Consumer group TXTPower today challenged President Aquino and Congress to stop the consideration of the so-called Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which it dubbed as “unconstitutional, draconian and a clear and present danger to the world’s social media capital.”
Instead, the group batted for the immediate passage of the Freedom of Information Act which has been languishing in Congress for many years now.
In an initial statement, TXTPower’s board of trustees said that “both the Senate and House versions of the cybercrime bills contain dangerous and draconian provisions that have the huge potential of doing more harm than good. They look less about preventing so-called cybercrimes, and more like an orchestrated attempt to control and limit internet use.”
“Under the bills, government would have the power to take down, sans a court order, websites at any time and anywhere if authorities find alleged prima facie evidence of offenses. This is not unlike the lamentable PIPA/SOPA of the United States being applied by our own Congress here in the Philippines,” said TXTPower.
“We urge Filipino netizens to study the bills, voice out their concerns and prepare for online and offline protest actions,” said TXTPower.
TXTPower said that the bills also pose “serious and grave threats to Filipino citizens’ right to privacy”.
“For example, under the Senate version, the government would have the power to retain all user-identifiable data for a period of six months, from as many individuals it could possibly tag as suspected cybercriminals,” said TXTPower.
The consumer group, which focuses on the rights of users of mobile phones and the internet, noted that the House and Senate did not hold nationwide public hearings and consultations on both bills: “Any and all the country’s 30 million internet users have a stake in these bills but Congress appeared to have deprived them of free, prior and informed consent before lawmakers tried to dismantle the right to privacy and the right to free expression via the proposed measures.”
The absence of meaningful consultations, says TXTPower, explains what is wrong with government’s conception of the internet in particular and information in general.
“The Aquino administrations appears to be interested in getting information about its opponents, but would conveniently cite national security when the people demand full disclosure of government actions and full participation in hammering out measures such as this one,” said TXTPower.
According to TXTPower, “what President Aquino and Congress should work on is not this so-called cybercrime measure. What the country needs and people demand is the immediate enactment of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.”
“That the Aquino-controlled Congress chose to pass the cybercrime bill and continue to ignore the FOI betrays the administration’s hypocrisy about moralistic paeans to good governance. Instead of opening up government to public scrutiny with the FOI, we now see the government going on the offensive with a cybercrime bill that transforms the Philippine internet into one giant place for fishing expeditions on alleged cybercriminals,” said TXTPower.
TXTPower said that the Aquino administration is solely to blame for keeping the Philippines in a list of a small minority of countries still without an FOI law.
“Aside from passing the FOI law, the government should also focus its sights on improving and expanding internet access, curbing corporate abuses by telecommunications companies, and removing taxes on end-users of telecommunications services,” it added.