The Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 is quite controversial because of the insertion of the libel clause and other provisions.
A roundtable discussion was organized by the Kabataan Partylist for its legislative review that they are conducting with regard to RA 10175. The discussion hoped to bring unity among the students, lawyers, bloggers and netizens in opposing provisions in the new law that post threats to Internet freedom. Present were: Atty Disini, Atty, Francis Acero, Rep Tonchi, Rep Mong Palatino, bloggers and media.
Libel clause is just one of the controversial provisions. It was quite disturbing that the libel clause was not in the House version but was there in final form. According to Interaksyon “Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday admitted he introduced a provision that all crimes under the Revised Penal Code, including libel, be included in the recently signed Anti-Cyber Act Law.”
Atty Disini pointed out Section 19 as a provision that affects our freedom of speech.
Section 19 is Restricting or blocking access to computer data. When a computer data is prima facie found to be in violation of the provisions of this Act, the DOJ shall issue an order to restrict or block access to such computer data.
Why is Section 19 dangerous?
The point is, through Section 19, Congress and the President have given the Secretary of Justice and indeed the President of the Philippines (as the former is merely the alter ego of the latter) the tool to “legally” be abusive.
In fact, Section 19 is a gem of a provision for a dictator or one who desires to become one. It can be used to control and instill fear on the millions of computer users, commentators, bloggers, repliers, sharers, twitters, and re-twitters. It is , in effect, a GAG law potentially capable of shaping people’s mind and way of thinking. Under the threat of government intrusion, users will be forced to toe the government’s line if only to make use of or access (or to again make use of or access) their computers.
This environment will create a “Big Brother” effect, borrowing the words of US Justice William Douglas, where there will be an “increasing power of government” interfering into the private lives of people under the pretext of “national security, law and order, scientific advancement and the like.” (Justice William Douglas Points of Rebellion, 1969). It can insidiously encroach on the users’ well-kept computer-stored-secrets. The chilling-effect of the implementation of Section 19 is a limitless suppression of the freedom of expression and an undue interference into the privacy of people. It may not only take down your computer system. It can also take you down as a person.
Apparently it was Senator Ed Angara who “inserted a new section on restricting or blocking access to computer data, something that media organizations and some legal experts fear may constitute prior restraint.”
According to Tonyo Cruz, “this could have far-reaching implications as the Executive Branch, the nerve center of politics in this country and also the magnet of vociferous criticism for citizens demanding accountability, would have the power to take down websites, blogs, social networking accounts and the like.”
He adds that “at stake here are our fundamental and basic rights to privacy and free expression. Even if you have nothing to hide, the government or any other individual or entity has absolutely right to violate your privacy or to harass you into not speaking freely. The only exception is when it is ordered by a court of law which ensures your other basic right – due process.”
Read other statements critical of the Cybercrime Law
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines: Cybercrime Law threatens freedom of expression
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility: A Restrictive Mindset: First Law Since 2000 Affecting Cyberspace Communication
Burgos Media Center: RA 10175, a Marcosian move
(to be continued. In the meantime, listen to the videos)
Here is the recorded video of our livestreaming
Here are some of the reactions in Wednesday’s roundtable discussion