The Justice Secretary Leila de Lima
has issued a restraining order that stops the government from enforcing the law. President Benigno Aquino III signed the controversial law last month. The law was to take effect last week but there is no report of anyone being charged with violation of the law as yet.
The law will be suspended for 120 days. Oral arguments have been scheduled for January 15th next year. The government has also been ordered to respond within ten days to 15 petitions which have been filed challenging the constitutionality of the law.
The purpose of the law, The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, is to combat internet crimes such as hacking, identity theft, spamming, cybersex, and online child pornography. However, journalists and rights groups consider many of the provisions much too broad.
The bill makes online libel a crime with double normal penalties. It would also block access to websites that are regarded as violating the law. Critics say that politicians will use the law to silence critics and that the law violates the right to free speech and due process. Brad Adams, director of Human Rights Watch for Asia, praised the court decision but added that the court should go further and strike down the law because it was seriously flawed.
A petition by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines claims the law would "set back decades of struggle against the darkness of 'constitutional dictatorship' and replace it with 'cyber authoritarianism.'"
I noticed that my step-daughter's profile photo on Facebook has just been a blank black screen for the last while. This is part of a protest against the law. Hackers have also been active attacking several government websites.
Renato Reyes, of the New Patriotic Alliance, another petitioner, claimed that the court order was a major victory for freedom and civil liberties. President Aquino supports the online libel provision but said he is open to softening the penalties. Other legislators said they are open to amendments that would address civil rights concern but many critics think the law should be scrapped.
Some of the penalties under the law
are quite severe. Convictions can carry a penalty of up to 12 years in prison and a fine the equivalent of $25,000 U.S. Authorities are also allowed to collect information about users' accounts on social media sites such as Twitter, and Facebook without a search warrant. More information about the law and reaction to it can be found in an earlier Digital Journal