“There is a need to remain firm, steadfast, and even-tempered in our victory today in order to guard against any further breaches and violations of the people’s right to freedom of speech and expression.” – National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Several groups of petitioners rejoiced as the Supreme Court extended indefinitely the temporary restraining order (TRO) on the implementation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
In its regular en banc session Tuesday, the high court granted the petitioners’ plea for TRO extension for an indefinite period of time.
At least 15 groups have filed petitions before the high court seeking to declare the Cybercrime Prevention Act of Republic Act 10175 unconstitutional. In October 2012, the high court issued a 120-day TRO following a series of protests. The original TRO was to expire tomorrow, February 6.
In a statement, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), an alliance of tertiary student publications that organized vigils in front of the Supreme Court, said the indefinite extension of the TRO on Cybercrime law is a “victory for freedom lovers.”
“It is a victory for the people who protested against the law online and offline. This is a product of collective effort for freedom of expression,” Pauline Gidget Estella, CEGP national president, said.
At the same time, Estella called on fellow netizens, students and professionals, to remain vigilant. “This is only an extension, and there is still a possibility of implementation after the extended TRO. What we want is a ‘permanent restraining order.’ We demand that the law be junked,” Estella said.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), counsel for one group of petitioners, said the “public must remain vigilant and critical about the dangers of the law, the manner it was approved, and on the overall, the stubborn position demonstrated by the Aquino administration in crafting it.”
During the oral arguments on January 29, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno noted that certain provisions of the law, particularly those pertaining to content-related offenses, “seem not fit,” and appear as “forced insertions.”
Sereno cited that Sections 5, 6 and 7 seem to deviate from the policy statement of the law, which is to protect the information and communications technology infrastructure.
Section 5 pertains to aiding or abetting in the commission of cybercrime and attempt in the commission of cybercrime.
Section 6 states that all crimes defined and penalized by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and special laws, if committed by, through and with the use of ICT shall be covered by the law and that the penalty to be imposed shall be one degree higher than that provided for by the Revised Penal Code.
Section 7 states that a prosecution under the Cybercrime Law shall be without prejudice to any liability for violation of any provision of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, or special laws.
During the oral arguments, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza conceded that Section 19 or the “take-down” provision of the law, which allows the Department of Justice to block a website without a warrant, is unconstitutional.
Jardeleza also admitted that the real time collection of traffic data is “barely constitutional.”
Another group of petitioners, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also welcomed the TRO extension. “The ruling, just a day before the original 120-day TRO on the new law was to lapse, is definitely a victory for all those who oppose a statute that would serve the effectively stifle free expression, the free flow of information, the right to privacy and a host of other rights and freedoms,” the group said.
The NUJP thanked and congratulated the “lawyers of the people who very ably laid down the reasons why this unjust law must be junked.”
This morning, members of the #NotoCybercrimeLaw, a loose coalition of petitioners, held a protest in front of the Supreme Court.
NUPL secretary general Edre Olalia said “there is a need to remain firm, steadfast, and even-tempered in our victory today in order to guard against any further breaches and violations of the people’s right to freedom of speech and expression.”