No provision to regulate social media in anti-terrorism law â Drilon
File photo shows Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon at a Senate hearing.
The STAR/Geremy Pintolo, File photo
No provision to regulate social media in anti-terrorism law — Drilon
Bella Perez-Rubio ( - August 4, 2020 - 7:06pm

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday slammed the military's proposal to include the regulation of social media in the implementing rules of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 as illegal and unconstititional.

"Social media is an effective platform for our people to voice out their criticisms against the government. If we insist on implementing the law this way, which is clearly contrary to legislative intent, then we justify the fears aired by the people against the passage of the law," Drilon, who voted in favor of the bill at the Senate, said.

"Let us not be so imprudent as to prove to the people that they are right in their distrust of the law's implementors." 

Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, newly appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines chief, made the suggestion on Monday during a virutal briefing while lauding what he called the "comprehensive and proative" anti-terrorism law.

As it stands, the controversial law faces more than 20 petitions at the Supreme Court for its alleged unconstitutionality.

Drilon, the only member of the Senate minority who voted in favor of the measure, said "there is nothing in the law which would allow enforcers to regulate or control social media."

According to the senator, the implementation of Gapay's proposal goes "beyond the real intent of the law," which makes it "illegal and unconstitutional," further emphasizing that "no law can be amended by a mere administrative rule issued for its implementation."

Drilon further said that freedom of speech is a "sacred and inviolable right of every human being," which is protected by the Constitution.

He also warned that even the threat of restraint may work to deter citizens from exercising their freedom of expression as effectively as sanctions would.

Monitoring dissent? 

National Union of Peoples Lawyers president Edre Olalia on Monday cautioned that the AFP's proposed regulation, aside from being unconsitutional, may be used by the government to monitor dissent.

“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.

Gapay on Monday originally floated the proposal as part of the military's effort to suggest provisions on “how to curb radicalization of the youth" and "countering violent extremists." 

"If the intention is to clamp down on terrorist propaganda posted on social media, there are existing models on how that can be done without the need to regulate social media in general — YouTube videos and soundbites posted by terrorist groups communicating to a wider audience are clearly identifiable and may be taken down," Drilon argued.

He also highlighted Section 16 of the anti-terrorism law "which requires a law enforcement agent or military personnel to file an application with the Court of Appeals before surveillance activities may be conducted."— with reports from Kristine Joy Patag

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