“The protests will be borderless, in the sense that netizens from all over the country, and all over the world, will be joining in one way or another. It will be a day for the aggressive exercise of free speech” — Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan
By IRENE V. DAGUDOG
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The battle continues.
On Tuesday, January 15, advocates of press freedom and free expression including news organizations and journalists will troop before the Supreme Court for the oral arguments of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or Republic Act No. 10175.
This as the 120-day Temporary Restraining Order issued by the High Court is set to expire on February 6.
“The protests will be borderless, in the sense that netizens from all over the country, and all over the world, will be joining in one way or another. It will be a day for the aggressive exercise of free speech,” said Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in a statement issued January 11.
He pointed out that it would be the day to remind the people who is ultimately responsible for passing and signing the bill. “This is a protest against Aquino’s Cybercrime Law,” he said.
In September last year, the law was signed despite massive protests online and in the streets. It yielded to a number of petitions pushing the SC to issue a TRO the following month.
According to the Supreme Court, the oral arguments seek “to determine which of the many issues presented by the various petitions should be heard and which of the remaining issues could be argued in written memoranda to be submitted to the Court.”
This would be the first argument under Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno since she came to office in August 2012.
Petitioners against the Cybercrime Law, like Bayan, are seeking for a definite extension of the TRO.
“Let’s show support for our lawyers who will be arguing before the Supreme Court. This is an important battle in junking this repressive law which violates free speech and our right to privacy,” Reyes said.
In a phone interview, lawyer Harry Roque said he was designated to argue the “most objected provision of the law,” the Article 4 c which penalizes libel.
Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, also a lawyer, was designated to argue the constitutionality of sections 6 and 7 which state the increase of the penalty for crimes under this new law and provide that prosecution under it is without prejudice to conviction for violations of other laws.
Lawyer Jayjay Disini was designated to argue the issue of Article 12 which authorizes the collection of computer data while lawyer Rodel Cruz of the Philippine Bar Association was designated to argue the issue of Article 19 or the “take-down clause’ of the law. Lawyer Julius Matibag was designated to discuss the issue of Article 5 which penalizes “aiding and abetting” provided in the new law.
Roque said that the petitioners will argue that the provisions of the Cybercrime Law on libel and cybersex violate freedom of expression under the Bill of Rights and under International Human Rights Law. He added that they will argue that the law is one that infringes on expression and that the law which may cover even constitutionally protected speech renders the law valid on its face.
The prohibition on “aiding and abetting” is also void, according to Roque, because it is unclear who, in cyber world, may be guilty of aiding and abetting.
The increased penalty for crimes punished under the new law and that conviction is without prejudice to conviction under any other law, including the Revised Penal Code will be argued as unconstitutional because it violates the rule that members of the same class must be treated equally. The possibility of multiple convictions for the same acts, Roque said, violates the prohibition on double jeopardy.
On the collection of data, petitioners will argue that this violates the right to privacy, or the right to be left alone, and that this requires judicial intervention.
They will also argue on the “controversial provision” that is Article 19 which authorizes the DOJ secretary to shut down Web sites.
“Without major amendments or without the repeal of the law, the repressive provisions of this measure will take effect once the TRO expires,” Bayan’s Reyes warned.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has been calling on the SC to render a final decision declaring the law null and unconstitutional. It also called on the lawmakers to finally pass a law to decriminalize libel.
The second round of the oral arguments is set on January 22. (Irene V. Dagudog/davaotoday.com)