SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.
Reference: Rupert Estanislao, chair
The Supreme Court, on October 9th, issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the very dangerous and broad reaching “Cybercrime Prevention Act,” or, Republic Act (RA) 10175. This law has broad implications for civil rights and free speech and could make it harder for human rights defenders in the Philippines to expose the ever worsening human rights situation under the Aquino administration.
The bill, if found constitutional in latter oral arguments on January 15th 2013 in front of the Supreme Court, will give the Aquino administration power to monitor Internet traffic in real time, to shut down traffic to sites it deems in violation of the Act, to seize any computer data and equipment of any person, to monitor any person or group without a warrant, and to punish anyone deemed in violation of this Act with up to 12 years in prison.
“We, as members of the Filipino human rights community, welcome the TRO against one of the most egregious bills to come out of the Aquino administration,” said Rupert Estanislao, chair for the San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (SF CHRP). “However, this temporary victory at the Supreme Court could not have happened without the power of the people protesting this insidious bill and a broad coalition of civil society groups, grassroots organizations, media groups, human rights activists, and certain members of congress demanding that the Aquino administration junk a bill which is equivalent to ‘e-Martial Law’ for the Internet.”
“Not only should the libel provisions in the Cybercrime Prevention Act be struck down by the court,” explained Estanislao, “but the whole Act itself as it is patently unconstitutional and will have an immediate ‘chilling effect’ on freedom of expression on the Internet. The Act also has numerous provisions that will make the Aquino administration the ‘Big Brother’ of the Internet. Allowing the administration to be able to monitor, in real time and without warrant, who they deem ‘dangerous’ to the State. Any group or person who argues that only ‘certain parts’ of the bill need to be removed are either lackeys for the Aquino administration or have lost all sense of reality as to the real harm that this law can bring about.”
Because of the broadness of the language, its implications towards increased surveillance of the populace, and its harm towards free speech, millions of Filipinos, in the Philippines and around the world, rose up in protest against the Aquino administration for signing the Act into law. Subsequently various media personalities, senators and congresspeople, and even newspapers and human rights groups outside of the Philippines called on the Aquino administration, the Department of Justice, and the Supreme Court to junk the Act altogether.
“The fact that there was such a united opposition against this Act,” explained Estanislao, “and that President Aquino, and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, defended the legality of this law exposes, for everyone to see, the full blown ignorance of both Aquino and de Lima. It also shows the Filipino people the depths this administration will go to in order to silence its critics and to ignore the cries and protests of the people they claim to serve. Instead of re-evaluating their position on their law and its implications towards press freedoms and free speech both Aquino and de Lima decided to bury their heads deep underground until they were forcibly pulled out by the TRO that the Supreme Court issued against them.”
“This bill not only allows the Aquino administration to become ‘Big Brother’ of the Internet with the power to punish and monitor,” said Estanislao, “but it also allows Aquino and his lackeys to restrict access to information to the general public. For human rights defenders who rely on giving out information to the public this is one of the most dangerous provisions of the Act. SF CHRP calls on the Supreme Court to completely jettison the ‘Cybercrime Prevention Act,’ not just the libel provision of the bill. Meanwhile human rights defenders, civil society groups, grassroots organizations, media groups, activists, and Filipinos from around the globe need to continue to be vigilant by protesting this Act and by putting pressure on the Aquino administration to completely strike this law from the books and to hold him and his administration accountable for attacking the civil, political, and human rights of the Filipino people through his signing of this bill into law.”