A foul stench awoke me from my near four-month coma in the blog-o-verse, the kind that stays in your mouth and mind, the kind that hangs around you like a shadow that you can’t shake. It was a stench I hoped never to torture

Earlier this year, members from both houses of the US Congress attempted to pass the equally controversial SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act, for the Senate) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act, for the Lower House) and received the same backlash from many sectors not just locally, but even around the world. Eventually, both bills were pulled in light of the increasing criticism and they have been shelved for the meantime.

Demonstrators protest the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, especially for its clause providing stiff penalties for libel. Sadly, the Supreme Court has postponed hearings on the law for next week, leaving the law to take effect on October 3rd as scheduled.

And just days ago, the highly controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act (which can be read in full by clicking HERE) was passed into law by President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III, after breezing through the Upper House of Congress (Senate). The law, while aimed to address issues of cybercrimes such as cyber-bullying, cybersex, child pornography, data theft, piracy and even libel, has garnered negative attention from many sectors for its vague definitions (especially the libel and piracy clauses) and repressive punishments for each offense.

As if passing such a controversial law was not bad enough, add to this the fact that more important legislation such as the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill had yet to be voted upon and has laid on the wayside for some time now.

So what has caused the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 to sow anger and fear among the Internet-using populace, you may ask. Well, one can refer to the article published on GMA Network’s site, which makes use of information from InterAksyon.com, ABS-CBN, ANC and GMA-7 among others. You may click HERE for the full article.

To sum it up, you can go to jail for up to 12 years and pay an exorbitant P1,000,000 fine say, for posting a meme making fun of Senator Tito Sotto on Facebook. And to boot, anyone who shares your photo or even likes it can be imprisoned and fined as well. And as Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III (the lone “NO” vote in the Senate) said, even Mark Zuckerberg himself could be held liable since due to the vague nature of the libel clause, it covers all parties with any degree of involvement on the meme I mentioned as an example.

Senator Tito Sotto, after being subjected to relentless criticism over information he plagiarized from bloggers in his anti-RH Bill arguments in the Senate, has come out and admitted that he was one of those who inserted the libel clause into the law at the last minute, stating that it was meant to address cyber-bullying. Somehow, the idea that he inserted this to try and silence his growing number of critics is not as far-fetched as it may seem… And very scary, since just about anyone can use that to exact vengeance at anyone who they feel has slighted them.

What is disturbing is that a country known for its peaceful revolts against bad leaders has suddenly assumed a mantle of censorship like that of the authoritarian regimes in China, Iran and even North Korea. This is in direct contrast to a declaration by the United Nations regarding Internet freedom as a basic human right, which can be read by clicking HERE.

And with the law set to take effect by midnight of today, it looks like we are going to be in for a second era of state-sponsored censorship since we gained our independence. And unless something happens soon, I may have to give up my blog and social media accounts for good. But it isn’t to say I will take this quietly. and I hope that the good fight for our rights will continue until the draconian aspects of this law are struck down as unconstitutional. And so I leave you all with Article 3, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution to remind us of our right to freedom of expression:

“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

Until next time, if that day comes around.

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