Day 1 of cybercrime law: more petitions filed
MANILA, Philippines - Two more petitions against the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 were filed on Wednesday, October 3 at the Supreme Court even as the law took effect on the same day.
The Ateneo Human Rights Center and media organizations led by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) sought for a temporary restraining order to stop the government from implementing the law and asked the High Court to declare it unconstitutional.
Lawyers Melencio Sta Maria, Sedfrey Candelaria, Amparita Sta. Maria, Ray Paolo Santiago, Glibert Sembrano and Ryan Quan said the case is of "transcendental importance" as it "will herald the entry of this Honorable Supreme Court into a world of cyber communication that is perpetually active, global and free."
They stressed that the law will affect millions of Filipino Internet users, citing the 2011 Southeast Asia Digital Consumer Report that said around 31 million Filipinos access the Internet.
The Ateneo Human Rights Center said the High Court should strike down as unconstitutional Sections 4 (4) , 5, 6, 7 and 19 of the Cybercrime law.
Section 4(4) of the law criminalizes online libel, while Section 5 penalizes "abetting in the commission of cybercrime." Sections 6 and 7 include all crimes under the Revised Penal Code under the Cybercrime law and increase their corresponding penalties to one degree higher.
Section 19, or the takedown clause, authorizes the Department of Justice to shut down websites that contain harmful content based on prima facie evidence.
The NUJP also asked the SC to nullify the said provisions but added that Sections 12, 14 and 15 - which cover the collection of traffice data, disclosure and seizure of computer data - also violate the 1987 Constitution, along with Sections 21, 24 and 26 (a), which cover the establishment of the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center tasked to oversee the implementation of the law.
NUJP's co-petitioners include the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the Philippine Press Institute.
Petitioners from the Ateneo Human Rights Center said under the law, people could be held liable for libel even for publications posted online before the bill was signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III on September 12.
"For example, computer user-B shared an article of another user-A in Facebook which is a social media website that can be seen through the computer. This happened in January of 2008. The article was libelous but it contained legitimate gripe on the subject-public official. It remained there and was not deleted. Because of so many other postings, this libelous posting was overtaken but not deleted," they wrote.
"Let us assume that in December of 2012, the person subject of the libelous statement was browsing and looking for people to contact with and he or she chanced upon the posting of computer user-B of the libelous statements made more or less four (4) years ago. Arguably, the libeled person can still file a case against computer user-B. The over-reaching effect of the law is thus very palpable."
The NUJP, meanwhile, argued in their petition that the law is unconstitutional because it has a bill of attainder, or a "legislative act that inflicts punishment without trial." They said the law unfairly singles out and imposes graver punishment upon those who use information and communications technology.
As of Wednesday, 9 petitions have so far been filed against the Cybercrime law. The SC did not act on the 7 petitions previously filed, saying the justices needed more time to further study the law. - Rappler.com
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