Philippine cybercrime law under fire, 6th petition filed

Philippine cybercrime law under fire, 6th petition filed

Summary: Another temporary restraining order against the country's Cybercrime Prevention Act has been filed, as Filipinos protest against its vague definition of online libel and violation of personal rights.

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A group of petitioners in Philippines, consisting of lawmakers, bloggers and students, have sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the country's implementation of its Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012--making it the sixth filed against the controversial legislation.

According to GMA News Online on Monday, the petition centered on the definition of online libel stated in the law, specifically sections 4, 5 and 6, which the petitioners say are "unconstitutional due to vagueness". The law also curtails "constitutional rights to due process, speech, expression, free press and academic freedom", it stated.

The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 , signed by President Benigno Aquino III on Sep. 12, aims to fight online pornography, hacking, identity theft and spamming following local law enforcement agencies' complaints over the lack of legal tools to combat cybercrime.

However, the law came with tougher legal penalties for Internet defamation, compared to traditional media.

It also allows authorities to collect data from personal user accounts on social media and listen in on voice and video applications such as Skype, without a warrant. Users who post defamatory comments on Facebook or Twitter, for example, could be sentenced to up 12 years in jail.

Hacktivists take aim
The other five petitions filed with the Philippine Supreme Court, too, noted the law infringes on freedom of expression, due process, equal protection and privacy of communication, a separate report by GMA News Online on Saturday stated.

Senator Teofisto Guingona, the sole opponent when the bill was voted on by the Senate and who filed one of the petitions, told the Supreme Court: "Without a clear definition of the crime of libel and the persons liable, virtually any person can now be charged with a crime--even if you just retweet or comment on an online update or blog post."

Hacktivist group Anonymous Philippines also protested against the cybercrime law last week by striking down several government Web sites in the country, according to The Philippines Star. The hackers replaced the sites with an animated logo and statement against the Cybercrime Act, calling it "the most notorious act ever witnessed in the cyber history of the Philippines".

However, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda defended the cybercrime law last week. "The Cybercrime Act sought to attach responsibilities in cyberspace...freedom of expression is always recognized but freedom of expression is not absolute," he said. 

Lacierda did say the law could be redefined, and called for critics to submit their concerns to a government panel, which will issue specific definitions of the law, such as who may be prosecuted, by the year's end.

Topics: Censorship, Government Asia, Security

Ellyne Phneah

About Ellyne Phneah

Elly grew up on the adrenaline of crime fiction and it spurred her interest in cybercrime, privacy and the terror on the dark side of IT. At ZDNet Asia, she has made it her mission to warn readers of upcoming security threats, while also covering other tech issues.

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32 comments
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  • The high n' Mighty

    "Users who post defamatory comments on Facebook or Twitter, for example, could be sentenced to up 12 years in jail."

    ^ Seems like pure misuse of power to me. People have the right to protest. There's nothing 'not absolute' about that.
    Ria Cherry
    • true!

      Amen! Ria Cherry!
      Ms.Shoutout
    • Exactly!

      Total abuse of power by the government!
      Jaydee1123
    • /subject/

      Good luck finding me, I'm behind 7 proxies
      wildcat12000
  • The high n' Mighty

    "Users who post defamatory comments on Facebook or Twitter, for example, could be sentenced to up 12 years in jail."

    ^ Seems like pure misuse of power to me. People have the right to protest. There's nothing 'not absolute' about that.
    Ria Cherry
    • lunatic legislative people

      12 years for cyber defamatory..then for rape just 3 years at least..sooo what now..lunatics on the street would just rape anyone since its just fr 3years the least compare to cyber defamatory!!!...senses people in legislative level...are you nuts!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      myber_marie
  • Does it really need another definition of libel?

    Government codes tend to be extremely long-winded already. You can't tell me there isn't already a section in the Philippine legal code that defines standards for "libel" when it comes to print, audio or visual media. As long as they have something that says, "as defined in code section ABC", that's all that should be needed.
    spdragoo
  • >:)

    i do agree to the presidential spokesperson.freedom is not absolute.
    but i`m not really in favor to "criminalizes" libel.

    i like their way of punishment.if the government is super strict in implementing this law then people we surely follow..
    Jamela Tampogao
  • >:P

    will rather
    Jamela Tampogao
  • >:O

    if freedom is absolute,then i`m a free to kill you?

    see the sense..
    Jamela Tampogao
    • sense

      Its common sense to know that because we are living in a society we give up some of the natural rights we have like killing or stealing. The government is made for the protection of the remaining rights we possess like our right to freedom of speech / expression.

