Two people inside a house, restaurant or a lounge, one is reading a newspaper while the other is reading the same newspaper through his laptop. Initially the two individuals seem to be doing the same newspaper but on different mediums but wait all is not what it seems. The person using the computer is doing much more. While reading the online edition of the newspaper he shares it to his friends on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. He may leave a comment about the article or start writing a reaction on his blog. Or he may be talking to friends about it via gtalk, facebook chat . and then he access his smart phone and does the same thing again. The Internet has become more than a medium or a channel. It has evolved into digital world where a person can interact, react and create. It is a place where democracy in general has been flourishing. This can be seen in the diversity of point-of-views encountered on the Web. It is also the world where both individuals and Government can be questioned, criticized and praise by anyone.
A dangerous road? Perhaps.
A world where laws might be constructed to prevent abuse? Unequivocally.
But at the same time it is a world where the freedom to express must be defended.
And this is the problem of the much talked about 10175 or the Cybercrime Law of the Philippines. It is a law that has good measures against abuse committed in cyberspace from a provision on identity theft, a provision on cybersquatting and among other things a provision on Spam. And of course there is a provision on hacking. On the other hand the Cybercrime Law gives higher penalties for acts committed using a computer or any other computer device. It also gives the State almost blanket authority to close or block a website and gather data based on prima facie evidence literally just enough evidence to pursue a case. And them there is libel.
An inclusion in the cybercrime law, Libel has become a catalyst in the rage against and suspicion against the cybercrime. Nearly all netizens are alarmed over this. The law encompasses all content in cyberspace whether it is a blog post or a comment to it; , a video uploaded on Youtube or a photo shared on flickr; a tweet … retweet; and on Facebook a status update, something one shared or even a like.
I have nothing against libel. In fact it is a legal means to seek redress against defamation. It has been used in the Philippine cyberspace: Blogs and netizens have been sued for libel. What alarms me and I guess what alarms other is that libel is still a criminal act. vestige from our colonial past used to squash political dissent. We are one of the few countries that has not decriminalized libel. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights called upon the government to decriminalize libel after hearing the case of Alexander Adonis, a radio journalist jailed for libel. Furthermore, Libel in the cybercrime law carries with it higher penalties. Libel inits present form in the cybercrime law that is not tempered with due process can and will be used to silence critics.
And this is why Philippine Cyberspace is angry and suspicious with the cybercrime law. A number have taken their case to the Supreme Court to seek a legal remedy to this problem. There are those who have taken to online and offline protests a legal avenue. Nearly all have voiced their opposition online. The rage against the deformities of the cybercrime law has begun to express itself in the suspicion of the netizen on each action taken by the Government and in extreme cases individuals or groups have hacked government Internet real estate. Hacking is not legal. It is not the avenue of action most who oppose the cybercrime law take or support -in several forums and discussion this is clear. The hackers action, not condoned, must still be understood as a rage against the imposition of the cybercrime law that violates the right to freedom expression and the right to due process.
And at this point it will take more than tweaking with the Implementing Rules and Regulations to correct a mistake. Cyberspace, the Internet and the World Wide Web, is more than the medium or a channel. It is a world where through the interactions and actions of netizens has essentially become a world where democracy flourish and where the Watchers can be watched and held accountable. There is a need to protect this world and one needs to cleave: to strike out the deformities in the cybercrime law that violates the right to freedom expression and the right to due process.