MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang appealed to various groups opposing the cybercrime law to wait for the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) but stressed it respects their decision to question it before the Supreme Court.
The Cybercrime Prevention Act, which was published in newspapers last September 18, takes effect 15 days after publication - or on October 9.
“Number one, what is the position of government? The position of government is, look, we already have responsibilities attached to print, TV, and radio, so what the Cybercrime Act does is to also attach responsibilities in cyberspace," Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing on Thursday, September 27.
"You’ve got freedom to report - the freedom of expression is always recognized but freedom of expression is not absolute. We know that for a fact,” Lacierda added.
“And I think, more than anybody else, the journalists are very responsible when it comes to writing articles, they know the parameters. The only concern in cyberspace are the people who are not familiar with being responsible about what they write. And so, if we take away (responsibility), if it’s absolute freedom really…ultimately, you’ll be impinging on other people’s rights,” he said.
Journalists, lawyers and media organizations have said that the law's provisions on libel and state power to shut down websites violate freedom of expression.
Asked why the President did not exercise his veto powers on online libel, Lacierda said the recommendation was for approval because before the law was given to him for signing, the Office of the Executive Secretary prepared a legal memorandum for it and it was recommended for signing.
Lacierda said he hopes the IRR would be able to address the concerns of various sectors. "Some people have already resorted to, going to the Supreme Court, that is their right,” Lacierda said.
Among the chief critics of the law is a member of the ruling Liberal Party, Sen Teofisto Guingona III, who filed a petition before the Supreme Court on Thursday asking it to declare some provisions of the law unconstitutional.
Lacierda said this recourse is better than hacking government websites, which happened Wednesday night, September 26 and attacked the sites of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the water administration system, among others.
Lacierda said the new law was discussed during a social summit last weekend sponsored by Rappler, Tweetup Manila and several organizations but “as in any other law, there are venues if somebody would wish to contest the provisions.”
“However, as it stands right now the law is there, IRR is being drafted, maybe we can talk to those who will draft the IRR. Of course, we also know that the IRR should not be greater than the law itself. The water cannot rise above the source,” Lacierda said.
“If you want to express yourself, we can express ourselves in a decent manner. If you want to criticize, you can criticize without getting to licentious. Those are really just the concerns. There should be responsibilities. Freedom is there, we recognize the freedom to express oneself. But, we should be reminded that the responsibilities which are present already in media, in radio, in TV, should also be present in cyberspace. There should be no fear of expressing oneself, I think, that’s the most important thing,” Lacierda said.
Asked about apprehensions that the government might use this law to go after critics, Lacierda said: “You don’t have to have cyberspace to do that. We’ve seen that…We have the freedoms expressed in media so, these are not different. If I’m not mistaken, the definition of libel in the Cybercrime Act was lifted from the Revised Penal Code. So, the definition did not change,” Lacierda said.
“The wisdom has been expressed through the Cybercrime Act. These legislators agreed that that particular provision should be included. The position of the President (Aquino) is that there should also be responsibility in cyberspace. Now, as to (amendments)… lawmaking is not our department so, we assume that once it leaves the hands of the legislature, there’s presumption of regularity,” Lacierda said. - Rappler.com
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