SC gets 5th plea vs Cybercrime Act

Posted at 09/28/12 12:31 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Opposition to the controversial Republic Act (RA) No. 10175, also known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, continues as a 5th petition was filed with the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday to urge the high court to strike down the law as unconstitutional.

Journalists, bloggers and lawyers jointly filed the 41-page petition which also sought for the immediate issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) or writ of preliminary injunction against respondents to stop them from implementing "the unconstitutional provisions" of the law and disbursing funds for the purpose.

Respondents are the Executive Secretary, Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine National Police (PNP), Information and Communications Technology Office-Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Petitioners Alexander Adonis (radio broadcaster), Ellen Tordesillas (journalist, blogger), Ma. Gisela Ordenes-Cascolan (Vera Files writer, blogger), and Attorneys Harry Roque, Romel Bagares and Gilbert Andres argued that the assailed law contains unconstitutional provisions, namely:

- Sec. 4 (c) [4], which criminalizes libel, not only on the internet, but also on "any other similar means which may be devised in the future;"
- Sec. 5, which identifies also identifies the following as violations of the law: (a) aiding or abetting in the commission of cybercrime, and (b) attempt in the commission of cybercrime;
- Sec. 6, which raises by one degree higher the penalties provided for by the Revised Penal Code for all crimes committed through and with the use of information and communications;
- Sec. 7, that provides that apart from prosecution under the assailed law, any person charged for the alleged offense covered will not be spared from violations of the Revised Penal Code and other special laws; and
- Sec. 19, which authorizes the DOJ to block access to computer data when such data "is prima facie found to be in violation of the provisions of this Act."

Petitioners pointed out that Secs. 4 (c) [4] and 5 "violate the constitutional right to freedom of speech, of expression, and of the press enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.

Sec. 6, they argue, violates the equal protection clause, also enshrined in the Constitution, since it "arbitrarily increases the penalty imposed on 'cybel libel' as compared to the penalty for ordinary libel -- without any valid legal basis for such a higher penalty."

Sec. 7, violates the right against double jeopardy, also enshrined in the Constitution, they claimed.

While Sec. 19 violates the constitutional principle of separation of powers by "delegating to the DOJ" what is a function of the courts, petitioners pointed out.

Petitioners said it is ironic that the Philippines should criminalize libel on the internet when the United Nations had already pointed out that libel under the Revised Penal Code was "incompatible" with Filipino's freedom of expression.

"In the very first place, any prosecution for criminal libel is a continuing violation of Philippine State obligations under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as the UN Human Rights Committee has so held in is view on Adonis vs. Republic of the Philippines, where the Committee stated that criminal libel in the Revised Penal Code is incompatible with freedom of expression," the petition read.

Adonis went to the UN after having been found guilty on the charge of libel slapped by politician Prospero Nograles, and having been imprisoned for 2 years.

The other petitions against the Cybercrime Prevention Act were filed by Louis Biraogo, ALAM party list, Disini, et al., and Sen. Teofisto Guingona.

The assailed law was signed by President Aquino on September 12.