By Dr. Renato G. Mabunga

Guaranteed right and freedom of speech and expression has experienced “black Tuesday” on the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels in the Philippines.  This happened amid the mounting protest against the newly enacted Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or the Republic Act 10175.  This draconian legislation rightly infringes on the Bill of Rights under the Philippine 1987 Constitution; criminalizes netizens’ participation for good governance; and, does away with the concepts of freedom and justice within the moral bounds and teachings of great religions.  Even guardian angels would on Tuesday dare up doubling efforts prodding their charges on impending deluge brought about by this cybercrime law.

The world in general adheres to the right to freedom of opinion and expression.  The Philippines guarantees such right saying, no laws shall be passed abridging it including that of the press and the rights of the people to petition the government for redress and grievances.  This includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

On 5th July this year the United NationsHuman Rights Council (UNHRC) unanimously approved a resolution that internet access and online freedom of expression is a basic human rights.  It declares that all people be allowed to connect to and express themselves freely on the Internet.

The Philippines, a third-term member of the Council, has just turned against the resolution when it signed its country’s cybercrime law on 12th September penalizing anyone from 4 to 12 year imprisonment or a fine of up to 1 million pesos if found violating the provisions of the law or posting defamatory comments on social networking sites such as facebook, tweeter and blogs.  It views online expressions as threats to government power rather than a tool in realizing power for the people and a unique platform in combating inequality, protection and fulfillment of a wide-range of human rights.  Insertions of provisions tantamount to censorship and ground for wanton abuse are contraventions of their avowed commitment to the international laws on human rights.  As the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression opined, the priority of governments should be the facilitation of Internet access for all individuals, with as little restriction to online content as possible.

Today, legislators are scrambling for alibis as Filipino internet users warned of a Martial Law online.  They are carrying silent protests, blackening out their internet profiles, doing offline activities, petitioning the Supreme Court and marching in protest for the repeal of the just enacted cybercrime law for its unconstitutionality.  Guardian angels have a hand on it?  Maybe netizens post as “guardian angels” to other citizens. 

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