Opposition Against Cyber Law Snowballs

Warning of the "chilling effects" on individual rights of certain provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, another petition was filed with the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday to strike them down as unconstitutional.

There are now three petitions filed with the SC to stop the government from implementing Republic Act No. 10175 that was signed into law by President Benigno S. Aquino III on September 12.

All the petitions sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would stop immediately the implementation of the law.

The new petition was filed by Jose Jesus M. Disini, Jr., Rowena S. Disini, Lianne Ivy P. Medina, Janette Toral, and Ernesto Sonido Jr.

Named respondents were the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Interior and Local Govt. (DILG), Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), Philippine National Police (PNP), and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Sought to be declared unconstitutional in RA 10175 were Sections 4 (c), 6, 7, 12, and 19.

"These provisions are constitutionally infirm. Taken together, they restrict the fundamental rights to free speech and the freedom of the press with respect to online content in the same way a totalitarian state would do so - through unrestricted and unregulated censorship," the petitioners said.

They pointed out that the challenged provisions of the new law "inter-operate with each other to create a 'chilling effect'," on the constitutional rights of individuals.

Section 4 (c) of RA 10175 criminalizes libel, not only on the Internet, but also on "any other similar means which may be devised in the future."

Section 6, on the other hand, raises by one degree higher the penalties provided for by the Revised Penal Code for all crimes committed through and with the use of information and communications.

Under Section 7, any person charged with the alleged offense covered will not be spared from violations of the Revised Penal Code and other special laws.

While Section 12 authorizes law enforcement authorities to "collect or record by technical or electronic means" communications transmitted through a computer system, Section 19 empowers the DOJ to block access to computer data when such data "is prima facie found to be in violation of the provisions of this Act."

The first two petitions against certain provisions of RA 10175 were filed on Tuesday by journalists belonging to the Alab ng Mamamahayag (ALAM) and businessman Louis Biraogo.

Their petitions stated that "the enactment of this statute is attended with grave abuse of discretion because its questioned provisions contravene Sections 3 (1) (on inviolability of privacy of communication) and 4 (on freedom of speech, of expression, of the press, and peaceful assembly), Art. III (Bill of Rights) of the 1987 Constitution."

Named respondents in the first two petitions were the Office of the President, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.