High Court asked to stop cybercrime law

Purple S. Romero

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Petitioners say the law has a 'chilling effect' on the public

MANILA, Philippines – Various parties have asked the Supreme Court to stop different government agencies from implementing provisions of the Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

On Tuesday, September 25, businessman Louis Biraogo asked the High Court to stop the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police (PNP) from implementing sections 4 (c) 4, 12 and 20 of the law.

Party-list group Alab ng Mamamahayag (Alam) earlier asked the SC on Monday, September 24, to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would stop the President, the Senate and Congress from implementing  provisions of the law that prohibit unsolicited commercial communications, penalize online libel, and increase penalties for crimes listed in the Revised Penal code and special penal laws.

Section 4 (c) criminalizes online libel, while Section 12 authorizes government collection of real-time data. Section 20, on the other hand, specifies the penalties for the violation of Chapter IV, which deals with the disclosure and collection of data.

The Alam partylist wants the SC to stop concerned authorities from enforcing Section 4 (c)4 of the law, which defines cybercrime and outlines the prevention and imposition of penalties for those who commit it; Section 4(c)3, which covers unsolicited commercial communications; and Section 6, which states that “the penalty to be imposed shall be one (1) degree higher than that provided for by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and special laws, as the case may be.”

Both petitioners said the law creates a “chilling effect” on the public.

Journalists, media organizations, and lawyers have also publicly opposed the law, saying it violates media freedom and gives too much power to the Department of Justice. Even PNP officials said they have many questions regarding the law.

Monitor, control

Biraogo said the provisions allow government authorities to “monitor” and “control” him as well as other Internet users.

Alam, on the other hand, said the 1987 Constitution is clear in stating that no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of expression, speech and press.

The group, which is composed of journalists from different newspapers,  said it was “stupid” for the crafters of the law to consider unsolicited advertisement as cybercrime. For one, they said, no advertisement is really “solicited.” Besides, people can just easily block — on their own — unsolicited advertisements online.

The law defines unsolicited commercial communications as “the transmission of commercial electronic communication with the use of computer system which seek to advertise, sell, or offer for sale products and services.”

The group also said that Section 6 of the law, which states that penalties to be imposed shall be a degree higher, is “sweeping,” adding there is no reason why a distinction should be made between broadcasters, print journalists and online reporters – all of whom can be held liable for libel.

“There is no clear empirical data that can back up any claim that online libel is more ferocious in causing damage than those written in newspapers and broadcast on tvs and radios,” the group said.

Alam also sought a permanent injunction, which they said should be issued after the Court has heard the case. The injunction will prohibit authorities from implementing the questioned provisions.  – Rappler.com

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