Angst over Ph anti-Cybercrime law traces roots to Filipino love-hate relationship with ‘freedom of speech’

At the core of the brouhaha surrounding the recently-enacted Republic Act 10175, a.k.a. the Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, is the Filipino’s love-hate relationship with “freedom of expression” of which “free speech” is a subset. On one hand, Filipinos love their “freedom of speech” and venerate the notion practically alongside their Santo Niños. On the other hand, Filipinos are renowned for being onion-skinned crybabies, consistently unable to handle obvious truths staring them in the face and, as such, quick to take violent offense over perceived slights against their fragile self-esteem…

There seems to be something wrong with a psyche that makes us so vulnerable to getting upset or offended so easily. Most Filipinos get offended so easily from a perceived indiscretion and are often unable to move on to something bigger or higher than such trivial pursuits. We tend to be consumed with words that should mean nothing to us if they were untrue. This demonstrates a real sign of having an unhealthy ego and insecurity. As someone aptly put it, Filipinos can be onion skinned cry-babies.

In this sense, perhaps there is a disconnect between the way Filipinos regard true freedom of expression in the way Western societies originally intended the concept to be applied. Freedom of speech seems to be a square peg being hammered into the round slot carved for it in Philippine society by so-called Filipino “thought leaders”. The outcome of this is the vacuous “debate” we are seeing surrounding the concept today exacerbated by the hasty and underhanded enactment of RA 10175 by officers of the law who Filipinos had voted to be their representatives.

Filipinos, in reality, are not intellectually equipped to handle the complex of privilege and responsibility that underlies “freedom of speech”. Facing one way, Filipinos discretely gossip, slander, and backstab one another with malicious gusto then, facing the other way, banter with one another while exhibiting a chillingly congenial demeanour marked by our renowned caninesque smiles. When one begs to differ to the popular tagline, one is branded walang pakisama (unwilling to to go with the flow) and considered to be full of “negativity”. Despite the abundance and accessibility of information and having one of the most global populations on the planet (owing to our OFW “heroes”), Filipinos continue to be insular in the perspective they take to facing their most pressing issues and challenges.

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Freedom of (and, presumably, access to) information, many say, will bring Filipinos into the 21st Century. But does that necessarily follow? Consider that most basic class of information upon which much of modern human civilisation runs — time. Practically every Filipino has access to the time — whether it be via a timepiece strapped to their wrists or via clocks that are all but omnipresent: hanging on walls and displayed on mobile phones and car dashboards among others places convenient for quick checks. Yet Filipinos continue to epically fail at being on time. “Filipino time” (synonymous with having no concept of time) continues to be the bane of efforts to make Filipinos more collectively productive and behave like modern human beings. In short, Filipinos fail to make productive use of essential information on the time of the day available at the twist of a wrist.

It begs the obvious question:

Is the assumption that Filipinos will benefit from more information a valid one?

This is an important point to consider as it raises disturbing questions about entire historical and philosophical movements that Filipinos have come to hold dear — ideas around access to choice, the sense of entitlement we feel to democratic governance, and our veneration of various “freedoms” we would like to think we enjoy.

The 1983 assassination of opposition leader Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr was where the heroic aura surrounding self-appointed champions of “free speech” in the Philippines first gained a foothold in the hearts and minds of the majority of otherwise politically-oblivious Filipinos. The tumultuous lead up from 1983 to the 1986 Edsa “revolution” saw a proliferation of what under the regime of then President Ferdinand Marcos were regarded as subversive and seditious material — information including opinion pieces, news reports, slogans, and symbols that delivered messages critical of the Marcos government. Back then, to the average 1980s Filipino mind, all the hush-hush reading and distribution of what were then material that could land you in jail if found in your posssession made us feel a sense of privilege to be “involved” in a greater “fight”. Then it all became normal — since 1986, every Pinoy and his askal could voice an “opinion” on anything.

It’s all been good. But did it all actually do good?

That is where it all becomes debatable — and where the whole point seems to have been lost in all the hysterics surrounding how RA 10175 supposedly heralds the advent of “cyber martial law” in the Philippines. It’s all become quaintly amusing at best.

23 Replies to “Angst over Ph anti-Cybercrime law traces roots to Filipino love-hate relationship with ‘freedom of speech’”

  1. For the first time ever, at least with my own eyes, the psyche and the reasoning of the typical Filipino netizen has never been so derailed due to rage, that I feel so entertained and compelled to show that “beautiful ugliness” of massive paradoxical proportions. I think we should remember Friedrich Nietzsche’s quote again and again in times of controversies like this:

    “Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes into you.”

  2. Here is an idea worth sharing:

    Senate Bill 14344. An act creating AN ANTI-DICTATORSHIP LAW in the Republic of the Philippines that punishes all acts and/or omissions that totally or partially diminishes, restricts or controls freedoms, democracy, rights and all other acts or omissions that allows deliberate or subtle control of the branches of government, their functions, duties and responsibilities, media, propaganda, the use and abuse of the machinery of state and all other acts of governance in relation thereof. Trash the cyber-crime law!

