A newly-enacted cybercrime law in the Philippines has triggered widespread protests from bloggers, journalists and cause-oriented groups for its criminal and oppressive provisions.
The new law known as The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, was recently passed by congress primarily to combat cyber crimes such as, but not limited to, pornography, hacking, identity theft and spamming.
The government says police and security people need legal tools to combat these cyber crimes as offenders usually get away due to absence or lack of laws covering Internet or cyber crimes.
But the protesters are questioning some provisions of the law that could send to jail anyone who makes what is perceived to be a libelous act or comment such as a defamatory message or comment posted on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.
Under the law, authorities are also allowed to collect or obtain information from users' accounts on social media without a legally-issued search warrant.
Based on the controversial law, convictions carry a penalty of 12 years in prison plus a fine of 1 million Philippine pesos or roughly $25,000.
According to Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch Director for Asia, the law was having a chilling effect in the Philippines, which, with its population of almost 95 million, is one of the world’s biggest users of Facebook and Twitter.
“Anybody using popular social networks or who publishes online is now at risk of a long prison term should a reader — including government officials — bring a libel charge,” Adams said.
At least five concerned groups have filed a petition before the Supreme Court to stop the government from implementing the controversial law.
Human rights lawyer Harry Roque and Journalist Ellen Tordesillas, led a group of petitioners who sought an injunction and/or temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court
"In their 41-page petition for certiorari, the petitioners sought for a writ of prohibitory injunction and/or temporary restraining order, against the respondents to stop them from implementing the five provisions, as well as Section 27, which appropriates P500,000 annually for the implementation of the law," Inquirer.net writes.
Meanwhile, several government offices discovered their websites were hacked on Wednesday by an unidentified hacker in protest at the controversial cybercrime law.
The websites that were defaced include those of Central Bank of the Phlipppines, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, American Chamber of Commerce, and the Philippine Anti-Piracy Team.
The anonymous hacker demanded the revision or amendment of the newly-enacted law before its implementation, saying "it is the most notorious act ever witnessed in the cyber-history of the Philippines.
“It is just so disappointing that our government, in adopting our 80-year-old antiquated libel laws to the Cybercrime Law, again seems to have retarded our march with the rest of the world with respect to giving full force to the people’s freedom of expression."
On Thursday another government office, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOP), was also hacked. The hacker left a message: "We are legion. Expect us!" the message said.
The government defended the newly-enacted cybercrime law, saying that freedom of expression comes with responsibility.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda appealed to the petitioners to await the rules and regulations which would implement the new cybercrime law. He said (via Philstar.com), Malacanang, the Office of the President of the Philipines, respected the petitioners' action or decision to question it before the Supreme Court.