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Court allows cybercrime law to pass

Internet users protest against online libel law

Activists call for the implementation of the cybercrime law to be stopped (Photo by JL Burgos) Activists call for the implementation of the cybercrime law to be stopped (Photo by JL Burgos)
  • Joe Torres, Manila
  • Philippines
  • October 2, 2012
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Social media users staged online and offline protests today against a new cybercrime law that takes effect tomorrow.

Press freedom advocates and activists branded the law a threat to the right to  free expression, which is enshrined in the constitution, and called on the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order before implementation of the law, which it failed to do.

One member of the court, who asked not to be named, said the justices had yet to study all the petitions.

Human rights group Karapatan has urged the Supreme Court to declare the law unconstitutional because it "poses serious threats to the right to privacy, freedom of speech and expression, among other civil and political rights."

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general, said that aside from the law’s provisions on libel, the measure gives free rein to authorities to monitor internet traffic and to take down sites which they deem "libelous."

She said the law has far reaching implications on the work of human rights defenders and violates the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

The law also infringes on the rights of the general public to access the facts and the information on several human rights issues and to express and act on their opinions, she said.

Senator Teofisto Guingona, the lone legislator who opposed the passage of the law in the Senate, said that sharing or retweeting libelous statements can be punished with 12 years in jail.

"Let me just point out that we need a Cybercrime Prevention Act. However, the inclusion of these problematic provisions on cyber-libel will just curtail a fundamental principle of good governance," Guingona said.

Opposition to the new law is strongest over a provision on libel that covers all platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

Facebook users have uploaded black images as profile and covers of their accounts while student and activists marched to the Supreme Court to call for a stop to "cyber martial law."

Some Facebook users replaced the text of their status updates with black blocks, with the message "[POST BLOCKED] (RA No. 10175)" referring to Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Congressman Raymond Palatino of the Youth Party slammed the Supreme Court’s inaction following the reported absence of several justices in the high court’s en banc session.

"To that we say, absence makes the internet grow darker," Palatino said.

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