Does CyberCrime Prevention Act of 2012 affects the Freedom of Expression?

Last September 12, 2012, President Aquino signed Republic Act No. 10175 otherwise known as the CyberCrime Prevention Act of 2012. It provides provisions to penalize individuals for all forms of misuse, abuse, and illegal access to cyber technology. The CyberCrime Prevention Act of 2012 can be found in the Official Gazette of the Philippines.


Just recently, there are a lot of criticisms and protests online about the said CyberCrime Law. Netizens claimed that this law may affect the freedom of expression particularly in the Sec. 4 (c) (4) which is about Libel. It was defined in this section:

“Libel. — The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.”

In an article in the Philippine Star, Guingona criticizes Cybercrime Prevention Act as, “prior restraint on the principle of the freedom of expression and freedom of speech.” He said, “With this law, editors and owners of these sites will be forced to lock down their websites and prevent people from commenting.”

Another article in the Inquirer News, Louis “Barok” Biraogo a businessman is asking the Supreme Court to stop the government from implementing three provisions of Republic Act 10175. According to Biraogo, “this provision is dangerous because it gives law enforcement authorities the authority to “eavesdrop, monitor and record the communication and correspondence of any citizen” without court order.

With this criticisms, several government websites were attacked by “Anonymous Philippines” to protest on the implementation of the CyberCrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Here are the list of government websites defaced by Anonymous Philippines:

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas
Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System
American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc.
Pilipinas Anti-Piracy Team
Department of Health: Smoke-Free Philippines
Institute for Development and Econometric Analysis (IDEA)

Here is the screenshot of what it looked like as you open their website:

AnonymousPhilippines

Their Message:

The Philippine Government has just passed a bill that effectively ends the Freedom of Expression in the Philippines.

 

The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 is the most notorious act ever witnessed in the cyber-history of the Philippines, and the language of the bill is cunningly designed to make you think it only applies to individuals who are deep in cyber-technology and doesn’t apply to everyone, but some part of the bill basically says it can imprison anyone who commits libel either by written messages, comments, blogs, or posts in sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or any other comment-spaces of other social media in the Internet.

 

New technologies give us new opportunities to connect with a lot of people not only in this country but all over the world.

They can also provide us with a medium through which our political, public and even private views can have an immediate and direct impact on individuals, communities and even countries. It is just so disappointing that our government, in adopting our 80-year-old antiquated libel laws to the Cybercrime Law, again seems to have retarded our march with the rest of the world with respect to giving full force to the people’s freedom of expression.

 

We ask for a revision of the said bill for the betterment of the Filipino denizens.

 

Protect our Right to Freedom of Expression!”

With the approval of CyberCrime Prevention Act of 2012, people’s opinion are once again divided, although there are also some who are in favor of this law, especially of the cyber crimes which were not regulated before. But, we need also to be careful in using cyber technology now, especially the social media, we may just post comments and may not be aware that we are already violating such law.