By BEVERLY ANN S. MUSNI, YR.
Davao Today

“To write is to choose.”

I always carry this battle-cry with pride and honor as a writer and as an alumna of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines.

The freedom of expression, undeniably upheld throughout its existence, fought over by heroes, warriors, rebels and the like, is a manifestation of being.  We are capable of forming words, which can either make or destroy.

Oral arguments regarding the Anti-Cybercrime Law or Republic Act 101725 have resumed.  But rather than providing more arguments, it presented more questions — a reflection of how dubious the law has been formulated.

Citing the “take-down” clause or section 19 of the said law, it authorizes the Department of Justice without any court order to restrict or block sites it deems in violation of the anti-cybercrime provisions.  Moreover, the penalty of libel, as defined in the Revised Penal Code, when committed online, has been increased to one degree without further expounding or adding any additional element to the crime already defined in the Revised Penal Code.

When choosing the words you put online, whether specific or abstract, one cannot just put a definite standard of what is deemed offensive or not.  For who are they to put a standard to what is abusive or not?  Who are they to deem what is to block from one’s word or speech?  And who are they who should be rightfully called the protectors of the internet realm or the villains of speechdom?

I shudder to think that even a simple comment, an insult or a critique could be considered as an attack on one’s dignity.  Libelous if we may call it.

But alas, in the anti-cybercrime act, libel is not even defined in a clear and concise language which would purposely put it in a category as a cybercrime act such as cyber squatting, spamming and identity theft.  It merely reiterated what’s already in article 355 of the Revised Penal Code.  It has even put such offense into an all-encompassing act which would be subject to conjectures as there is an absence of a definition of term, a prerequisite when one enacts a law.

It also comes to mind that these cyber-policemen, out to monitor the cyberworld, would immediately take down, or block sites and file a case of libel against an individual based on a vague or non-existent definition of terms.  Now this is mighty close to the definition of being a “terrorist” as defined in RA 1017 or The Calibrated Pre-emptive Response under the Arroyo regime.

They might as well call an individual a “cyber-terrorist” for actively criticizing the Aquino government online, demanding for justice for the desaparecidos, an across-the-board wage increase or the scrapping of the oil deregulation law.  For after all, any comment, posts, tweets or blogs can be subject of prosecution, and we expect the suing game to begin.

I’m also critical of the intelligence work online.  It is indeed scary and amazing as it can access one’s entire data, blog entries, status and articles because of one “wrong” word or comment.  And before you even know it, you might be put in jail before you can even “tweet.”

Under section 24 of Anti-Cybercrime law, an inter-agency body, the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center, is tasked with the formulation and enforcement of the national cyber-security plan.  Formulation, such that it provides with sufficient standards in which rules and regulations in implementing the law are stream-lined, filtered and framed.  But, isn’t that the job of the legislature in passing a law?  Why is it placed under the administrative supervision of the Office of the President?  Are they now switching roles online, too?

Further delegation of powers to formulate rules and regulations is a big no-no for the legislature.  Standards in guiding the cyber-crime Investigation and Coordinating Center should be first created so as not to further delegate powers unnecessary in implementing an excessive law.

To write is to choose.

As a writer and as a citizen of this country, I choose a system which listens before it speaks, which hears before it condemns and which chooses freedom over oppression.

Before words are gagged from my mouth, before my status in the social networking sites are flooded with black marks, I would like to raise a clenched fist for those who continuously and vigilantly fight for our freedom of speech and expression.

And to those who are self-righteously and hypocritically trying to curtail such freedom, here’s my dirty finger.

Beverly Ann S. Musni, Yr. is a free spirit.   She is a wanderlust, a dreamer and a frustrated rock star who dreams of travelling the world one day.  She is a world peace advocate.

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