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Thursday, September 20, 2012
CONSIDER for a moment what would have happened to the world if people like Jose Rizal, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx or even the Beatles, were in any way prevented from writing the words that they wrote because they challenged certain norms so firmly held by their society. It is true that it was because of what Rizal wrote that he died a hero’s death but just think if he had not written the Noli Me Tangere and the El Filibusterismo. What if Nelson Mandela had not fought with word and deed for equality in South Africa? What if Mahatma Gandhi had not led the historic peaceful resistance in India? What if Charles Darwin had not dared to bring out his theory of evolution? It was Karl Marx’s ideas that started out socialism and the development of the social sciences. Those ideas have changed the world and histories of countries, including ours. Critically acclaimed Beatles, controversial, pioneering music that grew and changed to reflect the changing of the times, what would have happened if they had not pushed the envelope farther than any rock band had dared? If the rights of these great people were suppressed and denied them, they would not occupy the place that they occupy now in the history of womankind.
What if in this day and age, there are people in our midst that have great minds, great compassion and great vision for the country, and the mechanism by which they reflect that greatness is using what is available now? The use of available technology, including social network sites, present software makes sense these days. Let us say these young great minds are using what is available now (the internet), to let their minds explore, challenge and question?
Last September 12, 2012, our beloved president signed Republic Act No. 10175, a.k.a. Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. I have asked around my community if they had wind of this as a bill, no one from my circle knew it even existed as a bill. So there we were sleeping so peacefully while the forces of darkness worked to have this law passed. So now this law is here and we all are affected.
The Cybercrime Prevention Act states in Section 4 (4) that "the unlawful and prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.
Anyone who uses any computer system for "public imputation and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstances tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.” (Definition of Libel according to Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code). Meaning to say that if I say for example, that senators like Tito Sotto should set better examples by being honest about their work, they could easily just seize my computer or laptop as the case may be, search it, get the data and destroy it after they use it.
Of course that is a very simplistic way of saying it, if we want people who are not tech-savvy. Atty. Ridon (counsel of a progressive youth) said “The law may be treading upon unconstitutional waters on the powers being granted to law enforcement agencies, which includes preservation, disclosure, search and seizure and destruction of computer data.” There are many issues surrounding this law: issues on due process, it is not clear what the role of the courts are here with regards to the orders for preservation, disclosure, search, seizure and destruction of data; violation of the right to privacy; violation of the right to free speech and the right to freedom of expression.
If our legislators and politicians are abusing their powers, who will give feedback and air complaints and grievances with this law hanging over our heads? If someone took the courage to stand up to hold a government official accountable for acts done that are violations of our rights, the government official can easily invoke this law and throw this person challenging the politician’s acts in jail. Anyone who is proven to having published libelous remarks online will spend time in jail, jail time that can last for four years and two months. This whole thing feels like a nightmare, to know that when I air my grievances on my Facebook wall for example, I could be sent to jail. Guess who added Libel to this bill? Tito Sotto of course, because he said that he was bullied for shamelessly plagiarizing passages from bloggers and from no less than Robert F. Kennedy. Oh I’m sorry, not plagiarized gayyam, it was just translated.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee said with regards to libel that, “in any case, the application of the criminal law should only be countenance in the most serious cases and imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty.” Is there no respect for our Constitution - “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, and of the press...”? It is quite clear where my convictions lie. I protest. This law must be repealed. This law is a glaring violation of our constitutional rights. Cannot be.
Please email feedback and inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 20, 2012.