Hackers crippled government and private websites Wednesday to protest the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which has faced criticism both legally and online since the announcement of its approval.
The front pages of the websites of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) have been replaced with black screens showing a written message from a group dubbed "Anonymous Philippines."
"The Philippine Government has just passed a bill that effectively ends the Freedom of Expression in the Philippines," the message read.
"The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 is the most notorious act ever witnessed in the cyber-history of the Philippines," it read further.
The BSP has regained control of its website as of posting time, but the websites of the MWSS and those for government-led campaigns Pilipinas Anti-Piracy Team and Department of Health: Smoke-Free Philippines, remain breached.
Websites of business group American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. and University of the Philippines-based think tank Institute for Development and Econometric Analysis were also hit.
The hackers pushed for a revision of the anti-cybercrime law, which they said is "cunningly designed" to make its application seem limited only to extensive Internet users.
"[B]ut some part (sic) of the bill basically says it can imprison anyone who commits libel either by written messages, comments, blogs, or posts in sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or any other comment-spaces of other social media in the Internet," the message read.
The adoption of "antiquated libel laws" for online enforcement "seems to have retarded [the Philippines'] march with the rest of the world with respect to giving full force to the people's freedom of expression," it added.
The hackers' protest comes amid a spate of criticisms from freedom of expression advocates following news of the anti-cybercrime law's Sept. 12 approval.
Petitions vs. Cybercrime Prevention Act filed
At least three petitions hitting the new law's constitutionality have been lodged with the Supreme Court.
The latest petition filed Wednesday by a group led by lawyers Jose Jesus Disini, Jr. and Rowena Disini hit the new law for "violating the fundamental rights" enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.
The petition sought a temporary restraining order on the implementation of particular sections of the new law.
The provision criminalizing libel "not only on the internet, but also on 'any other similar means which may be devised in the future,'" violates free speech, the petitioners said.
They added: "The real time data collection of traffic data violates the right to privacy and the right against unreasonable searches and seizure."
Sections on penalties in the Cybercrime Act also violate the double jeopardy and equal protections clauses of the Constitution, the group said.
They meanwhile noted that the Justice department's power to block access to computer data "violates due process and is an undue delegation of legislative authority."
Earlier, businessman Louis Biraogo and party-list Alab ng Mamamahayag filed separate petitions against the anti-cybercrime law before the high tribunal.