Originally designed to fight online pornography, hacking, identity theft and spamming, it now includes a blanket provision enforcing the country’s criminal libel law into cyberspace, with harsher penalties for Internet defamation compared with the old media. Moreover, it allows authorities to collect data from personal user accounts on social media and listen in on voice/video applications without a warrant.
Under this law, people who are merely re-tweeting or re-posting libelous materials on social media could face a maximum prison term of 12 years and a fine of one million pesos ($24,000), far beyond the four-year jail term and a fine of six thousand pesos for newspaper writers who are convicted of the same libel crime.
Numerous critics of the libel element in the cybercrime law are now campaigning to have it repealed, taking it as a wrong signal in a country that is fresh from a military-backed dictatorship that lasted for decades. And to think that the Philippines has one of the world’s highest per capita rates of Facebook and Twitter users, there are going to be massive convictions under this law.
Of late, five petitions claiming the law to be unconstitutional have been filed with the Supreme Court, thanks to Senator Teofisto Guingona, the lone opponent when the bill was voted on in the Senate, for filing one of those petitions. These petitions are one in saying that this law infringes on freedom of expression, due process, equal protection and privacy of communication. From the layman’s viewpoint, it brings all of us back to the inhuman operation of the dark ages.
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