Republic Act No. 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act, has been enforced as of October 3. In an interview with Inquirer. net, Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño revealed that the said law was originally crafted to battle child pornography, data and identity theft, and other Internet scams. The Cybercrime Prevention Act has provisions on online libel and on blocking of computer data deemed harmful, which are viewed by many as threats to the Filipino’s constitutional right to free speech.
Inquirer.net further states that a person convicted of online libel will face a penalty one degree higher than what is provided for ordinary libel in the Revised Penal Code, guaranteeing imprisonment, as the accused is ineligible for probation and can receive a prison term of more than 14 years.
The law also has a provision that will allow government agencies to take control of computer data, which, according to lawmakers, will have a “chilling impact” on netizens as websites could be taken down without due process.
The Supreme Court did not issue a temporary restraining order on the law’s implementation even if seven petitions questioning the constitutionality of the law were filed by different groups and individuals. Many groups staged protests against the law in front of the Supreme Court on October 2, and many opposing netizens also made their opinions known by blacking out their photos and by posting shaded status messages on social networking sites.
One of the law’s dissenters, Senator Teofisto Guingona III, has expressed his disappointment in the Supreme Court’s decision to postpone the hearing of the petitions. Guingona was the only senator who voted against the law during its deliberation in the upper house.
“I respectfully ask the high tribunal to resolve the issues and act on the petitions immediately to prevent further harm to our cyberusers. The implementation of the law will take back our citizens to the Dark Ages where freedom of speech and expression was not recognized,” he was quoted as saying in the article.
“Let me say this once again, the state has no right to gag its citizens and convict them for expressing their thoughts. The Philippines is a democratic country… The Filipinos should never be left to cower on the sidelines—their thoughts and voices should not be shackled by fear and intimidation. The people should not be afraid of its own government.”
(Photo by wax115 via Morguefile.com)