NZ group condemns arrest of anti-mining activist on libel charge

NEW ZEALAND – The Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa (PSNA) is asking Prime Minister John Key to urge visiting Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to pass the long-overdue Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

In New Zealand, the Official Information Act has been in place for 30 years now. Like New Zealanders, Filipinos must be allowed to access information about their elected public officials. This is crucial in ensuring accountability and promoting good governance. The FOI bill must be passed if the Aquino administration is serious about taking the righteous path.

In the Philippines, while media and advocacy groups have asked Pres. Aquino to make a big push for the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill which has been pending for 19 years, the Anti-Cybercrime Act was railroaded.

On 12th September 2012, Pres. Aquino signed into law the Republic Act (RA) No. 10175 or known as Cybercrime Prevention Act. The law allows the Justice Department to summarily shut down a website, or a politician to stifle media with a libel threat.

PSNA condemned the recent arrest of Esperlita Garcia, an anti-mining activist in the province of Cagayan, Northern Philippines for libel based on her Facebook message regarding the destructive black sand mining in Gonzaga municipality and the local authorities’ unbecoming behavior in dealing with those who oppose mining.

The cybercrime allows monitoring of ALL online activities without a warrant. A wide range of online activity could be considered libelous. Sharing a link, clicking “like” on Facebook, or retweeting could mean 12 years in jail. Even if you are not the original author of the material, just sharing it with someone online could land you in prison.

The Philippine Supreme Court issued a 120-day temporary restraining order after it was flooded with 15 petitions asking for the nullification of the law.

Media and citizens’ groups are calling for complete repeal of the law which threatens the Filipino people’s freedom of the press, speech and expression.


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