Numerous provisions of this law infringes unconstitutionally and constitutes a sweeping intrusion into the people’s freedom of speech, of expression, and of the press, right against unreasonable searches and seizures, and right to privacy, and other fundamental freedoms.
Our opposition to the Cybercrime Law rests on the following:
1. The law violates our right to privacy. The law allows the government to monitor and record real-time traffic data even without a court warrant and on the mere basis of “due cause”. We find no comfort in the provision of the law that states that only the origin, destination, size and not content and identity will be monitored and recorded without warrant. What is to prevent the authorities from actually prying into content and identity of traffic data when the opportunity presents itself? Furthermore, a law enforcement officer engaged in such collection or recording of traffic data can obtain information, in real-time, as to where anyone used a mobile phone or email, the destination of the call or text or message, the route, time, date, size, and duration thereof, or the type of underlying service that the user avails of. This is Big Brother watching our activities on the internet.
2. The law increases the penalty for libel and other crimes when committed via the internet. The law is vague on how libel is actually committed over the internet. The law even allows a person to be charged with libel twice (one for internet and one for regular publication), based on the same article. One can even be charged with libel in any province of the country if the alleged libellous article was viewed there by the so-called offended party.
3. The means of how a supposed crime is committed covers a whole range of devices. The supposed new offenseof cybercrime of libel is supposedly committed by means of“computer systems” which under this law includes cellphones and storage devices as well as “any other similar means which may be devised in the future”. By not considering the complex, intricate and public interactive nature of cyberspace, the means employed by this provision makes ordinary conversations over mobile phones or the use of interactive functions of the internet (shares, comments, retweets) a target of imposition of the State’s immense powers.
4. With the creation of a new offense called “cybercrime through data interference”, the law can be used to assault free speech. The so-called unauthorized alteration of electronic photos used in internet memes or posters–which is now a common way of expressing political criticism– can be penalized under this law. In the complex and infinite universe of cyberspace, the law does not state whether “authority” is based on “ownership” of a computer data (e.g. a person’s ownership over online photos or articles) or by “mere interest” therein (e.g. a person’s interest over an online photo or article as that person is the one depicted on the said photo or article).
5. The law violates our right to free speech and due process by allowing the DOJ to take down websites even without a court order. The DOJ becomes “The Great Firewall” as it is able to restrict access to or takedown websites on the mere determination by the DOJ that the website is prima facie in violation of the cybercrime law.
6. The law violates due process when it penalizes one’s “failure to comply” with orders from law enforcement authorities, even if the non-compliance is valid. This non-compliance is penalized with imprisonment or a fine of P100,000, or both, for every act of non-compliance.
We shall take the fight online, on the streets, in the courts and in Congress. As the law takes effect on October 3, we call for continued public vigilance and sustained actions as our best defense against this blatant assault on our rights. In a time when our freedoms are threatened, we should all the more aggressively exercise those freedoms. ###