Legal Brief soon to support PIFA petition vs Cybercrime Act

By Atty. Marnie Tonson

The Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA) will not rest even after the Supreme Court issued on 09 Oct. 2012 a temporary restraining order (TRO), stopping for 120 days the implementation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

In preparation for the Oral Arguments set on 15 January 2013, PIFA’s legal team is currently writing a “legal brief” — a scholarly legal document much longer and more comprehensive than PIFA’s 61-page petition – something the high court will ask for eventually from all petitioners.

Before the Supreme Court can “go into the merits” – that is, look into the petition’s substantive arguments – the magistrates must first rule on the petition’s procedural arguments. PIFA’s legal team is working on expounding on the following arguments:

Procedure: Why must the Supreme Court take up the petition and not dismiss it?

  1. Actual harm on Filipino netizens began when Cybercrime Prevention Act took effect on Oct. 3, placing them all under 24/7 warrantless electronic surveillance.
  2. Any amendment to RA 10175 that Congress introduces later will not be enough because the substantive issues can be repeated, yet evade judicial review.

Substance: Why must the Supreme Court grant the petition & strike down RA 10175?

PIFA’s petition presents seven arguments, scoring the Cybercrime Prevention Act as unconstitutional  for:

  1. Unduly abridging free speech & expression, and press freedom
  2. Authorizing unreasonable searches and seizures
  3. Violating Internet user’s privacy
  4. Being contrary to equal protection of the law
  5. Violating legal obligations under public international law
  6. Punishing certain acts previously allowed back when these were committed in the past (ex post facto law)
  7. Curtailing the speedy disposition of suits by clogging the court dockets with a deluge of frivolously filed cases

PIFA filed the fifteenth petition against Republic Act (RA) 10175 on 08 Oct. 2012, after Bayan party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares and the National Press Club filed theirs separately that same day.

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Marlon Anthony R. Tonson is a lawyer specializing in media law and a freelance journalist. He assisted PIFA’s legal counsels of record, Renecio Espiritu Jr. and Kelvin Lee, in drafting the petition filed at the Supreme Court on 08 October 2012 (PIFA v. The Executive Secretary, et al., G.R. No. 203518). Atty. Tonson discloses that he is a named petitioner and, thus, waives compensation for this and other articles regarding the case. He recognizes that he is bound by the sub judice rule and cannot discuss the merits of the case. He can, however, discuss procedure and even the subject matter of the case – as long as he tackles these in general terms not specific to the facts of the case.

Here is the petition filed by PIFA

Petition filed by the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance

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