Philippines : Supreme Court to rule on controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act

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Par FD pour APCNews

MANILA, Philippines, 08 October 2012

In case you didn’t know, Pifa is the name of your neighbour. Your neighbour is from the Philippines. On Twitter, she’s known as @PIFAp. Do you remember her now? If not, consider this.

On October 9, the Supreme Court of the Philippines will decide on the constitutionality of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, Republic Act 10175. This cyberlaw has been contested from day one, after internet activists had pointed to truly problematic provisions incompatible with internet rights. The bill is being lobbied and analysed from all sides and there is a chance that public pressure will put the bill in check. Guess what? Your neighbour is part of the resistance.

Pifa always smiles when she goes online. Sitting at a desk at work or on a chair on her balcony, she works, lives and dreams of an internet where civil liberties are guaranteed and respected. Last Tuesday, October 2, Pifa was angry. She shut down her computer and organised a strike that she coined #BlackTuesday. Online and offline, her many friends and neighbours (among them, yourself?) joined her in opposing what some call a “Cyber Martial Law”.

What started as a facebook page, quickly morphed into a broad coalition of 143 individuals and organisations seeking to amend and/or remove the provisions which threaten internet freedom in the Cybercrime Prevention Act. When PIFA – the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance – stands on the tip of her toes on the balcony and shouts into a megaphone, it sounds a little bit like this: “We oppose RA 10175 as it contains provisions that are oppressive, susceptible to abuse, and against the fundamental liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. We also find it unacceptable that there was insufficient public consultation while the bill was being discussed, subjecting stakeholders to a law that does not reflect their best interests.”

Pifa has filed the latest in a string of petitions (15 in all!) before the Supreme Court, to put the government and legal community under pressure. The petition demands a Certiorari and Prohibition and/or Injunction (with prayer for issuance of Status Quo Ante Order), which means an injunction that would guarantee a legal status quo. The 61 page-long petition points with great detail at an impressive number of very specific items in the Cybercrime Prevention Act. It can be found at http://blogwatch.tv/2012/10/copy-pifaph-certiorari-and-prohibition-andor...

Pifa’s latest coup comes days after 20 groups and 253 individuals have signed another petition (27-pages long) lead by, among other, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUPJ). This petition, which can be consulted here http://www.nujp.org/no-to-ra10175/ asks the Supreme Court “to rule on Republic Act No. 10175, a law that establishes a regime of ‘cyber authoritarianism’ and undermines all the fundamental guarantees of freedoms and liberties that many have given their lives and many still give their lives work to vindicate, restore and defend. It is a law that unduly restricts the rights and freedoms of netizens and impacts adversely on an entire generation’s way of living, studying, understanding and relating.”

Even though most critiques of the Act question cyber-libel and freedom of speech, there is a cybersex provision that has been targeted by some other neighbours on the block. The Women’s Legal Bureau and the Foundation for Media Alternatives both worked on the cybersex provision. The fruit of their efforts can be found in Pifa’s petition. Paragraph 156c of the petition for instance states: “The failure to narrowly tailor Section 4©(1), causes a real danger to women’s sexual rights and freedoms. Because if the provisions are not narrowly tailored to protect women caught in human trafficking and prostitution, women have become the primary target of criminal prosecution.” For reference, Section 4 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act says that cybersex, as defined below, is a content-related offense.
Cybersex. — The willful engagement, maintenance, control, or operation, directly or indirectly, of any lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system, for favor or consideration.

Interestingly, in parallel to the national and international protests around the new Philippine Act, many internet activists have started a Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom. Initially triggered in reaction to the June 29 publication of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s clear stand reaffirming human rights on the internet, the Magna Carta has become a document that Pifa activists and many other netizens are helping to draft. On October 5, 60 % of the document was drafted. For more details, read http://blogwatch.tv/2012/10/help-us-craft-the-magna-carta-for-philippine...

The Philippines is just one of the many countries in which cybercrime bills are hastily being pushed through parliament. Costa Rica is another. If this worrying trend continues to grow, opposition is bound to leap forward and take up new shapes. Will Pifa move out? Will she move in to a new neighbourhood? These questions are unimportant. What counts is to see what you will do next, what I will do next. Aren’t we all little Pifas?

Pifa is everywhere:
Website: http://pifa.ph/
Facebook Group: http://facebook.com/groups/pifa.ph
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/PIFA.ph
Twitter account: https://twitter.com/PIFAph (hashtag #pifaPH)

Photo: No author or copyright found. Drawn from here http://blogwatch.tv/2012/10/copy-pifaph-certiorari-and-prohibition-andor-injunction-with-prayer-for-issuance-of-status-quo-ante-order/

(FIN/2012)

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