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3 more petitions filed in SC against cyberlaw

Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

Three more petitions against the Cybercrime Prevention Act were filed Monday in the Supreme Court, bringing the number of cases against the new law to 15.

Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Teodoro Casiño and the National Press Club questioned the constitutionality of the cyberlaw, which took effect on Oct. 3.

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The separate petitions came on the eve of an en banc hearing of the high tribunal, which last week deferred action on the stream of cases seeking to stop the implementation of the law that penalizes cybercrimes with imprisonment up to 12 years.

The petitioners asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order and a status quo ante order.

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Speaking to reporters, Colmenares said he was surprised that President Aquino saw nothing wrong with the law.

“If there was a cybercrime prevention act during martial law, there would have been no Edsa I… no Edsa II,” he said, because no criticism had been hurled against the government.

Colmenares said the President should admit he made a mistake in signing the law and promise to help in amending it.

He found objectionable two provisions in the law inserted by the bicameral conference committee that reconciled the Senate and House versions: The authority of the Department of Justice to block access to computer data and the one-degree increase in penalty for online libel compared to that called for under the Revised Penal Code.

In his petition with the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance, Casiño said the law violated freedom of speech, expression of the press as well as the right to privacy and communication.

The press club, on the other hand, said certain provisions in the law made it “very hard to determine where the criminal liability of the participants begin or what particular act would make them liable for libel.”

“The questioned provisions did not give a specific standard about who, when and how a particular cyberspace participant will be liable for online libel,” said the 28-page petition.

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BPAP joins protest

The Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP), one of the staunchest supporters of legislation against cybercrime, in a statement yesterday joined the protests.

“It is unfortunate that last-minute provisions on libel and freedom of the Internet were inserted into this important bill without the benefit of stakeholder perspective, including ours,” BPAP said.

“Although we are individually concerned about the last-minute insertion of the provision on libel, BPAP members are collectively more concerned about the similarly last-minute provision on warrantless collection of traffic data,” the group said.

It said this could erode the confidence in the Philippines as a business process outsourcing (BPO) destination, given companies’ reliance on security and absolute privacy.

BPAP said it would await and respect the Supreme Court’s decision on the law.

In general, the association welcomed the measure.

BPAP president Benedict Hernandez  said most parts of the cybercrime law were designed to promote the development of key Internet-enabled industries such as the BPO sector.

“The Cybercrime Prevention Act is meant to provide the resources and legal framework to identify, prevent and impose punishment for Internet-based crimes and safeguard users’ online information from unauthorized data collector,” Hernandez said.

“Because IT-BPO firms utilize the Internet and computer technology as the principal channel for communication processes, the industry will benefit from provisions covering system and data protection, device security and penalties for computer-related offenses,” he said.

At the International Outsourcing Summit on Monday, Hernandez said the local BPO sector was on track to hitting its target of earning $13.4 billion this year from $11 billion in 2011. The industry is also expected to end the year with 772,000 employees, up from 600,000 at the end of last year.

TOPICS: Cybercrime Prevention Act, Internet, Judiciary, Supreme Court, technology
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