Petitions filed with SC vs 'cyber libel' law

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 25 2012 01:39 PM | Updated as of Sep 25 2012 09:41 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Businessman and taxpayer Louis "Barok" Biraogo has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to prevent the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Philippine National Police (PNP) from enforcing several provisions of Republic Act (RA) No. 10175, also known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

The law enacted by President Aquino on September 12 criminalizes and penalizes libel in cyberspace.

In a 28-page petition for certiorari, prohibition, injunction and preliminary injunction filed on Sept. 24 obtained by ABS-CBN News, Biraogo asked the high court to immediately issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a writ of preliminary injunction to restrain the implementation of Sec. 4(c) [4], Sec. 12, Sec. 20, and the penal provisions of the law on the basis of unconstitutionality.

"With the enactment of Republic Act No. 10175, cyber technology, once a boom to petitioner and the general public, is now subjected to subtle but pervasive State monitoring and control," the petition read.

Biraogo, who was upheld by the high court in a petition assailing the constitutionality of the Aquino administration's Truth Commission,  also alleged that the passage of the law is tainted with grave abuse of discretion on the part of Congress, which approved it, and Mr. Aquino, who signed it into law.

"The enactment of this statute is attended with grave abuse of discretion because its questioned provisions contravene Sections 3 (1) (on inviolability of privacy of communication) and 4 (on freedom of speech, of expression, of the press, and peaceful assembly), Art. III (Bill of Rights) of the 1987 Constitution," the petition read.

Sec. 4 (c) [4] of the said law criminalizes libel, not only on the Internet, but also on "any other similar means which may be devised in the future."

Biraogo said this enables the law to cover all technologies in communication and cyber space. He pointed out that current legislations must only deal with "realities of the present and should refrain from speculating about the future."

Sec. 12 authorizes law enforcement authorities to "collect or record by technical or electronic means" communications transmitted through a computer system. This, Biraogo said, was dangerous since law enforcement authorities will now be able to "eavesdrop, monitor and record the communication and correspondence of any citizen" minus a court order. This, Biraogo said, runs counter to the prohibition on wiretapping telephone conversations without the benefit of a court order.

Sec. 20, meantime, authorizes the criminal prosecution of persons who do not comply with "any order of the NBI and PNP issued pursuant to Sec. 12 "with imprisonment of prision correctional in its maximum period or a fine of One hundred thousand pesos (Php100,000.00) or both, for each and every noncompliance." Biraogo argued that this disqualifies anybody convicted of the crime from applying for parole.

"Prior to the enactment of Republic Act. No. 101075, petitioner had no reason to feel intimidated from using his personal computer systems in his business correspondence and in his personal communications. After all, the State had no legal authority to eavesdrop on, monitor or record any of his communication and correspondence without a lawful court order allowing the same.

"Likewise, petitioner had no reason to feel intimidated from using his computer system because he was well aware of the recognized legal limitations obtaining in the use of cyber technology, and that he was operating within its bounds," the petition read.

Biraogo said the questioned provisions cast a "chilling effect" on the rights of individuals.

A similar petition, raising similar grounds, was also filed by ALAM party list with the high court.