- Posted October 8, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
E-Martial Law: Menace with a New Face
The dark days of free speech seemed to have descended upon the Philippines once again and this time, it has set its sight on a new target; the cyber world. As the “Cybercrime Prevention Act” became effective last October 03, 2012, the Philippine Government faces International pressure from various organizations who are seeking for the amendment or, better yet, the total repeal of the law. Opposition groups have staged numerous demonstration actions including the “Black Tuesday” where protesters were urged to wear black clothing or armband as a symbol of protest.
As of this writing, ten separate petitions by bloggers and netizens were filed in the Philippine Supreme Court urging for lawful intervention being the supposed last bastion of democracy and the ultimate interpreter of the Republic’s constitution. No “restraining order” or any of that sort has been granted so far. Several government websites have been hacked and defaced by certain groups in a move which elicited heated remarks from state officials.
But what exactly is in the law which is causing discomfort and fear among the nation’s populace?
In terms of purpose, a careful perusal of its actual provisions does not yield any cause for alarm. It defines and penalizes certain criminal offenses such as internet fraud, spamming, child pornography, and other activities deemed to be destructive to morals and public welfare as a whole. Apparently, “Internet Libel”, which has been the most assailed provision, does not even carry a new definition as to merit such big public reaction. It is the same old “libel” which has been around for a long time in the Philippine criminal justice system. The new law merely extended its operation to the cyber world in view of the emergence of the internet as a new tool for human interaction. To many, however, this lack of specific wording is its most dangerous loophole.
So what is the scare all about, if one might ask? The Philippines, as a nation, is no stranger to oppression. Its law enforcement machinery and its general political structure do not enjoy a reasonable level of trust from the citizenry. The international community, on numerous occasions, have witnessed many human rights abuses in the country which relates to press freedom and free expression dating back to the “martial law” days of the 70’s. Thus, a measure restricting civil liberties which does not specifically define the acts punishable and gives too much discretion to the enforcing agencies without prior court order would always invite public outrage.
Clearly then, the public’s concern is not so much about what is contained in the law but that which it fails to provide. Its vagueness, as others opine, is grossly inimical to the freedom of speech producing a very chilling effect not felt since the infamous days of Philippine Democracy.
(photo from PDI)