporary restraining order (TRO) can be initially applied  then amend the law to correct it as necessary or through the Implementing Rules and Regulations; for the nation’s sake. I also hope that the Internet Freedom Bill, currently in lobby, will prosper. I don’t want the Filipinos to loose their voice, at the very least, in cyberspace.

In fact, it is funny to note that, a resolution on Internet access and online freedom of expression was recently added by the United Nations Human Rights Council to the list of basic human rights last July 2012. Moreover, the Philippine Internet was just ranked by a Washington DC-based advocacy group as the freest in Asia and 6th in the world; at least as of yesterday, that is.

Plagiarism Punishable Under Cybercrime Law

I just really hope that Senator Tito Sotto did not just insert the libel clause in the Cyber Crime Law for any selfish motives arising from the embarrassment caused by the related plagiarism issue. Because in essence, he will be getting a taste of his own medicine since plagiarism leading to copyright infringement can be punishable under the Cybercrime Law as per DOJ secretary De Lima.

Jail for Social Network Posts

Go to Jail for Social Network Posts

Current Government React, Guarantees.

Earlier today, the Palace has issued a statement calling on the vigilant netizens not to worry about the law in question as such will be constitutionally addressed through constitutional means, if needed, such as  the Implementing Rules and Regulations.  This call was also made in relation to a number of hacked government websites made inaccessible by an anonymous group.

There will be a lot more developments happening in the next few weeks on this matter as some Senators who approved the law are now thinking twice about their decisions and as the netizens continue to shout  for justice online and offline. Amidst this all, let us remain vigilant as we are all stakeholders in this exercise.

If there was anything positive that is coming from this issue on the Philippines’ Cyber Crime Law , it is the increased awareness of the public, specially the netizens, in their Internet rights and responsibilities as citizens of this nation. Yes, it is truly a sad day for Philippine cyberspace, but hope remains.

  1. Jenny
  2. Ron
  3. Jan

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