Philippines cybercrime law is unconstitutional, says senator

  • ‘The Spanish inquisition has long been disbanded. I do not know why we are reviving it today’
  • US-based EFF says it supports Philippine journalists and free expression advocates opposing new law

THE only senator who voted against the Cybercrime Law during its deliberations in the Philippine Senate, Teofisto Guingona III, said he opposed the controversial law based on constitutional grounds as the measure imposes “prior restraint” on the freedom of expression and speech.
“First, some parts of the bill clearly attempts to legislate morality and penalize people if they breach our standards. I feel that as legislators, we have no right to dictate what people should or should not see.
Philippines cybercrime law is unconstitutional, says senator“Unjustifiable prior restraint is an archaic policy that should not be in our statute books,” said Guingona (pic).
Guingona provided the lone vote during the third hearing of the bill in the Senate while 13 of his colleagues — Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Antonio Trillanes IV, Edgardo Angara, Lito Lapid, Manuel Villar, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. — voted for its enactment.
Guingona said the law transplanted the Revised Penal Code definition of libel without specifying who is liable exposes the owner of online newspapers, blogs, sites to liability.
“This is problematic because in the case of online communities, people are encouraged to actually participate (make comments, re-tweet, repost on Facebook),” he stated.
“With this law, editors and owners of these sites will be forced to lock down their websites and prevent people from commenting. I believe that editors can regulate the works of their writers but if you gag the general public, surely the Constitutional right to freedom of expression is threatened,” he added.
Guingona concluded: “This law sets us back. We cannot legislate morality. The Spanish inquisition has long been disbanded. I do not know why we are reviving it today.”
The recently signed Cybercrime Law has also attracted the attention of US-based non-profit group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which branded the legislation as a “troubling development for free expression.”
In a post, the group said it “is gravely concerned about the implications of the libel provision in the Cybercrime Act and supports local journalists and free expression advocates in opposing it.”

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