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Critics file petition on cybercrime law

Move aims to stall legislation deemed draconian on intimacy and libel reporter, Manila

January 11, 2013

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Bloggers and youth leaders today filed a petition with the Supreme Court calling on the judiciary to nullify what they said was a new cybercrime law that undermines civil liberties.

The petition – filed before a temporary restraining order against the September law runs out on February 6 – is aimed at a provision on cybersex that critics say goes too far and could result in punishment and even prison for legitimate online intimacy.

Congress is amending the law but this could take time, warn critics.

“This [petition] … will give Congress more time to pass a bill that will amend parts of the law or repeal it,” said Heart Dino, chairperson of the University of the Philippines Student Council, which has backed opposition to the cybercrime law.

Opponents say they are also considering an attempt to extend the temporary restraining order, which lasts 120 days from when it came into effect in early October.

Dr Leloy Claudio, an academic and a blogger, said the articles on cybersex were susceptible to abuse given its vague definition.

“This would result in a very outrageous situation where even [Filipino workers] abroad engaging in intimate and private acts with their husbands or wives through the internet can be punished under the cybercrime law and placed in the same category as pornographers and operators of online prostitution,” she said.

Journalists and lawyers earlier filed an amended petition against the cybercrime law, arguing that it extended the reach of what were already considered draconian and outdated libel laws formulated 82 years ago under the Revised Penal Code.

Luis V Teodoro, deputy director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, said that even before the passing of the cybercrime law in September, the revised penal code was being used to silence government critics.

With the passing of the new law, he said that defendants could in theory be charged twice for online libel offences in the Philippines, one of the few countries in the world where libel is a criminal offence.

"It’s very alarming that a person who is being prosecuted for libel under the cybercrime law can still be prosecuted under the Revised Penal Code," Tejano said.

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