TRO on cyber law a ‘necessary pause,’ says Angara
MANILA, Philippines – Senators, including the chairman of a committee that approved the cybercrime law, welcomed on Tuesday the Supreme Court’s decision to stop the implementation of the law, describing it as “necessary pause” to allow critics to “re-examine” their position.
“I am not disappointed and I welcome that this TRO (temporary restraining order) creates because it will give time to the Supreme Court to study the merit and give also the critics time to re-examine their position,” said Senator Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate committee on science and technology.
“This is not an earth shaking thing…This is a necessary pause,” Angara said.
After all, he said, the TRO was just a temporary interim measure and “not a decision on the merit.”
“I think ultimately, the SC will uphold the law. They may find some provisions or may be unnecessary, they might strike down those provisions but I don’t think they will ever strike down the whole law,” he said.
While he was ready to give a provision that imposes a higher penalty for online libel, Angara insisted that the online libel itself should stay.
And in deference to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the senator said he would defer any discussion on proposed bills seeking to amend the law, which has yet to be implemented.
Several bills have been filed in the Senate, seeking to decriminalize the online libel.
Senator Teofisto Guingona, the only senator who voted against the law, rejoiced over the SC’s decision, calling it “the first victory of the people and of freedom of expression.”
“For a court to issue a TRO unanimously is a strong message of its belief that the dangers and fears of the people are real and must be addressed. With this TRO, the tyrannical powers granted by the law are effectively clipped,” Guingona said in a statement.
But the fight, Guingona said, is not yet over.
“Now, we must escalate our vigilance, keep the fire burning, and continue the fight for our fundamental rights. The fight of the people, on the streets and online, must continue,” he said.
“This positive step forward is our permission to strengthen our protest and to also embrace our hope that this Supreme Court will be the court that truly defends the Constitution and the Filipino people,” he added.
But for Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, who proposed the online libel clause, the TRO was a “big blow” for victims of cybercrime.
And although a bit disappointed by the TRO, Sotto said he had no choice but to respect the SC’s decision.
Political blogger celebrates
Meanwhile, the TRO issued earlier by the Supreme Court only shows that petitioners who told the High Court of the law’s unconstitutionality were armed with strong arguments, a political blogger said Tuesday.
“This is a bad news for President Benigno Aquino III, and is good news for netizens, Tonyo Cruz, owner of the tech and political blog tonyocruz.com said in a phone interview, on the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court justices to issue a TRO against the controversial Internet law.
Cruz, along with 17 other bloggers such as Marcelo Landicho of the political site The Professional Heckler, and Benjamin Espina of Atheista.net, filed a petition last October 4 asking the High Court to declare as unconstitutional many provisions of what he calls a “big international scandal.”
“This is an affirmation of the strong views of its petitioners,” Cruz said, adding that the fight against this law will continue online and offline until the Supreme Court makes its final decision on the matter.
He said their group, now named Blogger and Netizens for Democracy (BAND), is seeking to nullify the entire law, citing that other petitioners are questioning different provisions in the law, that when you try to take them all out, will leave the Cybercrime law empty.
While the group joins the government’s fight against crimes committed over the Internet, Cruz said that “this is not the way to do it.”
“The government should work on a cybercrime bill that upholds the Constitution,” he said, noting its unlawful power to shut down a website without the proper process, among others.
Cruz said they will rally for support from the international community, also to let them know more of the evils of the anti-cybercrime law.
He said they will disseminate the material for them to make a judgement by themselves.
The group of bloggers were the 10th petitioner against several provisions of the law which includes the freedom of speech, right against double jeopardy, and right against unreasonable searches and seizures, among others.