This post is part of our International Relations & Security coverage.
The majority of Filipino internet users and media groups opposed the passage of the Philippine Cybercrime Law because of provisions that potentially curtail media freedom and other civil liberties. But prior to the insertion of online libel and other last minute amendments, the bill was actually quietly supported by many people.
In fact, it remains popular among business groups, computer security experts, and advocates of safe cyberspace, even after the Supreme Court issued an order to suspend its implementation for the next 120 days.
The Department of Justice – the main agency in charge of implementing the law – insists that the measure is necessary to stop global cybercrimes:
Precisely the purpose of the law is to protect our citizens from unscrupulous and abusive actions of misfits and the wicked in society. We see massive cyber fraud, state-sponsored terrorism, telecommunications hacking, credit card scams and consumer schemes that the State is mandated to investigate and prosecute. There is no doubt that cybercrime is a global crime that requires immediate and adequate response.
According to the agency, the hacking of government websites is another reason to use the law against “transnational organized crimes and criminal syndicates”:
The number of incidents and the ease of hacking government websites only show the vulnerability of our country's ICT framework and prove the necessity of a cybercrime law to protect us against criminal syndicates and transnational organized crime.
But it also emphasized that the agency opposed the inclusion of online libel in the original bill:
The IT industry knows that since 2007 when the Department of Justice (DOJ) first crafted the consolidated cybercrime bill, internet libel was never a part of any versions. The main purpose of the legislation was to cover acts committed with new technologies that were not included or could not have been anticipated by the Revised Penal Code or special penal laws. The DOJ will protect and defend the freedom of expression and freedom of speech in whatever form by going after transnational organized crimes and criminal syndicates who abuse the openness of social media.
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda echoed the arguments of the DOJ:
The Cybercrime Prevention Act was enacted by Congress to address legitimate concerns about criminal behavior on the Internet and the effects of abusive behavior
We would therefore like to point out that no government entity has moved to deprive anyone of access to the Internet or to suppress civil liberties as exercised online. In fact what has taken place is that hackers who claim to be aligned with critics of the Cybercrime Act are the ones who have engaged in online vandalism, depriving the broader public of access to much needed government information and services online.
The Business Processing Association of the Philippines, the umbrella organization of business process outsourcing companies in the country, identifies the advantages of having a Cybercrime Law:
The Cybercrime Prevention Act will help sustain and enhance investor confidence and strengthen our position as one of the world’s top locations for high-value IT-BPO services.
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 collectors. 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.
Outsourcing is touted as a sunshine industry in the Philippines. It employs more than half a million young workers and contributes about $13 billion to the local economy.
Responsible Internet Users for Social Empowerment (Cyber RISE) appeals for the implementation of the law [fil]:
It is saddening that the law intended to curb evil acts in social networking today is the focus of attacks by groups which claim that human rights are going to be violated.
Give a chance by implementing the law to realize its positive intent. We have long clamored for a strong law to apprehend ‘cybercriminals'.
Even Senator Teofisto Guingona III, the only senator who voted against the law, recognizes the necessity of having a Cybercrime Law:
A Cybercrime Prevention Act is necessary, but must not be oppressive.
Republic Act 10175 is oppressive and dangerous. It demonizes the computer user and extends its tentacles to a computer user’s freedom of expression and speech. In an age when decriminalization of libel is the trend, this law makes a fatal step back, toward the vault of archaic policies that cannot be made to apply to the modern man operating in a modern world.
Let me just point out the fact that we need a Cybercrime Prevention Act. Except for certain problematic provisions, this law is necessary.
This post and its translations to Spanish, Arabic and French were commissioned by the International Security Network (ISN) as part of a partnership to seek out citizen voices on international relations and security issues worldwide. This post was first published on the ISN blog, see similar stories here.