PIFA to SC: “You missed your opportunity to champion Internet Freedom”
The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the majority of the provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (RA 10175) despite the petition of the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA) to junk the law for being contrary to the democratic values and rights of the sovereign Filipino people.
PIFA expresses regret for the Supreme Court for having missed the chance to become champions of internet freedom. Although reserving the right to allow the high court to reconsider RA 10175 as Cyber Martial Law, PIFA must now shift its advocacy to the arena of Congress to get legislators to repeal RA10175.
PIFA is flabbergasted at the retention of the cyberlibel provision . This repressive encroachment on the freedom of expression propagates a chilling effect across cyberspace, muting or outright silencing dissent and discourse on public matters. Foisting the threat of prison sentences for cyberlibel – increased from four years to ten years imprisonment – is contrary to the global trend to decriminalize libel.
In 2012, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III even told the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) that he was considering the global trend to decriminalize libel. During the oral arguments, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio pointed out that no less than the United Nations Human Rights Committee has called the attention of the Philippine government to amend its laws to remove libel from its criminal statutes.
Even after the High Court’s ruling last Tuesday, Justice Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy of the Cybercrime Office affirmed that the cyberlibel provision is an unwanted burden on government authorities because such was never considered to be a cybercrime at all under the Budapest Convention. It must be recalled that in the House of Representatives, a cyberdefamation provision was deliberately deleted; but unfortunately in the Senate, the cyberlibel provision was rudely inserted and somehow became part of RA10175.
PIFA is dismayed that the cybersex provision was also retained in RA1017. It will be recalled during the oral arguments, Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta pointed out that contrary to Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza’s claim that what the cybersex provision meant to prohibit was “cyber pornography”, nowhere at all is the term “cyber pornography” found in the law. This is crucial because even the intimate private acts of consenting couples would be prosecuted as public crimes.
In instances where at least one of the parties does not consent to the sexual act imposed on them by force or deceit, the cybersex provision would penalize the victim together with the perpetrator – failing to distinguish one from the other. This would dilute if not obliterate the substantial progressive strides made under the Anti-Human Trafficking Law the Anti-Child Pornography Law, and the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Law in protecting the rights of sex crime victims.
PIFA is just waiting for the copy of the official Supreme Court decision to firm up its arguments and file for a motion for reconsideration. We believe that even though the 12 justice majority won’t probably be swayed to correct the ruling, the legal arguments why the majority opinion is wrong must be shown to the public and be recorded for posterity, in hopes that the high court in some future date will realize how wrong it was to uphold Cyber Martial Law.
When the Supreme Court during the Marcos Regime tied its own hands to allow “no legal impediment” to the march of Martial Law rule, the drafters of the 1987 Constitution imposed on the high court the duty to strike down any government act committed in excess of lawful jurisdiction. That duty includes declaring as void and unconstitutional laws passed by Congress and signed into law by the Chief Executive that are, however, in violation of human rights as recognized by international treaties and customary law.
PIFA reiterates that human rights offline – the freedom of expression and the right to privacy among them – are the same as human rights online, and the State is duty-bound to recognize, defend and promote these rights held by individual citizens in cyberspace.
PIFA reiterates that the infirmities of RA10175 cannot be cured by the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) that are currently being drawn up by the Executive branch. In other words, the Department of Justice cannot “correct” or “remedy” a bad law by means of IRR. Bearing this in mind, PIFA will still engage the DOJ which has called for the public’s participation in the drafting of the IRR of RA10175. PIFA will attend to point out to government officials and put on record the repressive nature of Cyber Martial Law, while maintaining steadfast the continuing principled objection to an unjust law is a moral obligation of the sovereign people.
No to cyber martial law! Never again will the Filipino people let their own government rule with impunity.