Friday, May 31, 2024

Gov?t on Cybercrime ruling: Cyberspace must reflect real-world situations

As netizens weighed in on the landmark decision of the Supreme Court on the Cybercrime Law, the government has given its stamp of approval on the controversial legislation, saying new crimes such as Internet libel and cybersex should be penalized as well.

An activist displays her disapproval of the Cybercrime Law during a rally infront of the Supreme Court
An activist displays her disapproval of the Cybercrime Law during a rally infront of the Supreme Court

A spokesperson from the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICT Office), an agency under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), said the online medium should not be treated as a separate world and should therefore depict real-life situations.

?We don?t have a reason to disagree with the decision of the court,? said Roy Espiritu, head of the communications division of the ICT Office, which pushed for the passage of the law.

The law?s most contentious provision on online libel was upheld by the court, but only with respect to the original author of the malicious statement and not to those who merely ?liked? or ?reposted? the post.

The SC, however, struck down as unconstitutional the provision that authorizes the prosecution of an offender under both the new law and Article 3537 of the Revised Penal Code (libel), as this violates the prohibition against double jeopardy.

The court stressed that the penalty for both online libel and libel should come from the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and not under the Cybercrime Law. The RPC provides imprisonment of prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from P200 to P6,000, or both.

The left-leaning Kabataan Party-list youth group lambasted the SC ruling as a big disappointment, saying that even if the High Court expunged some portions of the law, it remains a ?threat to Internet freedom.?

?Though the SC has laid down certain restrictions in the implementation of the law, we believe that it will still impede our civil liberties in the cyberworld. The upholding of the provision for online libel, for example, poses imminent threats to many content creators,? said Kabataan Partylist representative Terry Ridon

Ridon served as legal counsel in one of the 15 petitions assailing the Cybercrime Law.

?It is lamentable that in the Philippines, we now have a set of firm restrictions over cyber activity, yet we do not have a law that lays down the rights of Internet users,? Ridon added.

The youth solon said his group will further study the SC?s decision and file a motion for reconsideration in due time. He disclosed that an emergency meeting of the Anti-Cybercrime Law Alliance has been set to discuss the developments.

In the decision penned by Senior Associate Justice Roberto Abad, the SC declared the following provisions of RA 10175 (also known as the Cybercrime Act) as unconstitutional, either wholly or contextually:

1. Sec. 4(c)(3) (Unsolicited commercial communications)
2. Sec. 12 (Real time collection of traffic data)
3. Sec. 19 (Restricting or blocking access to computer data)
4. Sec. 4(c)(4) (Online libel — only where it penalizes those who simply receive the post or react to it) but not unconstitutional as far as the original author is concerned.
5. Sec. 5 (Aiding or abetting in the commission of a cybercrime/attempt to commit a cybercrime) only in relation to sections 4(c)(2) (child pornography), 4(c)(3) (unsolicited commercial communications) and 4(c)(4) (libel);
6. Sec. 7 (Liability under other laws) only in relation to section 4(c)(4) (libel) and 4(c)(2) (child pornography).

All other provisions not so declared by the court were considered not unconstitutional and therefore enforceable.

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