Youth groups to hold SC vigil 24 hours before Cybercrime Law TRO expires

YOUTH groups and internet freedom advocates from different sectors  marched to the Supreme Court in order to hold a vigil and protest action one day before the expiry of the Supreme Court’s 120-day Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on RA 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Law.

This marks the latest in a series of protests beginning late 2012 against this controversial law that opponents argue will stifle dissent and curtail freedom of speech and expression.

Today, February 5, marks the last chance of the Supreme Court to either extend the effectivity of the TRO; declare the Cybercrime Law as unconstitutional; or allow the Cybercrime Law to take effect.

This action follows several SC hearings on the constitutionality of the Cybercrime Law’s provisions. During the said hearings, government lawyers have admitted that the provisions of the Cybercrime Law allows government agents to conduct ‘preventive monitoring’ of suspected violators by means of intercepting their data sent from their computers, mobile phones, and other electronics. Government lawyers also staunchly defended the provision on internet libel, arguing that “liking” and “sharing” of posts on social media that are considered libelous are libelous acts in themselves saying, “Defamation is defamation”.

Youth, media, and internet advocates fear that this law will be used to censor reports of legitimate grievances of citizens against the government and politicians especially in light of the upcoming 2013 Elections where social media is foreseen to take a bigger role in shaping the opinion of voters. The law  legitimizes covert government surveillance on activists, civil society organizations, and peoples’ organizations, even without the issuance of a court order, gathering sensitive personal information and opening them up as targets of the AFP’s counter-insurgency plan Oplan Bayanihan.

The Aquino administration defends these provisions by claiming that these are meant to address crimes committed in cyberspace such as fraud, identity theft, and child pornography. However, these justifications serve to merely disguise the fact that this law infringes on the rights of ordinary Filipino citizens to privacy, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press. These provisions are tantamount to a declaration of Electronic Martial Law (E-Martial Law), and shows that Aquino’s is closed to legitimate criticisms from citizens and the media which easily spread through blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

The Cybercrime Prevention Law is being implemented in accordance with the US’s efforts to stifle dissent and criticism of its imperialist policies and its local puppets and allies in cyberspace. These policies to regulate the internet go beyond acceptable legal and moral norms to ensure the security and privacy of ordinary citizens and the media.

The youth group Anakbayan has voiced its opposition to the Cybercrime Law since the beginning, and continues to support the struggle for the democratic right of the Filipino People to a free internet. Through continued protest actions and opposition to this law, the Filipino people will be able to build a strong movement for defense of civil liberties and privacy rights, as well as other human rights.

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