“Upholding the constitutionality of the Cybercrime Law is tantamount to sanctioning repression of the freedom of expression and speech, a move that harks back to the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship.” – College Editors Guild of the Philippines
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Petitioners led by Kabataan Partylist filed March 11 the first motion for reconsideration on the Supreme Court’s decision upholding most provisions of the Republic Act 10175 constitutional.
In their 11-page motion, the petitioners argued that Sections 4(C) 4, 5, and 6 of RA 10175 or the Cybercrime Law are unconstitutional due to “vagueness and overbreadth.”
Section 4 refers to online libel, which the high court declared constitutional. Section 4 C punishes content-related offenses, such as cybersex and child pornography.
Section 5 punishes “aiding or abetting in the commission of cybercrime and “attempt in the commission of cybercrime.”
Sec. 6 of the law imposes penalties one degree higher for crimes defined under the Revised Penal Code when committed with the use of information and communications technologies (ICT). For libel, this provision imposes higher penalties, from a minimum of six months’ imprisonment in the Revised Penal Code per count of libel to a minimum of six years.
“Being a case involving free speech, the overbreadth and the void for vagueness doctrine must be applied. A facial overbreadth is therefore applicable, considering the fact that the Anti Cybercrime law seek to regulate spoken words,” the petition read.
The petitioners argued that a facial invalidation of the Cybercrime Law is the proper remedy to avoid the chilling effect on protected speech. A facial invalidation, the petition states, is “an examination of the entire law, pinpointing its flaws and defects, not only on the basis of its actual operation but on the assumption or prediction that its very existence may cause others…to refrain from constitutionally protected speech or activities.”
Petitioners stated further that the Cybercrime Law “suffers from the defect of vagueness because it lacks from comprehensible standards that men of common intelligence must necessary guess at its meaning and differ as to its application.”
“As for the vagueness doctrine, since unbridled discretion is left in the hands of a few, people will have a difficult if not impossible way to delineate what is considered a crime and what is protected speech,” the petition read.
The petitioners pointed out that the Cybercrime Law only defines “computer system” and there is no definition of the phrase “information and communication technology (ICT).” “The public is therefore left to guess as to the meaning of ICT relative to commission of offenses in the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and special laws,” they said.
Such vagueness, the petitioners asserted, will intrude upon perfectly legitimate and protected speech.
“By subsuming all crimes under the RPC in a vague and overbroad manner, Section 6 of RA 10175 creates new crimes such as online rebellion,” the petitioner further said.
The petitioners also argued that Section 13 and Section 15 of RA 10175 are unconstitutional for “violating constitutional due process.”
Section 13 allows authorities to order the preservation of anyone’s computer data for a minimum of six months; further extension is also allowed.
“The preservation of computer data order … does not provide the owner or possessor of computer data even the minimum requirements of due process, particularly notice and the opportunity to be heard as to why his computer data is being ordered preserved and his use and disposition restricted,” the petition read.
Section 15, meanwhile, provides law enforcement authorities the power to search, seize and examine computer data. Petitioners argued that the mandatory constitutional, procedural and jurisprudential requirements of a valid search and seizure of property does not apply to the search and seizure of computer data.
Petitioners include former Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino, ACT Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio, UP College of Mass Communication Dean Roland Tolentino, Anakbayan chairman Vencer Crisostomo, and blogger Katrina Stuart Santiago. A young lawyer Vicente Topacio is their counsel.
“This is only the first of the motions for reconsideration that will be filed to appeal the SC decision on the Cybercrime Law. Expect other petitioners to file their individual MRs within the week,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said.
Expressing support to the petitioners, youth groups held a protest outside the Supreme Court.
“Upholding the constitutionality of the Cybercrime Law is tantamount to sanctioning repression of the freedom of expression and speech, a move that harks back to the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship,” Marc Lino Abila, spokesman of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) said.