Philippine govt asks court to lift injunction on Cybercrime Law

Government wants Supreme Court to lift the temporary restraining order on the controversial law, because petitions against it had failed to show strong enough evidence.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

The Philippine government has asked the Supreme Court to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) on the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, and junk 15 petitions contesting the law.

According to GMA News Online on Monday, the government, through the country's Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), argue the issuance of the temporary restraining order on the implementation of cybercrime law "should not be made to rest merely on purely legal arguments, without evidence being introduced, for or against the validity of a challenged statute".

The law only "regulates and penalizes" acts defined as cybercrime such as hacking, and does not prevent petitioners from using the Internet and expressing their thoughts, while the law does not necessarily regulate or punish free speech, it also said.

The Philippines' Cybercrime Prevention Act had been suspended for 120 days following restraining order against it by the Supreme Court in October. The law had come under fire for its vague definition of online libel, violation of personal rights and tough legal penalties for Internet defamation.
Law does not infringe privacy
Petitioners also cannot raise objections on the law allowing access to traffic data, since these data are logged, stored and kept by service providers and are considered as their business records, the government noted.

"No service providers [so far] has raised any objection to [the Cybercrime Law]," it pointed out.

The government also noted real-time collection of traffic data without any warrant does not infringe on a person's right to privacy, as it is the same as collecting information from visual surveillance of an open physical space. As such, it does not intrude on the "private" space of individuals and its retrieval does not call for the constitutional requirement of a warrant, they explained.

"Traffic data" in the Cybercrime Law also refers to "non-content" data consisting of its origin, destination, route, time and data of the communication. Unlike content data, considered private traffic data, it is an "auxiliary to the communication and is necessarily shared with a service provider who is a third party."

Petitioners grounds unfounded
The government further described the criticisms against the "libel" clause within the Cybercrime Law as "untenable", because libel is already considered a crime punishable under a separate Article 353 in relation to Article 355 of the country's Revised Penal Code.

"Libel is unprotected speech. It remains to be a crime in many nations," the government said.

It also added the term "information and communication technology" as used in the cybercrime law is not vague, as claimed by the petitioners, but the full text of "information technology" and has been in use since the 1980s.

On petitioners' previous argument that the law violates a person's right against being sued and penalized for the same offense, the government noted "It is not a constitutional prohibition against laws that may present possible prosecution for an offense penalized under other laws or statues."

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