      Freedom is absolute... yes you are free to kill anyone but you will face consequences from breaking the contract you formed in society.
      y0n4
      • @_@

        I do agree to this comment above, the person he replied to seems to be the one losing his/her senses. Freedom itself is vague. it is shown on how you exorcise it. but to chain the RIGHT on "freedom of speech" is as good as being a mute. yes they will follow if the implementation is not strict but right and specific.

        how would you feel if you were to be jailed for just clicking the "like" button accidentally?
        would you accept a 12 year imprisonment for accidentally commenting on a wrong thread? how would you react if you knew they were listening to you calls on skype and talking to your loved ones w/o any warrant?

        i dont resent the law but they must be specific in all field so that no one could abuse anyone.
        Xenos Obelius
  • cyber crime law (bullshit)

    for the love of higher supreme being and respect for justice..what got into the mind of our law making body!!are they sane!!..giving more provision and heavier impact on cyber crime law...news flash law making people!!!how about drug dealing, prostitution's, specially those pimps, pimping youngsters, human trafficking, rape, murder and among other crimes that really inflect human violation in earthly manners and not virtual..why focus more into solving the greater problem of our nation like education perhaps..maybe if you focus more on education we would have more sane and cognitively intelligent law making people in the future, compare to you lads right now who are completely insane and moron!!..oh my gosh people..hope we would have right minded candidates for next years elections and not just bunch of losers!!
    myber_marie
    • education?

      There is nothing wrong with Philippine education -- at least not when I was there (over a decade ago) -- in fact it's much better than most other SEA nations'. But that will soon change. From what has been described to me, the Philippines is taking a page from Thailand's book -- make "education" utterly confusing and let everyone pass their subjects regardless of the effort made. What results is a complacent society without the ability for self-actualization. In Thailand's case it has resulted in the people being nothing more than zombified voters who vote for whoever waves the most cash in front of them. The Philippines is moving in this direction now -- first silence the naysayers, then control education. Ever read the book "Dumbing Us Down" by John Taylor Gatto? I think the context best describes where the Philippines is going in regards to education (Thailand's beat the Philippines by a couple decades already).
      theanimaster
      • A decade ago

        well that was a decade ago. (as you said)
        PrincessNuclear
      • Philippine cybercrime law under fire, ...

        @theanimaster
        if you define literacy as "hey joe, wanna buy watch!", then the philippines has the highest literacy rate in asia, maybe even the world. and if you define literacy in terms of the the 3 r's (reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic), then maybe 80% literate or even less. but if you add the fourth r (reasoning), you are lucky if you get 25% literacy. besides literacy cannot be defined simply by the old yardstick, civilization had moved by leaps and bounds since they created that definition. now if you cannot operate a tech gadget properly, you are considered half-baked at most if not illiterate. the philippines is way behind in all aspect of technology compared to its asian neighbor. even vietnam, devastated by several decades of war was able to leapfrog the philippines. BUT THE IRONY OF IT ALL, MOST ENGINEERS, ECONOMISTS, AND OTHER MOVERS OF THOSE ASIAN ECONOMIES WERE/ARE FILIPINOS!
        kc63092
  • gov't officials are scared

    simply put, the power of social media has made wrongful acts of government known to all at lightning speed.. this is one way of control and establishing fear.. so sad !!!
    artefxusa
    • If they want good news

      If they want only good things to be published about them, then they should just show it. In that way, it wont be superficial.
      PrincessNuclear
  • law was made to benefit public officials the most.

    law was made to benefit public officials the most, from past administration until the present thats the fillipino way.. the only thing that has changed in each administration is the presidential seat became more and more like a "reality T.V. show" circus.
    Jshdkjh Asjkdhaskjdh
  • Only In The Philippines as we say - OITP !!!!!

    As a Brit expat married to a pinay, may I express our opinion on this, and a few more opinions about life in Phils - even if it does cost me twelve years of my life !!!!! The Philippines is corrupt from top to bottom, starting with the President, why do Filipinos assume that because of his name that he is different, and not corrupt. If he is NOT corrupt then the best thing that can be said about him is that he is totally powerless and useless. Why don't Filipinos rise up against their corrupt government and system - get rid of the crooks, thieves, and charlatains. I applied for a visa in Manilla and had to pay a government lawyer PHP 25,000.00 under the table, even though my application was 100% correct. And outside the Immigration department where this occurred there were big posters everywhere stating ' FIX THE FIXERS' - well, the fixers were inside, fixing me !!!!!
    I have many other examples of being ripped off by the Philippines system, too many to describe here. Anyway, to sum up, this new law is purely and simply to stop the Filipino people from criticising their government and politicians about not doing their jobs, and just lining their pockets with the cash that belongs to the people. The politicians should be ashamed of themselves, their greed and corruptness filters down through society, leading all to believe that this is the only way to improve their lives, so they then rip off the tourists and lose even more income for their country. Even my wife, a pinay, is constantly ripped off because of her western (married) surname. Shame on you Philippines !!!!
    paulbenn29