A new cybercrime law in the Philippines that could see people sentenced to 12 years in jail for posting defamatory comments on Facebook or Twitter is generating outrage among netizens and rights groups.
The stated aim of the cybercrime law is to fight online pornography, hacking, identity theft and spamming in the conservative Catholic nation amid police complaints they lack the legal tools to stamp out Internet crime.
However it also includes a blanket provision that puts the country's criminal libel law into force in cyberspace, except that the penalties for Internet defamation are much tougher compared with old media.
Already, five petitions claiming the law is unconstitutional have been filed with the Supreme Court. All say the law infringes on freedom of expression, due process, equal protection and privacy of communication. One of the petitions was filed by Senator Teofisto Guingona, the lone opponent when the bill was voted on in the Senate.
"Without a clear definition of the crime of libel and the persons liable, virtually any person can now be charged with a crime -- even if you just re-tweet or comment on an online update or blog post," the good Senator told the court.