  3. All day on Facebook my status update wall has been bombarded with paranoia and messages of “defiance” of the law. It’s one of those days when I got really annoyed I want to bitch about everyone; one of them even asked me why I didn’t black out my face as a sign of “protest.”

    I told him that I find no need to black out my face to join the fad. In fact, no one has to if they bothered to read their basic human rights and knew their responsibilities.

    The only thing that a person has to do right now is to just continue to talk about what they’ve always talked about online, without giving in to either side. They’re both filled with douchebags, anyway.

    1. Where do we get some kind of sober legal opinion from someone not flying high with the whole outrage fad sweeping the chattering classes? Even reports from the foreign media such as this CBS News article merely quotes Guingona’s now famous “If you click ‘like,’ you can be sued” assertion.

      Ironically, Butch Dado lawyer and hubby of Noemi Dado who is one of the promoters of the Black Tuesday protests does not seem worried as evident in his article on the subject

      A cursory reading of the law will reveal it to be simply an updated version of a hodge-podge of existing laws.

      For instance, libel has always been a crime, whether committed online or the old-fashioned, printed way. Thus, it is Article 353 of the Penal Code that defines libel as “a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or nay act, omission, condition, status or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one already dead.


      And there are sufficient safeguards to ensure that the law-enforcement authorities (in this case the PNP and the NBI) do not go overboard in going after cybercriminals. They need a court warrant (from the Regional Trial Courts) to interdict and gather admissible evidence of cybercriminal activities. Of course, there is no ironclad guarantee against abuse. But the cybercrime law has enough clearly outlined procedures to ensure that civil rights will be protected.

  4. a black day

    With the cybercrime bill now law, the country has lost any pretence of being a democracy -even a ‘flawed democracy’ as stated/categorised by the UN,- and also any hope of real economic progress and meaningful job opportunities for 90%+ of the population.(what happened to the p-noy promise of more jobs at home!) (the other 10% – ” i’m alright, juan”, will keep their heads down and their mouths shut, as intended and expected), and of course the media, and now the supreme court, will do as they are told. Money talks – it’s just the citizens that cannot.
    It is also no coincidence that this law was rushed through and enacted in time for 2013 campaigning. Forget the child traffickers, internet scams, porn etc, this is all about silencing criticism and maintaining the status quo.(DoJ is opening a special cybercrime office with 100 prosecutors! Clear where the priorities lie, and don’t expect SC to go against the bill/law – already a done deal) i.e. a divided and feudal society – my god, jinkee pacquaio is running for vice-governor and mannys brother for congressman – a new dynasty arises – no education, ability, or passion needed just a sense of business self-interest and some bad videoke/t-shirts for the masses, and being part of the club. morons with money welcomed. no wonder these people are laughed at by society in europe.

    A cheap subservient workforce and compliant population in an economic oligarchy and a political autocracy is always the goal – and to make matters worse the same clans rule both camps (and all trapos are saying the bill was nothing to do with them!! Hypocritical liars and idiots), and there is not one politician who dares put their head above the parapet. Oppose anything and your pork barrel/bank account suffers! Where is the passion and principles, or the political warriors who champion the cause of the country/people

    Corruption and abuse of power at its worst by the aquino administration. No wonder FoI was just a blatant campaign lie. And no surprise that p-noy is now in hiding, as he does whenever there is a problem. Is he really ninoys son! Hard to believe, and so ironic that he establishes a digital martial law. Ninoy will be turning in his grave. Cory will be doing the ironing.

    The dynastic families have tightened their grip on power and wealth at the expense of every filipino without even a bullet being fired or even a raised voice by the intelligentia or media sheep.(in the Star they are even headlining Philippines today as 6th most free internet in the world on the day cybercrime bill becomes law – please, did anyone go to journalism school. Adding insult to injury )

    The self-interest and lust for power of the clans, most of whom stole and cheated to get their money in the first place knows no bounds. They are modern day luddites determined that innovation, technology and competition will not expose their weaknesses or threaten the status quo, even though it will be fundamentally detrimental to the social, cultural, and economic prosperity of the country as a WHOLE. And once again the international community will despair at a country which clearly cannot manage itself without bucketfuls of aid and exporting people, legally and illegally.

    Democracies have representatives who listen and are accountable, autocracies have rulers who tell, and who hide behind impunity and legalities.

    Lets hope this outrage makes people think beyond personalities, but somehow i doubt it and maybe that is the saddest thing of all. The politicians know they can get away with anything.

    Where is the fun in the philippines. Tourists should boycott the regime – and investors think twice, which judging by FDI figures they have already done.

    The basket case of asia is running out of time and options and panic measures to try and cintrol something they do not understand.
    social engineering gives way to social destruction

  5. is there any basis for guingona’s statement regarding liking and sharing on fb? i’m no legal expert, but i read the law and it doesn’t say anything about it.

