Cyberspace is a political space: Junk the Cybercrime Law – NUSP

WITH less than a month to the end of the temporary restraining order (TRO) on the Cybercrime Prevention Law (RA 10175), youth and students once again called on the public to unite to express rejection of this unconstitutional and dangerous law.

The group said they will launch a protest action on January 15 at the Supreme court. The high tribunal is set to hear the oral arguments of all the petitioners on January 15, 2013 after the 120 day TRO lapsed.

The court has received 15 petitions questioning the constitutionality of the law, with various groups condemning it for purportedly threatening freedom of speech, increasing the penalties for libel, and making it easier for authorities to spy on citizens using electronic media.

The high tribunal on October 9, 2012 issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012

The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) renewed calls for the junking of Cybercrime Law for the following reasons:

First, the contentious online libel clause puts anyone who expresses an opinion online at the risk of being called a cybercriminal and consequently punished. Plus, for those active on social networking sites, the simple act of reposting or “liking” certain “libelous” material can already be grounds for prosecution.

It is also troubling to think that so-called cybercriminals will receive penalties one degree higher than crimes committed offline. Imagine, a Facebook status, if anyone deems this status as libelous, can send someone to jail for 12 years.

Second, with the broad and vague meaning of the phrase “computer data found violating the Act”, the power to decide what content merits punishment is given wholly to the Department of Justice (DoJ). Only one government department will be given the power to decide what we can and cannot put online. Any website that has content or posts deemed problematic can be taken down at once — without due process. That would translate to hundreds of blogs, news sites, investigative journals, and even social networking sites being shut down.

Third, RA 10175 also gives the NBI and DoJ the power to monitor all our electronic communications. They can track, record and check our posts, our chat logs, and even our text messages — tracing the data’s origin, destination, route, time, date, size, duration and even type of service.

They can do this without our knowledge and without a court order This clearly violates the 1987 Constitution which states that the “privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise”.

The Cybercrime Prevention Law (RA 10175) is truly an insiduous law. It makes itself out to be a protector of our rights and our safety but, in truth, it is an attack on our right to freedom of speech and it puts the safety of healthy societal discourse in great jeopardy, said Isabelle Therese M. Baguisi, NUSP secretary general.

She said the heavy punishment and the vague definitions leave a lot of our interactions and posts online open to possible misrepresentation and possible jail time; consequently, this affects our ability to express our observances, our critiques and our calls for improvement.  And, in the end, it is our ability to express dissent and contribute to progress that is negatively affected.

The Cybercrime Prevention Law must be stopped before it even takes root. As innovative and creative young people, we must explore different ways — online and offline — to express our rejection of this law. Let us be firm in our commitment to protecting cyberspace as our space, without government repression and regulation as we commit ourselves to the responsible and responsive utilization and maximization of electronic communications services in the principle of responsible and politically-correct freedom of expression, she said.

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