Another group of protesters will troop to the Supreme Court next week to file its own petition seeking for nullification of certain provisions in R.A. 101725 or Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA)-a broad coalition of individuals and organizations seeking to amend/remove the provisions which threaten Internet Freedom in Republic Act No. 10175-will become the 8th petitioner on Monday, October 8.
Other individuals and cause-oriented groups who have already signified their strong opposition to the law by petitioning the High Tribunal include Sen. Teofisto Guingona III , National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and its other affiliates.
Earlier Pres. Aquino assured that “no civil liberties would be suppressed under the cybercrime law and that Malacanang is seeking a dialogue with all stakeholders on this issue.”
Reacting on this, activist-lawyer Argee Guevarra, a PIFA member , took up the President’s challenge and vowed to proceed to Malacanang – alone or accompanied by a “flash mob” — on Oct. 8 after PIFA files its own petition.
Also he characterized the enactment of R.A. 101725 as an “electronic declaration of martial law on free speech in cyberspace as it allows the State to police ordinary thoughts, communication and expression of one’s beliefs, arbitrarily shut down websites, blogs, facebook and twitter accounts without the benefit of a court order – reminiscent of Marcos’ ASSO – Arrest, Search and Seize Order – and promotes an anti-democratic culture of self-censorship.”
He argued that the passage of said law introducing online libel “fritters away at the democratic space which was achieved after the defeat of the dictatorship and which was severely subverted during the kleptocratic Macapagal-Arroyo regime.”
“The internet as an instrument of technology should unleash more freedoms to our citizens instead of tyrannize netizens into becoming hapless self-censors of their own thoughts and beliefs,” Atty. Guevarra stressed.
Atty. Guevarra then dared Pres. Aquino to reduce into a written, presidential policy instruction to the Department of Justice, the National Prosecutorial Service, the NBI and the PNP that the executive enforcement of cases involving internet libel shall be relaxed and suspended pending the outcome of judicial action on the petitions before the SC – and – the amendments and repeal of various provisions in said law as promised by senators and congressmen involved in the drafting of R.A. 101725.
A mere assurance from the President is not enough, he said.
He added his action will be akin to what Atenean student leader Edgar Jopson did when the latter confronted and asked then President Marcos to promise not to seek a third term and to put such promise in writing .
Atty. Guevarra however expressed his hope that Pres. Aquino will honor his declaration that the people are his bosses.
“Now that his bosses have loudly spoken about their dissent and resistance to the draconian provisions of R.A. 101725, it is high time that he acts on the bosses wishes.”
“Although I would like to believe in the honesty of PNoy about his commitment to our civil liberties, our own history is replete with broken promises made by no less than our past presidents: Marcos promised not to seek a 3rd term for president, and yet he did. Erap vowed ‘walang kama-kamag-anak, walang kai-kaibigan‘ and we knew how his administration went. GMA made a solemn oath on Rizal Day 2002 not to run for president in 2004 and she even Hello’ed Garci her way to the presidency,” Atty. Guevarra said in a statement.
It can be recalled that Atty. Guevarra was once implicated in the so called first Facebook internet libel case in the Philippines when cosmetic surgeon Vicky Belo sued Guevarra for libel in 2009. The case however was junked in 2011 due to jurisdictional grounds but did not address the constitutional arguments on free speech raised by Guevarra.