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Cybercrime law critics begin overnight vigil for SC oral arguments


Youth protestors on Monday kicked off their overnight vigil in front of the Supreme Court in Manila, a day before the start of the oral arguments on the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. The participants who camped out along Padre Faura street included members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, Kabataan party-list and National Union of Students of the Philippines, as well as representatives from different student councils and publications, students from different schools, bloggers like Antonio "Tonyo" Cruz, and performers like Fliptop rapper BLKD, and other advocates of press freedom. Apart from cultural performances, the protesters have also set up an "anger management booth" where people can hurl bottles at a wall where "cybercrime law" is written. The organizers also put up a T-shirt printing booth, a face-painting booth and a sticker-bombing booth. The protesters also carried placards with photographs of the Supreme Court justices, bearings the words "We're watching You" while the song "Every Breath You Take" played on the background. "Unlike most of his predecessors, President Benigno Aquino III has berated the media in numerous instances because of 'negative reporting.' He remains firm in his opinion that cybercrime law is constitutional, although many media practitioners have taken a leap and explicitly expressed their opposition to the implementation of the law," the CEGP said. "He also expressed support for the passage of the Right of Reply bill, a law that could be likened to the Cybercrime Law because it can create a 'chilling effect.' So is Aquino really a defender of human rights as he claims to be?" the group asked. Order of presentation During Tuesday's oral arguments, set to start at 2 p.m., legal counsel for the 15 petitions contesting the controversial law will try to convince SC justices to declare the law as unconstitutional for allegedly violating a person's right to free expression, due process, and against double jeopardy, among others. Though not assigned to tackle any of contested portions of the law, Sen. Teofisto Guigona III,  one of the petitioners, is set to deliver an opening statement during the oral arguments. Those assigned to raise their arguments against specific provisions of the law include:
  • University of the Philippine law professor Harry Roque Jr. on Section 4(c)(4) on electronic libel and Section 4(c)(1) on cybersex;
  • Rep. Neri Colmenares on Section 6, which punishes by one degree higher than those crimes covered by the Revised Penal Code; and Section 7, which provides that a prosecution under the law shall be without prejudice to any liability under the RPC;
  • lawyer Rodel Cruz on Section 19, which empowers the Department of justice to block computer data found to be in violation of the law;
  • U.P. Law professor Jose Jesus Disini Jr. on Section 12, which empowers law enforcement authorities to collect traffic data in real time with specified communications transmitted through a computer system;
  • lawyer Julius Matibag on Section 5(1) and (b), which punishes Internet user for aiding or abetting a cybercrime offense.
The government, through the Office of the Solicitor General, would be given a chance to air their side at a separate hearing on January 22. Bayan, PIFA Meanwhile, members of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance are set to gather in front of the SC at around 9 a.m.,  Tuesday, clad in black shirts. Bayan encouraged netizens to use the hashtag #notocybercrimelaw on Twitter to show their opposition to the law online. "We are confident that the law will be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. We remind the public that this is Aquino's cybercrime law. He is the reason why we are before the high court," said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes. "We're not hoping at this point for any congressional amendments, not with the upcoming elections and with Aquino's stubborn defense of the law. The ball is now with the SC," he added. Member groups of PIFA that are expected to participate in the protest action are Freedom Writers Guild of the Philippines, Filipino Freethinkers, Dakila-Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism, Coalition for Reform, Partido Lakas ng Masa, Kabataan Party List, Bukluran Manggagawang Pilipino, SANLAKAS, Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Pilipino, The ProPinoy Project, PhilMusic.com, Laya Sining, Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards, Inc., blogger and editor of Blog Watch Noemi Lardizabal-Dado, and bloggers James Miraflor and Carlo Ople. — Mark D. Merueñas/KBK, GMA News
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