SC issues TRO on Cybercrime Law

Oct. 09, 2012

“This is not to say that we have already taken our freedom back. This is to say that we continue fighting for this freedom against those who wish to take it away from us, to render us voiceless. No reason to let our guards down. The battle has just begun,” said Davao journalist Jeffrey Tupas in reaction to the Supreme Court’s issuance of its Temporary Restraining Order on the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday in a full court deliberation unanimously voted for the issuance of a 120-day Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) stopping the enforcement of the controversial Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Since the law was enacted and implemented, a total of 15 petitions were filed to the SC questioning its constitutionality.

Legal inquiries focused on the criminalization of libel, the increase of the penalties of the crime under the Revised Penal Code to one degree and allowing the government to collect traffic data.

Militant groups dubbed the cybercrime law as e-martial law and criticized the extended powers given to the Department of Justice (DOJ) of shutting down web sites it deems of having libelous content.

The issuance will stop the DOJ, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the National Bureau of Investigation from implementing the provisions of the cybercrime law.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, in a press briefing Tuesday noon said the TRO was a provisional remedy and the administration respects the legal process issued by the high court.

However, Valte insisted that the TRO is not in any way construed as a judgment on the merits of the controversial law.

The TRO covers the entire cybercrime law. The SC ordered the respondents of the petitions to file their comments on the high court’s decision within 10 days. The oral argument is set on January 15 next year.

Militants welcome TRO

The TRO was welcomed by militant groups who stormed the Supreme Court on Tuesday as the high magistrates were deliberating the petitions.

Renato Reyes Jr., the secretary general of bagong Alyansang Makabayan said the TRO is for all the Filipinos who showed unity against the cybercrime law.

Further, Kabataan Party-list Representative Raymond Palatino also welcomed the issuance of TRO which he said was “an opportunity for the Palace to retract its hardline position on the issue, as we now have tangible proof that several of the law’s provisions are unconstitutional and post threats to our countrymen’s civil liberties.”

Here in Davao City, journalists and sectoral groups who held protest rallies on the day the Supreme Court issued the TRO welcomed the decision, but warned the people to press-on and be vigilant.

“This is not to say that we have already taken our freedom back. This is to say that we continue fighting for this freedom against those who wish to take it away from us, to render us voiceless. No reason to let our guards down. The battle has just begun,” said Davao journalist Jeffrey Tupas in a text message to Davao Today.

Multi-sectoral protests were conducted by different groups in the city in time for the Supreme Court’s decision on the 15 petitions filed against Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

About fifty journalists, students and sympathizers gathered in the city’s freedom park to show symbolic protest against the Act.

Different media organizations from broadcast, print and online outfits engaged college students in a discussion on the Act while members of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines Davao City gagged themselves with black cloth to symbolize the killing of the freedom to express dissent.

“The essence of democracy is having citizens speak out their views on political and social issues. With that, the people have taken to new media, the Internet, as a venue to address basic problems and realities,” said NUJP-Davao in its statement.

Later, members of the media union marched on the city’s main routes to drum up calls for the junking of the cybercrime prevention law.

Threat is Real

What is alarming with the Cybercrime Prevention Act is the cultivation of the climate of intolerance over criticisms especially among state officials, said the Spokesperson of human rights group Karapatan.

“This is what we fear would happen. Recently nurses where dismissed in a district hospital in Taguig because they “liked” a status of another person who reportedly posted a criticism over the hospital’s lack of facilities,” Rev. Jurie Jaime of human rights group Karapatan said.

“If a local-government unit can do this, what more with national government officials?” said Jaime adding that this is what makes the law “a calloused violation of the people’s basic rights.”

Fruit of People’s Protest Online and Offline

“The TRO is a result of the people’s strong protest against RA10175 online and offline,” said Bayan Southern Mindanao’s Sheena Duazo.

She further said that while some of the allies of Pnoy told the people to wait for the IRR, Bayan thinks that this is one way of “deceiving or pacifying the people.” Duazo pertains to a tweet of Akbayan’s Risa Hontiveros who, amidst wide protest on the whole of the Cybercrime Act, instead called for participation in the crafting of the Implementing Rules and Regulations.

Bryan Adams, of international human rights group Human Rights Watch in an emailed statement to Davao Today, noted that the best move is to strike the Cybercrime Act down.

“We commend the Philippines Supreme Court for issuing a temporary restraining order against the Cybercrime Prevention Act. The court should now go further by striking down this seriously flawed law,” Adams said.

Duazo said the chief executive should respect the SC decision, and that he should expect the people’s wrath to fall on him should he fail on it.

“We have to continue to assert our rights, vigorously exercise our freedoms and hold accountable those who were instrumental in giving life to this law, chief of whom is the president who signed it,” said Duazo. (Alex D. Lopez and John Rizle L. Saligumba,

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