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Young Filipinos urged to defend internet freedom


Manila, Philippines: Members of Akbayan Youth today hanged a banner on Welcome Rotonda expressing its opposition to the Cybercrime Prevention Act or Republic Act 10175. Akbayan Youth National Spokesperson JC Tejano today called on the youth to defend internet freedom as a necessary space for a growing democracy.

“With the law now taking effect and the Supreme Court yet to come out with a decision on the petitions questioning its validity, the youth must now take up the cudgels in the defense of internet freedom. The internet is the space where the youth interact, take a stand, and air their criticisms against public officials. However, this space is now getting constricted with the cybercrime law,” Tejano said.

Tejano explained that the law will only be used by politicians to silence their critics.

“We believe that the exercise of freedom of expression, including the right to criticize public figures online, are vital cogs in our democracy. It should not be hampered by the whims of politicians even in cyberspace. We fear that this cybercrime law will serve as the politicians’ fire-wall against public dissent and criticism,” Tejano said.

Amendments needed if SC fails to strike down unconstitutional provisions

Tejano remarked that immediate amendments are needed to remove the unconstitutional provisions should the Supreme Court fail to declare as unconstitutional the provisions of the law that endanger civil liberties.

“While we implore the justices of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Sereno to stand with the people in defending our freedom, we must still be prepared to challenge this law in all venues available, whether in the courts or in the legislature,” said Tejano.

Meanwhile, Tejano also registered his disagreement with P-Noy’s recent declaration of support for the Cybercrime law.

“We respectfully disagree with the President. This law violates our freedoms and impairs the public’s right to air their grievances whether in the real world or in cyberspace. We urge the President to reconsider his position and support the people’s call to amend the law,” Tejano concluded.

The anti-cybercrime law has been the subject of criticisms for including libel as among punishable crimes and other provisions perceived to be tantamount to prior restraint. Petitioners of the measure including various human rights and media groups warned of the threat to freedom of expression the new law poses.


Akbayan to PNoy: Certify cybercrime amendments as urgent

Akbayan urged President Aquino to fast-track the process of amending the RA10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act especially after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the law.

“The Supreme Court has already validated what the court of public opinion has consistently been saying; the Cybercrime Prevention Law is inherently flawed. We should make use of TRO and the final months of the 15th Congress to pass amendments to this law to ensure the rights and freedom of Filipinos online,” Akbayan Representative Walden Bello said.

Bello filed HB 6630 on Wednesday; the bill seeks to amend RA 10175 by repealing the “haphazard” provision on libel and mandating the procurement of a Court Warrant prior to any act of the State to collect, seize, disclose or restrict access to data readily available on the internet.

“We call on President Aquino to certify HB 6630 as urgent to immediately fix the mistakes of the law, respond to popular clamor and make amends for this tragic lapse. Malacanang should send a strong signal that it is listening to the people,” Bello said.

The Akbayan representative added, "The President should move quickly.  Otherwise, his name will be associated with that of Senator Tito Sotto as an enemy of freedom of speech.  This will be unfortunate since we believe the President made a mistake signing the bill and did not intend to legitimize Senator Sotto's controversial insertion of the libel provision."

According to Bello, the Administration should not fear the freedom that the Internet offers the people. Instead, it should celebrate the internet as the “great equalizer” that allows ordinary Filipinos to participate in the debate and discourse alongside the politically influential and wealthy.

“President Aquino must join the people in celebrating the internet as a platform of genuine democracy. It is not too late for him to change his position on the Cybercrime Prevention Act and join us in amending its infirmities,” Bello concluded.


TRO vs. Cybercrime Law, product of people's collective action and SC reforms

Akbayan lauds the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order against the implementation of the Cybercrime Prevention Law. The TRO is a welcome respite from the threat which the law posed on the people’s freedom and civil liberties. Certainly, the high tribunal has passed its first test of independence on this issue by taking a position different from that expressed by President Aquino.

However, this victory belongs to the Filipino people. This is clearly the result of the people’s collective action to defend their cherished freedoms. It is also a product of the people’s campaign to reform our judiciary which has strengthened the independence and integrity of the Supreme Court.

The next test for the Supreme Court points to the deliberation on the merits of the petitions filed against the law. As such, we call on the high tribunal to swiftly and judiciously deliberate on the petitions and rule in favor of the people’s civil liberties by striking down all unconstitutional provisions of the law.

We also call on the public to remain vigilant as we see through the due resolution of this issue. While we are hopeful that the magistrates of the Court will rule in favor of internet freedom, we urge the public to guarantee that the Supreme Court will do so.