By Marivir R. Montebon
A free press is the cornerstone of democracy and the first tell-tale sign of a dictatorial rule is when it is shut off. With the recent passage of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Rep. Act 10175) which effectively impedes freedom of speech, the Philippines is way back to the days of Martial rule.
It is unfathomable why cannot Filipino leaders take a vocal, mature people who now have power to speak up on issues that matter to them with the click of their laptops and computers.
With this law, the Philippines is taking several unnecessary steps backward to the dark days when it has enjoyed the benefits of information technology. Shamefully, it is one of a few remaining countries where defamation remained a crime punishable by prison. Civil rights lawyer Harry Roque told the press, “it goes against the trend in many advanced democracies such as the United States and Britain where defamation is now punished with fines rather than imprisonment.”
The 120-day temporary restraining order issued by the Philippine Supreme Court last Tuesday is an initial victory, but everyone must continue to safe guard the God-given fundamental right to free speech.
Signed into law by Pres. Benigno Aquino III on September 12, 2012, this legislation increases punishment for criminal libel and gives authorities unchecked powers to shut down websites and monitor online information.
The Philippine Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Science and Technology are temporarily barred from implementing the entire law until the Supreme Court shall have deliberated the issues and consolidated 15 petitions that have been filed to revoke it. Otherwise, the Cybercrime Prevention Act will take full effect on February 6, 2013.
Washington,DC-based human rights lawyer Arnedo Valera also said in a press statement: “We have reached the time when people are able to communicate and exchange views on personal and social issues that affect them, and are enjoyable as much as it is socially empowering. The healthy exchange of information and opinions are tenets of development and democracy. This new law once again reminds us of the intolerant and greediness of those in political positions.”
Let us not let the evil act of greediness and control creep again.