I’ve been preoccuped this week with recent developments back home which make what I am doing probably illegal in my home country. Which makes me even more compelled to blog about it.
The Philippine government has enacted into law Republic Act 10175 or also known as the “Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012”. Originally drafted to crimminalize certain offenses made via digital means such as identity theft, spamming, cybersex and child pornography. There are no previous laws tackling this issue in the digital realm which makes these pretty much updating dating the current laws. However a line has been included that many find disturbing and that is the libel clause.
I’ll save you the trouble and fast forward through the pdf link above to page 7 on the pdf or page 13 of the scanned pages and read section 19.
Sec. 19. Restricting or Blocking Access to Computer Data – When a computer data in prima facie found to be in violation of this Act, the DOJ* shall issue an order to restrict or block access to such computer data.
*Department of Justice
This basically means, they don’t need a court order to shut the internet, SMS, mobile phones and anything that is in a digital medium down if they see fit. Not to mention that the penalties for commiting online libel is harsher than traditional media libel (newspapers, radio, tv) which ranges from 1 Million pesos (roughly USD $25,000) and/or 12 years in prison.
With this in mind I’ll refer to the 1987 Philippine Constituition which states in Article III, Section 3 and 4,
Section 3. (1) The privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of
the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise as prescribed by law.
(2) Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be inadmissible for any purpose in
Section 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of
the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.
I’m no lawyer but it’s clear that there is something seriously wrong with the law.
Ten motions for a temporary restraining order have been filed before the Supreme Court and they will meet on Tuesday to listen to the arguments. The law took effect yesterday.
So you can imagine what took place. My fellow countrymen were livid. They went to the streets in protest and changed their facebook profile to black in protest.
It has been picked up by the foreign press.
Let’s go even further that the Philippines joined the Open Government Partnership in 2011.
It seems that government and politicians can’t put a stop to the discussion going on about them and the way they behave and perform in goverment and that their only recourse is to just put a lid on it and put the entire country back in the stone ages.
Just recently, a senator was caught plagiarising his speech by the internet community and claimed he did nothing wrong. It was made worse as he did it again a week later. But this time, translating a speech delivered by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1966 into Filipino. Oh yeah, he put the libel clause in.
Now lawmakers are quick to go on camera and state that “if” elected, they will change that provision. It’s an election year next year and they need the votes of the public.
Let’s look at the numbers.
So far, most of the protests I’ve seen are on Facebook and I’ve shared a number of them.
According to socialbakers.com
Facebook has almost 30% of the general population of the Philippines or almost everyone with an internet connection.
With more than half of them are eligible voters. How many are registered voters is another issue but is it enough to change their minds?
Now for the interesting part. Now what?
Sharing Facebook is nice and all but in the end we are all just armchair activists. Sharing, liking and retweeting things we believe our readers and followers should know. But will it change anything?
This is an interesting turning point for the country. This internet generation has grown up used to the freedoms that my parents didn’t have between the years 1972-1986 when the country was ruled by a dictator. I know my history and what it took to get that freedom back. I am curious if this generation will stand up for their rights.
This is a challenge to our freedom and to our internet. The internet must be free and it is up to us to keep it that way. The government has much to learn from the internet. I would like you to watch ITP Professor Clay Shirky speaking at TED Global this year on what government can learn from the internet and it’s users.