BY: JUSEPH ELAS
|Online Libel | via phioxeeawareness.blogspot.com|
Arguably, the main objective of a government is to ensure the survival of the people within its sovereignty through proper political, economic and military measures. That being said, the government has the right to adopt special measures if the safety of its people are endangered or put under threat.
Crimes nowadays are not only committed on the ground but virtually as well. And that triggered for the passing of the Cybercrime Law specifically the provision where online libel is concerned. Now I will not talk of what the people on the ground have to say about it, but what I will tackle is the right of the people to freely use the internet and the interventions the government is doing and how these two principles clash.
First, let’s talk about the use of internet and it being one of the fundamental right of any individual. Now, in the Philippines, under the Bill of Rights (Article III) Sec. 4 clearly states “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression or of the press…” In the said section, the government can’t prohibit anyone within its sovereignty to not speak his own mind, express his beliefs and himself as a person, and of the media. As a native of the digital age, internet has become an avenue for me to voice out my mind and as a media practitioner; blogging has become my pen and paper. However, all of these actions are lying on a cliff. Since the Supreme Court has made Online Libel constitutional, I felt that my right to express as an individual and my right to write as a reporter was delimited. Of course I don’t want to spend time and money answering for a case filed against me for writing something that is “allegedly” libelous.
On the other hand, freedom of expression, assembly, and information are important rights, but restrictions can be placed on all of them if a greater good, like public safety, is at stake. For example, one cannot use her freedom of expression to incite violence towards others and many countries regard hate speech as a crime.
Next, disrupting internet is a form of repression. The organization of public protests is an invaluable right for citizens living under the rule of oppressive regimes. Now, the Philippines may not have an oppressive regime, but we have quasi-oppressive, selfish, self-centered and corrupt officials who do not give room for criticism; who view criticism as crime. And so, they pass on a bill to limit (if not abridge) the right of the people to publicly but legitimate protests against them. At that point, those officials conveniently forget that establishing internet access as a fundamental right at international level would make it clear to such governments that they cannot simply cut access as a tactic to prevent legitimate protests against them.
However, Democratic change can come about in a variety of ways. Violent public protests are only one such way, and probably the least desirable one. And now, with access to social media nearly universally available, such protests can be organized faster, on a larger, more dangerous scale than ever before. We saw how a single Facebook post nearly created another people power last August 2013, coined as Million People March.
All these points are just part of a greater system of arguments when Cybercrime Law is concerned. At the end of the day, it all boils down to weighing the options both parties have. Will the government exercise power over its people regardless of whose expense it might be, or cater what the people want to avoid insurgency? On the same manner, will the people uprise against any unjust bills being passed to laws or be a law-abiding citizen?