Category: Media & Culture / October 9, 2012 12:37 PM EDT
A law on cybercrime recently crafted by the Philippine Congress sparked a series of protests on Tuesday from journalists, bloggers and rights activists condemning it as a violation of free speech, successfully petitioning the Supreme Court to suspend the law's implementation.
Primarily targeting internet crimes such as pornography and identity theft, the Cybercrime Prevention Act includes a vague provision on libel which internet users say could be used by public officials to silence their critics and hamper freedom of expression.
It states that ordinary libel is punishable with up to four years in jail, but the cybercrime act penalizes online libel with up to 12 years imprisonment, and critics of the law say is too harsh.
The Supreme Court received 15 petitions from lawmakers, bloggers and journalists asking for the law to be junked and decided on Tuesday to issue a temporary restraining order on its implementation.
Opponents of the law say the provision on libel is unclear about what kind of comments on Facebook, Twitter or the like can be held liable.
The justice department held a forum on Tuesday, seeking feedback from experts, lawmakers and citizens on how best to implement the law.
The assistant Justice Secretary Geronimo Sy said civil liberties would be guaranteed, and law enforcement agencies wouldn’t focus on individual tweets and Facebook comments, but rather on criminal syndicates who operate via the internet.
He explained the reasoning behind the severe penalty.
Protesters celebrated the temporary restraining order on the law's implementation but said they would continue to protest until the law was repealed and freedom of speech was fully protected.