Youth leaders file new petition vs Cybercrime

LESS than a month before the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order (TRO) on the Cybercrime Law is set to expire, various bloggers and youth leaders today filed before the High Court petitions calling on it nullify certain provisions of RA 10175, also known as the Cybercrime Law, which they said were infringing on the youth’s civil liberties.

According to Heart Diño, Chairperson of the University of the Philippines – Diliman University Student Council, the youth would bear the most brunt from the law given their high internet usage.

“If there’s anyone whose civil rights are most susceptible to abuse, it’s the youth. As shown by studies, more than 40% of youth belonging to the age bracket of 15 to 24 years old use the internet. They also comprise at least 70% of the more than 20 million Filipino users of facebook.” Diño said.

“Clearly, the youth have a stake in ensuring that the unconstitutional provisions of the Cybercrime Law are nullified,” Diño added.

Time running out to amend law, petitioners mull TRO extension

The petitioners also added that they were also motivated to file the petition due to the short time left for Congress to amend the law before the High Court’s TRO expires.

“Although there has been an amendatory bill filed by Akbayan Representative Walden Bello in the House of Representatives, the time left for Congress to deliberate it is running short. Furthermore, the TRO may also expire while the petitions against it are still being resolved,” Heart said.

The youth leaders also said that they were planning on filing a petition calling for the extension of the TRO in the event that the existing TRO expires before the law is amended or nullified.

“While we believe the Supreme Court will rule in favor of internet freedom, we can’t afford to have the law taking effect even as the high tribunal conducts oral arguments. This will also give Congress more time to pass a bill that will amend parts of the law or repeal it,” Dino said.

Cybersex provision criminalizes “intimate acts” between couples and consenting adults

Meanwhile, Dr. Leloy Claudio, an academic and blogger, said the definition of the law on cybersex was susceptible to abuse given its vague definition of the act.

According to Claudio, a phrase in the law which defines and penalizes cybersex as “for favor or consideration” was too broad and that it was tantamount to punishing private and intimate exchanges between two consenting adults and couples.

“Imbes na magamit ang internet bilang teknolohiya para mapaglapit at mapatibay ang relasyon ng mga mag-asawa o mag-partners na pinaglalayo ng lokasyon, maaari pa silang makasuhan at tawaging criminal,” Claudio said.

“This would result in a very outrageous situation wherein even OFWs abroad engaging in intimate and private acts with their husbands or wives through the internet can be punished under the Cybercrime law and placed in the same category as pornographers and operators of online prostitution.” Claudio added.

“Even arguing that the provision is meant to punish internet prostitution or pornography, it’s been written in such a way that even couples who are sharing intimate moments can still become liable. The word ‘favor’ can mean people who are doing the act freely,” according to Claudio.

Individuals prosecuted under Cybercrime law can still be liable under RPC

For his part, JC Tejano, a 2012 Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines (TOSP) awardee said various provisions of the Cybercrime Law were open to abuse especially the provision on e-libel wherein a person can still be prosecuted under libel as defined by the Revised Penal Code.

“It’s very alarming that a person who is being prosecuted for libel under the Cybercrime Law can still be prosecuted under the Revised Penal Code. This is practically a violation of the safeguard against double jeopardy which protects people from being punished more than once for the same act,” according to Tejano.

Other signatories to the petition include UE Student Council President Ephraim Ocampo and DLSU Student Council President Julie Ann Cabuhat. The Supreme Court’s 120-day temporary restraining order (TRO) issued last October 9 of the previous year is set to expire on February 6, 2013. The court is set to hear oral arguments on the various petitions filed against the law next week Tuesday, January 15.

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