When a potential danger occurs, it is a mother’s instinct to shield her children and keep them safe. This is exactly what Nina Estabe, a mother who wrote a letter to a national newspaper, is coming from. She is arguing that the libel provision of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or the Republic Act No. 10175 “promotes decency and civility, responsibility and accountability for all those concerned”. The issue of the passing of this act is not new to our ears- it is a common subject of discussion among the Filipino community, particularly the social networking world on which millions are active, or more probably dependent. It is a need to put this debate at rest since it is taking too much time off the government’s hands which have probably better things to do at this time. It is the time to junk this act and maintain our country’s freedom of speech and expression.
Estabe declared that the libel provision must be included in the cybercrime law in order to prevent persecution and humiliation. She somehow came into this judgment after seeing her daughter’s friend become embarrassed on Facebook where someone posted a photo with offensive words. She was afraid of having her children experience the same thing. She also stated that social networking sites are uncontrolled by any means-people can post anything they want, whether good or bad. She added that this manner is done “without any sense of civility, responsibility and decency”. It is, according to her, by the cybercrime law that people can be held responsible of what they post.
The Philippines is one of the countries with the most generated freedom in terms of internet usage. We can freely express our thoughts and feelings about certain things. We can shout out loud the ideas that engross our minds. It keeps us from being silent, from keeping our thoughts to ourselves. The internet freedom allows us to know everything that is going on, without a single information uncensored. It prevents us from being blind, and from accepting everything that the government tells us to do or believe.
The cybercrime law erases this freedom subsequently. Additionally, it destroys our privacy. Some information that is intended to be shared with our immediate surroundings can be used by authorities against us. It diminishes the safety that we are supposed to feel and makes us feel anxious in everything that we do. This law, especially the libel provision, would make a person who is accused of libel in the conventional means like print and broadcast become accused of another libel case if the article is published online as well.
All these claims would probably happen if the implementation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 will continue. I believe that those who use the internet for child pornography, cybersex, hacking, identity theft, and spamming deserve to be punished. But, the cybercrime law is just not the way to do it. The inclusion of libel in this law would be a violation to our freedom of speech and expression, as I have already mentioned. The government, which approved this law, seems to be forgetting the orders coming from the Philippine Constitution. It states that “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” The cybercrime law will do just that, remove our right to say anything we want and express our thoughts and feelings.
Second, it violates our very own privacy. This law permits the authorities to collect data from our personal computers through traffic time and without a warrant. According to the Section 2 of the Bill of Rights, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.” This right might be easily taken away from us.
Lastly, the cybercrime law doubles the chances of being charged with libel, both on print and online. As stated under Section 7 of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, a person who is charged with cyberlibel can still be charged under the Revised Penal Code that also implements a penalty for libel. Moreover, cyberlibel prescribes six years of imprisonment more than the ordinary libel. This is really absurd.
The implementation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act is like implementing the Martial Law once again. The democracy will be taken away from us together with the right to express our thoughts and ideas. Our right to feel secure might be gone as well. According to the United Nation Human Rights Council, “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice.” If the cybercrime law is not abdicated, the wire that enables us to connect with the rest of the world might just be cut, leaving us disconnected.
Lizaso, Shaun Erycka T.