AFP proposal to regulate social media shows anti-terrorism law's overreach â lawyer
In this file photo illustration picture taken on April 19, 2018 in Paris shows the tablet and smartphone apps for Google, Amazon, Facebook and the Apple Store.
AFP/Lionel Bonaventure
AFP proposal to regulate social media shows anti-terrorism law's overreach — lawyer
Kristine Joy Patag ( - August 4, 2020 - 3:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — A human rights lawyer on Tuesday warned that regulation of social media under the anti-terrorism law as proposed by the military may be used for government monitoring of dissent.

National Union of Peoples Lawyers president Edre Olalia said that the recommendation of Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief, to include regulation of social media in the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulation is unconstitutional.  

“It is precisely brazen ideas like these overreach intrusions that create the chilling effect which the proponents of the Terror Law keep on spluttering in our faces,” Olalia said.

The NUPL assisted progressive groups, led by BAYAN, in assailing the constitutionality against the Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the Supreme Court. Their plea was the 10th of the currently filed 21 legal challenges against the law.

Olalia said that Gapay’s move is “straight from Big Brother redux,” a nod to George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, where the State monitors its citizens' every move.

‘Absurd’ to recruit via social media

Gapay on Monday said that the military would suggest to the Department of Justice—the agency drafting the law’s IRR—provisions on “how to curb radicalizaiton of the youth,” as he claimed that terrorists are now using social media to “radicalize, recruit and even plan terrorist acts.”

The new AFP chief stressed that they “need to have specific provisions on this, in the IRR, pertaining to the use of social media.”

But Olalia said it is “absurd” that terrorists would use social media, an “open and public” platform, to “radicalize and recruit the youth.”

“Such fishing expeditions are actually on the lookout for legitimate dissent, criticism and alternative views and opinions that those in power do not like, approve or agree with,” Olalia added.

“It is an open assault on free expression that is key to democracy, good governance and public participation. In short, it is an iron mask that covers all our senses to suffocation including our basic common sense,” the veteran rights lawyer also said.

The DOJ has 90 days from when President Rodrigo Duterte signed the law to craft the IRR. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters the department’s legal team will consult law enforcers and the military as they go along the way.

Guevarra also said it is still “too early” to say if the IRR will cover social media posts.

Karapatan: Sanction your ranks first

In a separate statement, rights group Karapatan said that if the military wants to regulate social media, then they should “start by sanctioning their own men.”

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay pointed out that the military, through social media accounts, “have publicly and rabidly accused journalists of being linked to ‘terrorists’ for reporting on human rights groups and civil society organizations.”

Palabay also noted that police offices’ social media accounts also “incite violence against activists through red-tagging.”

These are allegations contained in several of the petitions filed against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, as groups told the SC that the law enforcers’ red-tagging  even before the RA 11479 was implemented may bring a “chilling effect.” The petitioners also said that leaving the interpretation of the law's  "vague" definitions to the police and military, taken with their history of red-tagging, does not inspire assurance of fair implementation.

Palabay added that any proposal to regulate social media under the new law is “is very much tantamount to Marcosian censorship, which is already sending a chilling effect to the public given the track record of the military and police in tagging government critics as ‘terrorists’ or ‘terrorists sympathizers.’”

The debate on social media regulation comes while there are officials like Rannie Ludovica of Quezon City’s Task Force Disiplina who posted about a "shoot to kill" against quarantine violators “can get away unpunished and unsanctioned,” Palabay said.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government admonished Ludovica for his posting and said it was “improper and illegal.” The statement from DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya did not mention whether Ludovica faces sanctions.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with