IN 1972, the Philippines was placed under Martial Law by former president Ferdinand Marcos. A country in this state allows lawless violence and suspension of certain rights of the citizens. Fast forward 40 years later, the country’s online world was under a so-called “e-Martial Law,” but thanks to a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued last October 9, everyone’s freedom is, as of now, safe.
Republic Act 10175, known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, implemented October 3, 2012, is questioned by the denizens because of some of its provisions. For one, the law invades privacy. In Chapter IV, Section 12, it allows law enforcement authorities to gather data in real time transmitted online. But the most repulsed provision of this law is under Chapter II, Section 4: libel. Considered to limit freedom of speech, what made this even more open to a lot of criticisms is the fact that the government can take down sites containing infringing content and its penalty “shall be one degree higher than that provided for by the Revised Penal Code.” Meaning, this law considers crime committed in cyber space a graver crime than that of the real world.
This law must be amended. With the TRO issued by the Supreme Court, the 120-day suspension order is a “necessary pause,” according to its author, Sen. Angara, as he was interviewed on national TV. With this hope, it is but right for the legislators of our country to discuss the issues shrouding RA 10175 and review it as a whole. For our country, words are indeed powerful weapons for our democracy, as immensely proven during the first two People Power revolutions. It looks like the main benefactors of this provision are the politicians who are usually lampooned and criticized.
Sen. Angara defended the length of imprisonment of the violators, saying that the Internet is a different platform compared to newspaper, radio or TV. According to him, in just one click, an issue can go global. Indeed true. Global or not an issue can go, real world crimes are still more a threat than online, though. Real world crimes can physically damage, hurt, and kill, more than what online crimes can do. In the same interview, he made things vaguer by saying that Twitter and Facebook are not included when talking of libel committed online. But then, they say that shares are grounds for violating the law. All these just show how weak the law is. Some politicians even say that civil rights stated in the Constitution will not be disregarded. We hope that they keep their word.
On the eve of the implementation of the law, people protested online, changing display photos with black images and tweeted their disappointment with the law.
It was good that students took part in the online protest. But what made them do this? Was it because of real opposition to the law or was it a mere going with the fad? Truth be told, not everyone has truly scrutinized the law. One must at least browse through the law and educate himself to have a strong basis for opposing the law. We must not have that practice of simply going with the flow because time may come when you may actually want to be a fish swimming against the current. We cannot always agree to what everyone says.
During the implementation of the law, “hacktivists” known as Anonymous Philippines entered the systems of our government websites. We resent this act. They are simply doing what the law is made for and thus, giving the government a reason to enact the law.
But if one is to shift his attention from the provisions on real time collection of data and libel, away from the possible threat that this can pose to our freedom, we can actually see a good law protecting the dignity and safety of children and the Filipinos. Its provisions against cybersex, child pornography, and scams generated online are strong reasons to keep this law.
The Internet is a world where everyone should be free. To use our freedom entails that we use it rightly. Let us remember that laws are made not to limit rights, but to limit the damage caused by abuse of freedom. At the same time, our government should also remember that the people are, indeed, their boss and that the voice of the people is important in keeping democracy in our country.