Philippines suspends controversial cybercrime law

Country's Supreme Court puts new cybercrime law on hold and asks the government to respond to the 15 petitions stating that the law is unconstitutional.

The Philippine Supreme Court has suspended the country's new cybercrime law while it decides if the legislation violates civil rights.

An Associated Press (AP) report Tuesday cited Justice Secretary Leila de Lima as saying the court had issued a temporary restraining order to stop the government from enforcing the Cybercrime Prevention Act. The suspension is for 120 days and the court has scheduled verbal arguments for Jan. 15, 2013.

The government is also required to respond within 10 days to the 15 petitions filed questioning the legality of the law, it said.

Signed by President Benigno Aquino III in September, the Cybercrime Prevention Act 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, those objecting the law said it was unconstitutional due to its vague definitions and potentially stifling freedom of speech. The legislation allows authorities to collect data from personal user accounts on social media platforms 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.

The AP noted that while the law took effect last week, there has been no report of anyone being charged violating it.

Both local and foreign hacktivists have protested against the law by defacing government Web sites .

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