“We need to move forward to our next step to fight for the total elimination of the law instead of resting on our laurels on such a temporary victory,” Bai Ali Indayla, Kabataan Partylist’s second nominee, said.
By MARILOU AGUIRRE-TUBURAN
DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The “evil dangers” of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Republic Act 10175 ) “still hang like a sword of Damocles” despite the Supreme Court’s (SC) recent order to extend indefinitely the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the said law.
This was cited by lawyer Carlos Isagani Zarate, second nominee of Bayan Muna Partylist, adding that the people shouldn’t be complacent and must continue to be vigilant and critical until the Cybercrime Law is junked.
“The people must continue to make the stubborn Aquino administration account for its action of signing such Marcosian law!” he told davaotoday.com.
The law was signed by President Benigno Aquino III on 12 September 2012 and was supposed to be in effect on October 3. But the High Court was compelled to release a TRO following petitions and strong opposition from media organizations, netizens, and progressive organizations, among others.
The SC issued on February 5 an indefinite extension of the TRO, a day before its 120-day TRO issued in October 2012 expired.
Representative Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna Partylist, over a local radio station said there are three possibilities with the recent Supreme Court decision at hand: First, either the court will dismiss the petitions, or it may opt to just strike down some provisions of the law but still get ahead with it, or it may choose to nullify the law.
Colmenares urged the people to remain vigilant and quick to unite against the Cybercrime Act, saying that even with the best pleadings lawyers make in court, all this need to be supported by mass actions and public opinion to defend freedom of expression and civil liberties.
For the youth partylist Kabataan, they will remain relentless in their protest actions and will continue to take to the streets until the law is totally abolished.
“We need to move forward to our next step to fight for the total elimination of the law instead of resting on our laurels on such a temporary victory,” Bai Ali Indayla, Kabataan’s second nominee, said.
While Kabataan welcomed the SC decision, Indayla noted, it would have not been possible if not for the “people’s united action” to fight for their rights to expression online. However, she said, such victory is “only a portion of the petitioner’s effort to stop the unconstitutional law.”
“The youth is in great position to continue the support to junk the Cybercrime Law because there is no room for a law that violates the rights to freedom of expression through online,” Indayla added.
Kabataan pointed out that the youth “can make a viable act to stop oppressive state policies such as the cybercrime law,” saying they compose “majority of internet users and have the primary role as opinion makers in the society.”
There are 15 petitioners questioning the constitutionality of the law including Bayan Muna and Kabataan.
Indayla said the petitioners are those “who asserted that the law contained several unconstitutional provisions believed to threaten the constitutional rights to freedom of expression and free speech.”
Bayan Muna’s Zarate questioned the insertion of libel among the cybercrime offenses.
Libel in the Cybercrime Law, according to Zarate, is described how it is committed but “cyber libel” is not defined in the law.
The National Union of Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP), also a petitioner against the law, called for the people not to be lulled and complacent with the TRO extension of the Cybercrime Law.
In a statement, the NUJP said, it will continue the protest “until this law and everyone who sought to foist it on us are relegated to where they rightly belong — the garbage heap.”
The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), a counsel for petitioners for certiorari and prohibition, said that the public must remain vigilant and critical about the dangers of the law, the manner it was approved, and on the overall, the stubborn position demonstrated by the Aquino administration in crafting it.
“We as human rights lawyers maintain that there is a need to remain firm, steadfast, and even-tempered in our victory today in order to guard against any further breaches and violations of the people’s right to freedom of speech and expression,” lawyer Edre Olalia, NUPL secretary general said
Meanwhile, the BPO Industry Employees’ Network (Bien), a broad network of contact center professionals and employees, added its voice to the widespread opposition of the Cybercrime Law and called for the law’s immediate repeal.
“The law exposes BPO workers and ordinary citizens to severe penalties and fines and could easily be used to harass employees. The Cybercrime Law could further strengthen the BPO companies’ existing confidentiality and privacy clause and be subjected to one-sided interpretation by managements of such companies,” Bien said in a statement.
The group called on the SC to repeal the law, saying “it runs contrary to what’s good for the people, including BPO employees. We are the ones who are bound to suffer if this law would be implemented despite its obvious flaws.” It added, “the law’s libel provision, take-down clause, higher penalty provision, data collection provision among others, are threats to the freedom of speech and expression, right to privacy, and other liberties.”
“We should not stop until those who dare think of robbing us of our rights and liberties are brought to account,” the NUJP said. (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com)