There is a popular expression in the Philippines that goes like this, “Only in the Philippines!“. More often than not though, this expression often comes with a bad connotation. Just look at how online laws and regulations are being implemented in the country.
Philippine Cybercrime law: Penalizing online crimes and more
Theor Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (also simply referred to as cybercrime law by the locals) was signed into law in September 2012. Under the said law, it punishes cybercrimes that are associated with cybersquatting or trafficking, cybersex and child pornography, data and identity theft and the most criticized aspect of the bill which is the online libel provisions.
It could have been a great law penalizing cybercrimes and other illegal acts circulating all over the Internet if it wasn’t for the online/internet libel law that is deemed to limit the things that netizens can post on various online platforms.
Many perceive the bill as the government’s way of restricting freedom of expression. For months, citizens, different sectors and lawmakers have debated the constitutionality of this controversial online libel provision. Everybody had something to say about the issue of online libel.
Many Filipinos condemned the cybercrime bill. Hackers also staged various attacks on government agency websites to show their dismay with the contentious law.
With confusions on the legality of the said law, the country’s top court, the Supreme Court of the Philippines, immediately issued a temporary restraining order stopping the implementation of the cybercrime law. This happened just a month after the bill was signed into law by the Philippine President.
Freedom of Speech at Risk
Online and anonymous criticisms are rampant nowadays. People believe that the law is a way to shut the mass from going against the present administration. With the trend of things happening these days, social media is now being used to express anger, dismay, provocations or disgust about someone, a government, or anything.
Say you express your disgust or post derogatory remarks against a public figure or public official, the government, a powerful person, or anyone for that matter; they can use your own words (or posts) against you. You can be sued for venting out your disappointments or anger against someone.
What’s worse is that even if you only ‘Liked’ or commented on such post or statement online, this could be used against you too. With the passage of this law, it will only put the Internet in the country under extreme regulations.
Also, the Philippines is one of the social networking capitals of the world. There are about 34 million active Facebook users in the country. If you can’t say anything bad about the government, what can you say then? What happened to “What’s on your mind?”.
Philippine’s Cybercrime law: Just a start of more aggressive censorship
Yes, it is only in the Philippines where online libel is punishable by law. The cybercrime law is like the SOPA and PIPA version of the Philippines. The government’s desire to eliminate cybercrime is very commendable. Unfortunately, such online libel provision is simply a slap in the face to every Filipino Internet user.