MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Several lawmakers and various groups hailed the Supreme Court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the Cybercrime Prevention Act on Tuesday.
In a statement, Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona said the 120-day TRO is “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,” said Guingona, the only senator who voted against the controversial law.
House Deputy Speaker and Quezon City 4th District Rep. Erin Tañada, and Sen. Pia Cayetano, who were among those who have filed petitions questioning several provisions of the law, also welcomed the SC’s issuance of a TRO.
Tañada said the TRO gives justices more time to carefully review the Cybercrime Law, particularly the issues pertaining to cyber libel.
Cayetano said the SC order “opens a window of opportunity for Congress to revisit the law and work for the amendment and/or repeal of its questionable provisions.”
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Center for International Law (Centerlaw) and the Human Rights Watch also welcomed the SC TRO.
NUJP Secretary-General Rowena Paraan said the stay order was “the very least that the High Court can do confronted with a blatantly unconstitutional and repressive law.”
“We congratulate the members of media, bloggers, netizens, human rights groups, people's organizations, progressive legislators and the many others who have defiantly stood up, spoke and fought against this latest assault on our hard-won freedoms,” she added.
Human rights lawyer Harry Roque of Centerlaw said the TRO was a “big win” for the people.
“The TRO reaffirmed the view submitted by the petitioners that the law is unconstitutional for being violative of the rights to freedom of expression, and the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution,” he said.
Human Rights Watch Asia Director Brad Adams also commended the SC for issuing the TRO, but said “the court should now go further by striking down this seriously flawed law.”
Adams said, “Congress, if it still wants to have a law governing online activity, should ensure that such a law will not infringe on civil liberties, human rights, the Constitution and the Philippines's obligations under international law. All provisions in Philippine law that allow for imprisonment for peaceful expression should be repealed.”
‘Battle is not yet over’
“The battle to defend our basic rights is far from over. The 120-day TRO gives a brief respite but the protests must continue,” NUJP said.
The group called on the SC to declare the law null and unconstitutional in its final decision, and the legislators to decriminalize libel.
The NUJP, Guingona and Roque also reminded the public to remain vigilant.
Guingona said, “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.”
Roque likewise said, “We ask the citizenry to remain vigilant as the challenge today is to make the TRO permanent by convincing the Court to declare the Cybercrime law unconstitutional. We hope the DOJ and the authors of the law will take heed and forthwith repeal the law even before the Court issues a final verdict on the merits.”
Cayetano also urged the public, most especially netizens and bloggers, to monitor and participate in the public hearings.
The Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA), in a statement, said it will push for the law to be repealed.
"We implore our elected representatives to reconsider their positions in light of the order of the Supreme Court," the group said in a press statement.
"We demand that they junk RA 10175 and start the process of crafting a new law that involves the participation of all stakeholders – whether offline or online," it added.
PIFA said the public must remain vigilant and protect their "temporary victory."
"Even as the Supreme Court ruled to suspend the implementation of the law, it can still choose to later on lift the TRO under pressure from anti-democratic forces who want to see the Cybercrime Prevention Act implemented. We cannot let this happen," it said.
PIFA also urged netizens to join efforts in pressuring lawmakers to repeal RA 10175.
"Let us make them know that we will not elect, tolerate, nor bow down to anyone who has no qualms in trampling upon our basic human rights offline and online," the group said.