The Philippine government has enacted the Cybercrime Prevention Law, a piece of legislation aimed to regulate unlawful internet use. Nicknamed E-Martial Law by human rights advocates, this law has been deemed a broad instrument for violating people’s rights to free speech, press, and due process as it targets a crime termed “online libel”. The law gives the Philippine government expanded power to surveille people’s activity on the internet and specifically charge political dissenters with criminal activity, simply for expressing opinions against the government.
“Through the enactment of Martial Law in the in 1970s, the Philippine ruling elite sought to quell people’s protest on the streets through censorship, police brutality, mass incarceration, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and other unmitigated human rights violations. Now, E-Martial Law seeks the same in a digital age,” stated Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson of BAYAN USA. “But just as Martial Law culminated in a people’s organized overthrow of the fascist dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, E-Martial Law is being met with widespread and worldwide protests on the internet as well as in the streets.”
Filipino-Americans understand this struggle, especially in the context of the United States, a country that prides itself in valuing its First Amendment rights and freedoms. Just a year ago, similar acts, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), were on the table. The passage of these bills were halted in the United States Congress in January 2012 by people who mobilized and rallied in the streets against the potential threat such legislation held against freedom of speech and due process.
“The internet has served as a vast platform for creative protest,” said Ellorin. “Activists have sought social networking websites as an innovative space to increase public knowledge about economic, social, and political injustices. The internet has allowed them to gain broad support all over the world in fights against oppressive regimes, like that of President NoyNoy Aquino.”
Internet rights continues to be a relevant issue as the United States engages in secret trade negotiations known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Critics of the TPPA warn that the neoliberal free trade agreement will trample on people’s access to basic rights, such as food, water, medicine, and even the internet. Private corporations will be granted unbridled rights to patent and own otherwise public resources solely for their profitable gain.
“Laws drafted by the ruling class to prevent ‘internet crimes’ benefit a privileged few: big corporations and ruling regimes who want to maintain power and control over ideas and facts,” Ellorin explained. “Efforts to criminalize the development and dissemination of opposing ideas and facts forces the people under surveillance by a fascist state. When every status update and blog post is under strict scrutiny, the people will not be silenced as the government hopes. Our protest will only multiply and find other ways to spread.”
In addition to protests on social media sites, “offline” street protest actions are being conducted in front of the Supreme Court in the Philippines today by broad formations of human rights advocates, journalists, bloggers, netizens, and activists. These groups have vowed to express their dissent against the Cybercrime Prevention Law until it is junked, and have even filed official petitions challenging the law’s constitutionality. BAYAN USA seeks to offer their support from abroad and build an international outcry against internet tyranny and human rights abuses in the Philippines.
Join BAYAN USA in this protest by clicking the following link and signing an online petition drafted by the Kabataan (Youth) Partylist against the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012: http://www.change.org/
BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 18 progressive Filipino organizations in the U.S. representing youth, students, women, workers, artists, and human rights advocates. As the oldest and largest overseas chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S. For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org.