THE Supreme Court is poised to declare as illegal several provisions of Republic Act (RA) 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act, whose constitutionality was challenged by several groups after President Benigno Aquino 3rd signed the measure into law in 2012.
A well-placed source said the Court’s justices had started voting on the contentious provisions but they were not able to finish because each of them needs to vote for each challenged provision.
The magistrates are expected to finish voting on Tuesday.
The source said the justices have agreed in principle to clip the powers of the Department of Justice (DOJ), which under the law was granted the authority to shut down websites.
The source said an overwhelming majority, if not all, of the justices may declare Section 19 of the Cybercrime law unconstitutional.
Section 19 or the takedown clause allows the DOJ to close websites it considers to contain harmful content based merely on prima facie evidence and even without a court order.
During the oral arguments, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza had admitted that the clause is unconstitutional.
“The justices had voted and will continue to vote on each and every provision of the Cybercrime law which was covered by the petitions,” the source said.
He said the magistrates are bent on protecting children from pornography. They also want to protect journalists against online libel since the penalty and the provisions of Libel in the Revised Penal Code (Article 353,354, 355, 361 and 362) are not applicable with the online libel provision in the Cybercrime law.
The Supreme Court grounded the law with a 120-day temporary restraining order (TRO) in October 2012. On February 5, 2013, the Court extended the TRO indefinitely.
At least 15 petitions have been filed at the Court against the Cybercrime law. The petitioners include the National Press Club, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines; UP law Prof. Harry Roque Jr.; lawyer Jose Jesus Disini of the Internet and society program of UP College of Law; a group of lawyers led by Paul Cornelius Castillo, businessman Louis Biraogo; a group of journalists belonging to Alab ng Mamahayag; Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona; a group of lawmakers, members of the academe and students led by Rep. Raymond Palatino of Kabataan party-list; militant groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan; Ateneo Human Rights Center and Reps. Neri Colminares and Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna.
The petitioners are focusing on Sec. 4(c)(4), which criminalizes libel on cyberspace; Sec. 5(a), which lists “aiding or abetting in the commission of Cybercrime” as an additional offense; Sec. 6, which raises by one degree higher the penalties provided for by the Revised Penal Code for all crimes committed through and with the use of information and communications; Sec. 7, which provides that apart from prosecution under the law, any person charged for the alleged offense covered will not be spared from violations of the Revised Penal Code and other special laws; Sec. 12, which authorizes law enforcement authorities to collect or record, by technical or electronic means, traffic data in real-time; Sec. 14, which authorizes law enforcement authorities, armed with a court warrant, to require “any person or service provider to disclose or submit subscriber’s information, traffic data or relevant data in his/its possession or control within 72 hours from receipt of the order in relation to a valid complaint officially docketed and assigned for investigation;”
Sec. 15, which authorizes law enforcement authorities to search, seize and examine computer data; Sec. 19, which authorizes the DOJ to block access to computer data when such data “is prima facie found to be in violation of the provisions of this Act;” Sec. 20, which states that those who fail to comply with provisions of the law’s Chapter IV (Enforcement and Implementation), specifically orders from law enforcement agencies, shall face a maximum imprisonment of 6 years or a fine of P100,000 or both, for each noncompliance; Sec. 24, which creates an inter-agency body under the Office of the President (OP) to be known as the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) for “policy coordination” and “formulation and enforcement of the national cybersecurity plan;”
Sec. 26(a), which details the powers and functions of the CICC;
Sec. 28, which provides for the crafting of the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) by the Departments of Science and Technology, Justice and Interior and Local Government.