Cyber Martial Law – What are you afraid of?
On February 25, 1986, the Filipino people went to EDSA to reclaim their freedom. 28 years later, the same day in 2014, the Filipino people has done the same. Who would have thought that 28 years after fighting against the dictatorship of the Marcos regime, we would still be fighting the same battle for freedom? With the ruling of the Supreme Court on the Cybercrime Law as mostly constitutional, Cyber Martial Law has been declared, and is strongly defended by no other than the president himself.
“If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to be afraid of,” has been the recent argument of those defending the Cybercrime Law. They say that it is meant to protect those who are being bullied and abused in the Internet. But who is this law really trying to protect? Does it really protect, in the first place, or does it do more damage? (READ: TIMELINE: The road to SC's Cybercrime Law verdict)
The Internet has been an important medium for people’s engagement, especially in political and social matters. It has helped bridge the political and the personal and as a consequence, people have become more involved in fighting for their rights.
Just last year, through the Internet, the Million People March protest against pork barrel was staged and has led to a fast response of the government on the issue. The Internet has become a tool of political engagement, even sometimes to the point of outrage, and has allowed for a new form of activism, that which involves digital media in educating the public and organizing mass actions.
However, the Cybercrime Law and the criminalization of online libel only gives a chilling effect on Internet users. Instead of giving free speech to people, the government has decided to regulate speech and punish with criminal liability those who might offend other people when in fact, the answer to free speech, is more free speech because democracy and freedom of speech is not just for people we like and opinions we agree with. As Noam Chomsky said, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”
The Internet is a complex world, which has undeniably empowered people, but with the government regulating and documenting our every word and every move, we have gone back to the dark ages where democracy is dead. While other countries have sought to decriminalize libel, here we are, in the twenty first century, facing the same problem we faced back in the time of Spanish colonization.
Who is the Cybercrime Law trying to protect? Certainly not journalists who might be exposing truths denied by the government and certainly not activists condemning the government’s human rights violations. Who is the Cybercrime Law trying to protect? Onion skinned public officials who can’t take criticisms for wrongdoings, accusing netizens of cyber bullying. (READ: Sotto: E-libel 'vindicates' me)
But look who’s the bully now, using their executive and legislative powers to protect themselves from public scrutiny? Because in a country where public officials are too sensitive and citizens have become empowered, the argument “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to be afraid of,” becomes invalid. Everything we say can now be used against us.
Now, to the government, we give back the question, if you are not doing anything wrong, what are you afraid of? – Rappler.com
Dakila – Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism is an organization composed of artists, students, and individuals committed to working together to creatively spark social consciousness formation towards social change.