Photo courtesy of Benjie Cruz /Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA)

It took fifteen numbers of petitioners for the Supreme Court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on Tuesday which paved the way for a 120-day brief respite in the implementation of the country’s highly controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Netizens, rights groups and other advocates rejoiced on the development however vowing to continue the protest until the said law is declared unconstitutional.

“We, Overseas Filipino Workers in the Middle East under the leadership of Migrante-Middle East will continue our ‘Black Friday’ protest vs. the Cybercrime law by wearing black t-shirts/ribbon/hat every Friday,” said John Leonard Monterona, migrants’ rights advocate.

Tonyo Cruz of the newly-formed group Bloggers and Netizens for Democracy (BAND), the tenth petitioner , described the report as: “Bad news for President Aquino, good news for netizens of world’s social media capital.”

“This is a bad omen for President Aquino who is remorseless, arrogant and unrepentant about the law he signed,” said Cruz, adding their fight will continue online and offline “until the court decides to side with petitioners and nullify the law.”

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, who first questioned the law, said: “A Temporary Restraining Order, unanimously issued, is the first victory in our battle to defend our freedom and right of expression. It is a strong message of the Supreme Court’s belief that the dangers and fears of the people are real and must be addressed.”

“However, the fight is not over. Now, we must escalate our vigilance, keep the fire burning, and continue the fight for our fundamental rights. The fight of the people, on the streets and online, must continue,” he stressed.

“This positive step forward is our permission to strengthen our protest and to also embrace our hope that this Supreme Court will be the court that truly defends the Constitution and the Filipino people.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also welcomed the Supreme Court decision, saying: “It is the right thing and the very least that the High Court can do confronted with a blatantly unconstitutional and repressive law.”

“We congratulate the members of media, bloggers, netizens, human rights groups, people’s organizations, progressive legislators and the many others who have defiantly stood up, spoke and fought against this latest assault on our hard-won freedoms,” NUJP Secretary-general Rowena Paraan said in a statement.

The group however admitted the battle to defend people’s basic rights is far from over.

“We call on the Supreme Court to render a final decision declaring the law null and unconstitutional. We call on the legislators to do the right thing and finally pass a law to decriminalize libel.”

“Above all, we call on our colleagues in the media, free expression advocates, human rights activists and the general public to remain vigilant until this repressive law is finally junked. We call on everyone to be constantly ready to resist all possible threats against our democratic rights,” said Paraan.

The fifteenth petitioner Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA) – a broad alliance of organizations and netizens – also vowed to continue the protest online, on the streets, and to all possible venues for engagement.

“We will defend Internet Freedom, a right recently enshrined in the UN International Bill of Human Rights, which the Philippines has an international obligation to uphold. We call on those who passed this law to take responsibility for their actions. We urge the High Court to declare R.A. 10175 unconstitutional.”

And we strongly urge President Aquino to heed the call of the people and withdraw his support for this unjust law…The government’s primary obligation to its people is to protect our fundamental rights and liberties. Failure of the government to fulfill its obligation does violence to the democracy upon which it is founded. This era would be no different from the dark ages of Martial Law. And never again shall we let that happen,” PIFA statement reads.

Other statements of support on the immediate nullification of Cybercrime law include that of Blog Watch Citizen Media, saying: “We believe RA 10175 only increases the lavish power of Philippine libel laws, and that the United Nations Human Rights Council is correct in calling Philippine libel law ‘excessive.’ We join with groups opposed to the Cybercrime Law to amend or repeal the law. We welcome engagement with government so that we can craft a better law which protects women and children and which strives for equal protection for everyone.”

Also Freelance Writers’ Guild of the Philippines (FWGP) founder Ime Morales said, “As an organization, FWGP believes that RA 10175 is unconstitutional and was pushed to serve certain business interests; and we will continue to fight for our rights as writers and netizens of this country.”

Netizens particularly criticized the said law as “an undue abridgment of the freedom of speech, expression, and of the press” which “authorizes government to conduct an unreasonable search and seizure,” and decries that it “violates the right to privacy of communication and correspondence.”

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