Cyber Crime Law

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A new Philippine law called draconian by some and a danger to free speech by others if implemented could drive a spike of fear and deterrence into the corrupt and evil hearts of the Internet paedophiles and child abusers. But it is also sending a shiver down the spines of freedom-loving Filipinos. Journalists, Internet bloggers, Facebook commentators, tweeters and critics of government and political dissidents see the hand of censorship and prior restraint in the law named Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Republic Act No.10175)

The new law allows police access to personal Internet accounts, eavesdrop on phone conversations by Skype and cellphones, reads email at will, all without search warrants or court approval. The same provisions that could catch child traffickers and pedophiles and child rapists can be used to stifle freedom of speech and expression that violate constitutional rights. The law makes libel a serious criminal offense with 12 years in prison for a private person and a huge fine. If a media practitioner is convicted, it is a 4-year sentence.

The law is discriminatory in that provision. It violates the principle of equality of all before the law.

The penalty should be the same for all who violate it. The legislators behind it admit shortcomings and oversights and a failure to read the provisions closely before voting. The few lawmakers that pushed this law through got way with extreme measures that may be unconstitutional. It would surely deter whistle blowers from revealing over the Internet the corrupt practices of some politicians. That may be the point, if I named anybody in this column who was accused of wrongdoing or child abuse, I could be jailed for 12 years if convicted under the new law.

Strong public reaction has erupted against these provisions. The law needs serious revision. Senator Teofisto Guingona III has filed a petition before the Supreme Court to declare parts of it unconstitutional, there are “confusing and...
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