The President Just Doesn’t Get it: The Philippine Cybercrime Law

By N. Mark Castro

In a report filed in The Philippine Daily Inquirer, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, III, said:

On the libel provision, I don’t agree that it should be removed. If you write something libelous, you’re liable. If you’re a broadcaster and air it on radio or TV, you’re also liable. When it comes out in the Internet that’s still libelous. Whatever format it is, the person whose rights were impinged should have redress.

Fine. No one argues with that. Even I have questioned the barrage of online airing of criticisms and grievances against Robert Blair Carabuena if the collective online sentiments published by the public should be tempered with caution in order to avoid a snowball effect of cyberbullying.

Further, there are civil — if not criminal — statutes currently afforded to the aggrieved in seeking redress. However, that the President signed into law a provision that has so divided the nation — yet again — shows how detached the president is in adapting both to technology and the sentiment of the public which he once described as his “boss.”

Indeed, it isn’t his responsibility to create laws, that’s what the incompetent Philippine Congress and Senate are for; however, he provides the final signature whether to enact or veto a proposed law. Once signed, it is then his responsibility to execute it, including mandating all government institutions to abide by it.

The Supreme Court can thus rule on the constitutionality of any laws enacted, which Congress can amend if it’s thus required to do so.

And therein lies the rub.

The President signed it. Was he aware of it? Was he apprised of it? Was he given the pros and cons of it? Was he given strategic alternatives should it balloon to what it has become now?

Did he even read it before he signed it?

Because the problem isn’t that he wants to provide protection and solution to those aggrieved on the internet. It’s that …

The least he could’ve done was send it back to the Senate or Congress with a note: “Dudes, I can’t sign this. Give me something else that won’t conflict with this.”

After all, this is the very same Constitution which justified his own mother’s presidency, which his father had fought for.

Yes, there are so many provisions in the new Cyber Crime Law that merit support and strict implementation: anti-child pornography and, well, frankly, I can’t think of anything else that requires urgent national restructuring of our existing laws that would conflict with our Constitution.

The Philippine government has already been chastised by various global organizations for continuing to lump Libel as a criminal offense yet, ironically, instead of repealing its criminal aspect and turning it into a civil action, it has instead expanded its scope to the online community. Instead of engaging the public — offline and online — it merely swipes it aside to ram through its vaunted stubbornness.

The president further said:

If we don’t implement it, I’m liable for dereliction of duty. I can be impeached.

Which beggars these questions:

  1. He has the presidential privilege of vetoing a proposed bill, why didn’t he?
  2. If he does implement this new law, should he not be impeached for its conflict against the very Constitution which he swore to uphold?

That more than any other president that had ever been elected, the public expected — nay, afforded him with much leeway in executing laws that would favor the underprivileged, the unprotected … those who did not have the privilege of his moneyed colleagues that hide under the cloak of his friendship.

It isn’t a sad day for the death of freedom of expression in the Philippines … it’s that it’s been signed by the very son of parents who fought and died for the very same rights for which they were once prosecuted and, as his father, was even assassinated.

It isn’t saddening … it’s embarrassing.

About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the chief political communications strategist for PT AsiaLeads, a political and communications policy-making body based in Jakarta, Indonesia. He is also the Executive Director at the Southeast Asia Consulting Group, an investment advisory company assisting clients roll out their presence for the ASEAN Economic Integration in partnership with government. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on October 7, 2012, in General, Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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