“It violates our constitutional right to freedom of speech. The muzzling of public grievances and dissenting opinion is illegal under article 3 of the 1987 Constitution. It is unlawful. It is unjust. They stall us on the much needed reproductive health bill and freedom of information act and they railroad this down our throats? Not only is it immoral, it is also stupid.” — Pinoy rocker Nathan Peter Azarcon, Hijo frontman
By MARILOU AGUIRRE-TUBURAN
DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Republic Act 10175) takes effect today, October 3, following the Supreme Court’s denial of a Temporary Restraining Order petitioned by various groups in Manila on Tuesday.
“The postponed (Supreme Court) deliberation clearly manifests the political maneuvering of (President Benigno) Aquino to continue the implementation of the law despite widespread and strong opposition,” said Cherry Orendain, spokesperson of the youth group Anakbayan in Southern Mindanao.
But the high court’s decision did not cower netizens (internet citizens), for opposing what they call “e-Martial Law” or dictatorship in the digital age.
In a protest here Tuesday, militants and social media users called the law “a draconian measure” and “unconstitutional” as it violates the people’s freedom to information and of expression.
“The greatest casualty of this law is transparency and our right to know,” said Juland Suazo, spokesperson of environmental group Panalipdan. He added, “It is our responsibility to tell the truth and to critique public officials.”
Here in the Philippines, according to Anakbayan’s Orendain, the netizens’ role, especially the youth, has been significant in criticizing the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.
It is in cyberspace where the term “Noynoying” started, a form of criticism against the government’s inaction on matters of public interest. It is where “memes” spread like wildfire that criticized the government and its policies.
With the cybercrime law, Panalipdan’s Suazo explained, cyberusers are “gagged,” compelling them to impose self-censorship because they might be charged with libel.
The Cybercrime Prevention Act punishes those found guilty of online libel a maximum of 12 years in prison.
In a bid to oppose the Cybercrime Law, social media users have changed their profile photos at the networking sites Facebook and Twitter with black images and visuals criticizing the law and those who approved it.
The law, sponsored by Senator Edgardo Angara, was signed by President Benigno Aquino last September 12. It was approved by Senators Loren Legardo, Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero, Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III, Pia Cayetano, Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr, Jinggoy Estrada, Panfilo Lacson, Manuel ‘Lito’ Lapid, Gregorio Honasan II, Ralph Recto, Manny Villar and Vicento ‘Tito’ Sotto III.
“They stall us on the much needed reproductive health bill and freedom of information act and they railroad this down our throats? Not only is it immoral, it is also stupid,” Pinoy rocker Nathan Peter Azarcon, told Davao Today.
Azarcon, Hijo frontman and former bassist of the original rock band Rivermaya, can’t hide his disgust over the law, saying, “It violates our constitutional right to freedom of speech. The muzzling of public grievances and dissenting opinion is illegal under article 3 of the 1987 constitution. It is unlawful. It is unjust.”
For Cindy Bermudez, a second year Human Resource student at the Ateneo de Davao University, the law hinders ordinary bloggers like her to express their opinions on certain issues.
“The law itself is a violation of the Philippine Constitution,” she said, adding that its implementation will not prevent her from continuing the things that she’s been doing online. “I invoke my freedom of expression,” she said.
Bermudez is an active internet user since high school.
Earl Condeza, a graduating Computer Science student of the University of the Philippines-Mindanao is also opposing the law because it “bypasses the people’s right to express their opinions.”
Condeza, who currently maintains two blogs, said, nobody is exempted from the law. Online users who merely share or retweet posts or photos that may have libelous content, he said, can now be charged with libel.
As of July 1, Twitter has a total of 9.5 million Filipino users, according to semiocast.com, a social media monitor. Meanwhile, as of October 2, Facebook has a total of 29,656,180 Filipino users, according to checkfacebook.com website. (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com)World