MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker expressed fears over the passage of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, saying that a law on online libel is a “step backward in our long-term aim of decriminalizing libel.”
Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino on Saturday opposed the inclusion of cyberthreats and cyberdefamation in the new law, because he said including these in the list of dangerous cybercrimes “would fundamentally affect and alter the implementation of the law.”
"Under this law, politicians can easily file charges against 'hostile and combative' critics and witnesses by claiming that virtual protesters have threatened their life and property. Censorship will lead to repression once an activist or reform advocate has been labeled a cybercriminal," Palatino said in a press statement released on Saturday.
Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III recently said the new law against cybercrime may be used to penalize those who make defamatory statements online.
Palatino fears that the law may be used "by showbiz actors, politicians, business tycoons, and other untouchables who want to punish their online critics."
"Instead of dealing with cyberwarfare, our agents will be investigating online libel," he said.
Palatino also said the new law may be used to violate privacy rights because it gives the government access to private accounts and monitor online activities of cybercrime suspects.
"There are non-negotiables in drafting internet policies. The main concern should be the protection of internet users. Legislation should maintain the openness or the free, public character of the internet. There must be transparency and law enforcers must be accountable for their actions. National regulation is futile since cybercrimes operate globally and virtually," he said.