  6. In a way the cyberspace law on libel has brought out the hypocrisy in all of us. People who are in control of venues of discussion such as blogs, forums, etc. have been, for years, exercising wanton censorship and control of free expression. And these is happening all over the web. Members who do not share or present opposing view are either censored or sanctioned if not completely banished. People who can get away with murder by maliciously defaming others because they can is the staple in cyberspace. We all do it.

    Wild accusations and allegations of wrongdoing are passed off as legit opinion without regard to fair and balance criticisms. Even in-house rules and regulation are sometimes disregarded to suit one’s personal interest and protect one’s turf. Nobody is innocent.

    On the issue of Filipinos being onion-skinned, I agree and I have scars to prove it. But my scars is insignificant and even worthless compared to the ongoing violation of free expression in online talks. People who are so good in dishing out offensive remarks but are crybabies to take criticisms back just brazenly clamp down opposing views.For them the communication is always one-way: their way. But that is not to say that only one side has the monopoly of wrongdoing. Numerous times, libelous remarks from a blogger initiate libelous response. We’re all guilty.

    Bottom line, we have free on-line talks so free that nobody pays attention to responsibility and accountability anymore. Cyberspace is so free that we no longer put premium to validation of facts and fair reporting. Online discussion is so free that violating other people’s right is no longer an issue.

    Will the cyberspace law straighten all of the above? I really don’t know. All I know is that we are all guilty of misconduct that we lost the moral ground to oppose what the law contemplates.

    1. I share your exact sentiments. WE may have lost moral ground but I guess someone has to make a stand for the future users of cyberspace. This law is definitely NOT it but its a start. Making this mistake early in our country’s attempt to pave things for the future is normal. What the purpose of discussion and debate should be right now is to make the internet better for its future users. We cannot let the abuse, lack of responsibility and accountability spill to the next generation of users. Its sad to think that 10175 was thought up by a man who so poorly executed the idea, BUT we should stop talking about the man and start talking about the idea instead.

      From beningn0’s article: Cybercrime: US laws seek to protect ideas, Philippine laws seek to protect people. He quoted Eleanor Roosevelt:

      “Small minds discuss people;
      Mediocre minds discuss events; while,
      Great minds discuss ideas.”

  7. This is funny.Does anyone here think Benigno is really HIS name?
    SERIOUSLY folks,go on-line using a non-traceable usb stick,using a fake personality,and FINALLY using VPN ENCRYPTION.OPEN,PPTP it is all good,technology and no one will know who you are anyway.I come from a place where you NEVER volunteer information,so all these people going on ‘FACEBOOK’ to ‘tell the world’ who they are,what they like(as if anyone cares,ha!) look like real IDIOTS to me.When the internet came along people were warned not to put their identity on-line,and now because Zuckerborg puts out his ‘social networking’ site everyone thinks it is OK to ignore the warnings of yesterday.REMEMBER KIDS,YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT,but if you cant,at least be anonymous,get it?as if I should even have to say this,HA!

        1. I don’t think so. Those who voted for P-Noy and those who abstain from voting like you deserves him. That is so because your silence means acceptance of what the outcome of the election would be. Only those who voted for candidates other than P-Noy are qualified to assert that they do not deserve him.

  8. When someone hits send/enter…NO ONE KNOWS WHO ACTUALLY DID IT….chill….proving you actually did something is a lot harder than saying “Hey,look it is on his facebook page,he must have said it’,DUH!!!!
    BUT,keeping your business to yourself and not ever putting your identity ‘on-line’ is a valuable commodity.Anyone who does not fall victim to Zuckerborg’s ‘tell me’ machine is very smart (thank you,thank you very much!) and a virtual genius.THINK ABOUT IT,are you going to be hired by a secret organization if you have a FACEBOOK account?Please dont make me laugh!!!!! btw,you really think anyone on this site is who they say they are?????? so….how to prove what?
    relax!!!! OH,and if you are going online and really telling people who you are,what you like and all about yourself,really … are you that dumb? well then,YOU BROKE THE UNWRITTEN RULE OF THE AGES,which is…NEVER VOLUNTEER INFORMATION,NEVER!!!!! and deserve what you get,of course, for having such a big mouth!!!!

    1. well, there is an opt out option there. and even if you choose to be part of the system, you can limit the exposure. such as when you login thru your smart phone, you can choose not to sync in as it copies contacts to and from the system. the amount of info you put there such as your birthday (i have deleted or hidden mine long ago after finding out how) and my info box is virtually empty.

      i basically just keep the account to keep in touch with friends who have devaalued mediums such as emails and messengers. the only gripe i have with fb now is that formerly it did not store chat logs, now it does as messages. just a bit more time dedicated to houskeeping but basically you limit theprints you leave online if it is non-essential.

      i never saw the point of twitter so i never bothered regstering.

  9. The Senators claimed they signed the CyberCrime Law, without reading it. It is a stupid law.
    We will see, if they can implement it. And jail all the Bloggers, who Blog against them…Nahawa na ata, ang pagka sira sa ulo, ang mga Senators…

  10. Guys, don’t waste your time thinking of how to escape or get past technology, it will surely catch up with you eventually.

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