My Two Cents on the Cybercrime Law in the Philippines

In my second post ever in this blog, around over a year ago, back when I was still a budding libertarian, I actually warned about making sure we preserve our internet freedom and keep the government away from it (see Stay the Hell Away from My Internet).

I've always seen the internet as a marketplace, a venue, where people can voluntarily exchange goods and ideas freely without government intervention. And when legislations like SOPA/PIPA/ACTA threatens internet freedom, it's as if it unleashes the inner libertarian within individuals.

Just take a look at how the recently passed Cybercrime Law here in the Philippines (RA 10175) is enticing outrage among netizens not just locally but all over the world. You will see those who used to be politically apathetic and even those leaning far from libertarianism all of a sudden being so wary of an Orwellian government as far as specifically calling out the government "Big Brother" when referring to criticisms about the said law. The terms "big brother state" or "nanny state" are usually derogatory terms criticizing laws that seek to legislate morality or tell us what we can or can't do and that we need a big brother or a nanny to watch over us to make sure that we don't do what is "immoral".

In real life, when arguing for the position that freedom of speech is absolute, people will always be wary and say that freedoms such as this one need to be limited and regulated by the government — the limits usually defined by lawmakers and bureaucrats and then judged by the courts. But when it comes to the internet, all of a sudden everyone sees how arbitrary or subjective the term "libel" can be and how easily government can use it for censorship. Because RA 10175 involves the internet, all of a sudden we invoke the Bill or Rights and see legislation like this as unconstitutional and I love it that people care and that people are united for freedom of speech.

Also, no one really cares about the Patriot Act or the NDAA in the US. Maybe it's because their policies don't really affect ours? In fact, they do. The Patriot Act became the blueprint for what our legislators passed in 2007 called the Human Security Act (RA 9372) that gives law enforcers the power  to arrest and detain citizens without a warrant. Aside from that, it also gives them power, with permission from appointed judges and bureaucrats from the Court of Appeals, for surveillance or wiretapping and be able to listen to our private conversations or other communication devices. 

I guess no one really uses telephones or cellphones anymore and the internet really has become a more important means of communication?

Maybe this is why when it comes to Cybercrime Law, we care about being presumed innocent until proven guilty and that every individual has the same rights to go through the due process of the law. Maybe there is something valuable in the constitution about how there should be probable cause justified and given warrant by an impartial court before any law enforcer can search our private properties. 

I also remember there was a time when the DTI wanted to impose red tapes on Filipino bloggers (see DTI Requires Bloggers to Have Permit for Online Contests?). This also went viral and made a lot of bloggers angry. Again, because it is on the internet, people saw red tapes or taxation as coercive. And I do fear that the Cybercrime Law will be a precedent for further internet regulation, taxation, restriction, and degradation of our civil liberties.

People even start to value fiscal conservatism especially when they learned that 50 million pesos will be allotted for this law. That's even nothing compared to all the other wasteful spendings our government is doing that isn't benefiting our economy at all.  

I'm not surprised that several senators are now for amending certain provisions of the said law only after  the reaction of people both locally and all over the world on the internet.

It's interesting that if you read the public records of the senate deliberations available here, you will see that aside from the fact that only one senator, TG Guingona (although he inconsistently enjoys calling himself a libertarian from time to time, this doesn't mean that I endorse him or all of his other principles or political positions), voted against it, you'll see that they never bothered to raise concerns about the constitutionality or the immorality of the provisions they now want amended. You'll see that even Miriam Santiago's tedious and almost line for line criticisms of what was then still a bill, not even once did she mention the unconstitutionalities of the provisions that impede our civil liberties and the due process of the law. And now she's all of a sudden protesting that the law is unconstitutional. And now all those who voted for the law seem to be changing their minds. Flip-flopping is the name of the game. Politics as usual. 

Obviously though, I stand behind the position that we must not only let them amend the unconstitutional provisions but repeal the law entirely.

I do understand, as much as I can tolerate, the sentiments of some of those who have intellectual reasons to defend some of the provisions in the Cybercrime Law. I have a friend and fellow libertarian who is a staunch advocate of IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) and believe that piracy over the internet should be eradicated. Senator Pia Cayetano says she is the champion of women's and children's rights  and abhors crimes against them and therefore agrees with the provisions in the law that attempts to protect women and children.

But is the solution to these issues really to give so much power to government? Is the solution really to legislate morality or to ignore the constitution or the due process of the law? Trading our liberties for safety is never the solution.

When arguing against the Patriot Act, Ron Paul usually gives an analogy that those who agree with it should just legislate that CCTVs be installed inside every citizen's private property to ensure that no domestic violence or other crimes are being committed. That's basically the kind of power Cybercrime Law are giving law enforcers. Every single Filipino's online activity will be searched. We have all become guilty until proven innocent instead of the other way around.

It is the same principle why PDEA officers don't do daily inspections of our basements everyday to make sure that people aren't being overly inspired by Breaking Bad. It is the concept of private property rights. For the government to have surveillance over our internet activity is the same as them entering our homes each day to make sure that we are not committing crimes or harboring pirated DVDs in our closets. Yes, perhaps in this kind of society things like meth labs or pirated DVDs will no longer exist but at the same time freedom, democracy, justice, liberty, and property rights will cease to exist.  Let us keep that in mind when we see the noble intentions in some of the provisions of the Cybercrime Law that there are unintended consequences to giving implementing power to government.

I have said over and over that the government should always only be our servant and never our master. I have made the case for this several times in this blog. At the end of it all, there is a bright side to all of this. It reminds us of how valuable our freedoms and liberty is and that we should constrain government instead of giving it more power. There's so much more I want to say but this blog post might never end. Just my two cents.

If you liked this post then you might also like:
1. YouTube and Intellectual Property Rights
2. My Two Cents on Spratly Islands Conflict
3. My Two Cents on K-12 and Public Schooling

1 comment:

  1. Although in some aspects, this law has a good intention, but it's still violating our freedom of speech and expression. Internet is the place where we can feel that we are free.

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