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An update on the status of the Philippines Cybercrime Prevention Act

It has been a year since President Benigno S. Aquino III signed the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. The Anti-Cybercrime Law took effect on October 3, 2012 but the Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) six days later. On February 5, the Court extended the TRO until further notice.

Republic Act (RA) 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, penalizes crimes committed through computers and online. The punishment for online libel is also "one degree higher" than that provided for libel in the Revised Penal Code.

A year after its signing, some bills are filed before the 16th Congress asking to repeal or amend the law.

Senate Bill (SB) No. 126, "An Act Repealing Section 4(c) (4), Chapter II of Republic Act No. 10175 filed by Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero, repeals Section 4(c) (4), Chapter II of Republic Act No. 10175 which criminalizes libel "committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future."

SB No. 11, "An Act Amending Section 6 of Republic Act 10175 Otherwise Known as an Act Defining Cybercrime, Providing For the Prevention, Investigation and Imposition of Penalties Therefore and For Other Purposes" filed by Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, seeks to amend Section 6 of RA No. 10175 and remove the imposition of higher penalty on those charged of the crime.

It states that "Imposing a higher penalty on crimes defined under the Revised Penal Code and specials laws committed through the internet is not in accordance with the principle of justice and equality, and sound public policy. If a crime is committed by, through and with the use of information and communications technologies, then the penalties provided under the present laws should be imposed accordingly and should not be increased solely on the ground that the crime was perpetrated through the use of the cyberspace."

SB No. 154, "An Act Amending Republic Act No. 10175, Otherwise Known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, filed by Sen Pia Cayetano, repeals Sections 4(c) (4), 6, 7, 12, and 19 of RA 10175.

It also seeks to protect freedom of speech and expression and annuls the imposition of heavier penalty for libel committed "by, through, and with the use of information and communication technologies."

SB No. 249, "An Act Repealing Sections 4 (c) (4), 5, 6, and 7 of RA 10175, Otherwise Known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, filed by Sen Alan Peter Cayetano, repeals Section 4 (c) (4) saying that: (1) "The application of RA 10175 is unconstitutionally overbroad affecting publications previously made but still present in cyberspace." (2) "It is vague in its application and expansive because it covers past speech before the law takes effect." (3) "It potentially infringes on a person's freedom of speech under Section 4 of Article III of the 1987 Constitution. It is in effect, a form of subsequent punishment."

It also states that Section 6 of RA 10175 or the distinction on the offense committed is "unconstitutional" and "not substantial enough."

SB Nos 53 and 1091 and House Bill (HB) No. 1086
or the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom are filed by Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago, Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV, and Rep. Kimi Cojuangco, respectively, repeals the law in its entirety.

Section 4 of the bill protects and promotes freedom of speech and expression on the Internet and protects the right of the people to petition the government via the Internet for redress of grievances.

Section 52 defines provisions and exceptions on Internet libel. The bill states that expressions of protest against and dissatisfaction with the government shall not constitute Internet libel.

It also treats libel as a civil liability, rather than a criminal act.

HB No. 1132, "An Act Repealing Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 filed by Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon, repeals the RA 10175 and states that "Cybercrime Law seeks to silence opposition - both in the real world and online."

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