SC extends TRO on Cyber Law
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - February 6, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has extended the temporary restraining order (TRO) it issued on the implementation of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

In full-court session, the justices yesterday ruled on the petition for extension of the TRO, which was supposed to expire today.

“The TRO in cybercrime case has been extended until further orders from the court,” the SC public information told reporters.

“We submit to the court’s discretion and respect such decision to extend the TRO,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said. “It’s not a total defeat. It’s just a TRO pending determination of the merits of the petitions.”

President Aquino signed the law in September last year amid huge online protests, to stamp out cybercrimes such as fraud, identity theft, spamming and child pornography.

Opponents contested provisions that authorize heavy prison terms for online libel and give the state powers to shut down websites and monitor online activities. The SC issued a four-month TRO last October.

Communications Secretary Ramon Carandang said the government acknowledged the public’s concerns.

Carandang noted that even Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza had publicly acknowledged that shutting down websites may be illegal.

 â€œAs the president said, it’s not a perfect law and even (Jardeleza) had questions about the takedown provisions,” Carandang said.

Jardeleza conceded that Section 19 of RA 10175, which authorizes the Department of Justice to block or restrict access to computer data without a court warrant, is unconstitutional.

He admitted that mere clicking “like,” “share” or “retweet” of libelous posts on Facebook and Twitter may hold a person criminally liable under the law.

Jardeleza, however, said such provisions were not enough to strike down the entire law.

UP law professor Harry Roque Jr., one of the 15 petitioners, welcomed the high court’s decision, saying it was necessary to prevent the government from implementing the questioned provisions of the controversial law.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), lawyer Jose Jesus Disini of the Internet and society program of the UP College of Law, a group of lawyers led by lawyer Paul Cornelius Castillo, National Press Club of the Philippines, Philippine Bar Association officer Louis Biraogo, journalists belonging to Alab ng Mamahayag, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, a group of lawmakers, members of academe, students led by Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino, militant groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Ateneo Human Rights Center, a group of bloggers led by Anthony Ian Cruz and Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Teddy Casiño are the other petitioners.

Rowena Paraan, secretary-general of the NUJP, said the TRO extension is a “victory for all those who oppose a statute that would effectively stifle free expression, free flow of information, the right to privacy and a host of other rights and freedoms.”

The NUJP also congratulated the lawyers â€œwho very ably laid down the reasons why this unjust law must be junked.”

Paraan, however, said the TRO should not lull people into complacency.

“Let us continue protesting and pounding on government’s doors until this law and everyone who sought to foist it on us are relegated to where they rightly belong – the garbage heap,” she said.

Withdraw cybercrime law

Meanwhile, the Kabataan party-list and various youth groups pressed for the withdrawal of RA 10175.

 â€œIt is very clear in the 1987 Philippine Constitution that no law shall deprive our freedom of expression,” said Kabataan party-list national president Terry Ridon.

 â€œEven the United Nations has declared that the Philippine libel law is exaggerated. But the Aquino administration made an extremely repressive move by passing RA 10175 especially with its provisions of online libel,” Ridon said.

 â€œHow can we freely express ourselves now if there is a law that can put us to jail just by liking, tweeting, or posting something on the Internet?” he asked.

Youth groups and Internet freedom advocates marched to the SC yesterday to protest the cybercrime law.

The youth group was also set to hold another concert against cybercrime law dubbed “Rock for Your Rights” last night. –With Sandy Araneta, Artemio Dumlao,

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