MANILA’S MAINSTREAM MEDIA reported this morning, October 9, that the Philippine Supreme Court has issued a temporary restraining order holding in abeyance the implementation of the controversial Republic Act 10175, or the Anti-Cybercrime Law of 2012.
The news websites of Inquirer and ABS-CBN News, and GMA News. three of the biggest print and broadcast agencies in the country, reported that Supreme Court justices unanimously voted to suspend implementation of the law. At least 15 petitions against the Cybercrime law had been filed with the Supreme Court since the law took effect earlier this month.
The two news sites quoted an unnamed member of the Supreme Court as the primary source of their reports. The Supreme Court however has not yet made an official announcement.
It is also not clear if the Supreme Court is scheduling oral arguments among the concerned parties while the TRO is in effect.
The law has come under fire from media, civil society organizations and lawyers groups because of concerns that the law stifles freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
The law was initially designed to penalize crimes committed using the internet; however, the version passed by Congress also imposed the crime of libel over the internet, and increased the penalty for libel by one degree. In addition, the law also grants the state vast powers to take down websites and conduct searches and raids based only on prima facie evidence.
Human Rights Watch, a human rights monitoring group, hailed reports of the TRO, and called on the tribunal to strike down what it called a “seriously flawed law.”
“Congress, if it still wants to have a law governing online activity, should ensure that such a law will not infringe on civil liberties, human rights, the Constitution and the Philippines’s obligations under international law. All provisions in Philippine law that allow for imprisonment for peaceful expression should be repealed. Congress should also ensure that any discussion on proposed laws be done in a transparent manner,” said Brad Adams, Asia Director of Human Rights Watch.