Exactly a year ago today, on Sept. 12, 2012, President BS Aquino III quietly signed the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 into law.
For many, President Aquino’s signing of the new law displayed either his ignorance of the developing role of the Internet and social media in our way of life as Filipinos or a sinister plan to use the badly-crafted law as a tool to silence citizens.
Online and offline communities were surprised by President Aquino’s signing of the law. One by one, we stood up and condemned Republic Act 10175: Constitutionalists and deans of the most prominent law schools, advocates of human rights and civil liberties, activists and hackers, progressive Members of Congress and senators, bloggers and netizens.
Individually and together, we made the cyberspace and social media a battleground for Internet freedom.
We turned our profile photos and display pics to plain black to symbolize the death of Internet freedom under RA 10175 and to condemn President Aquino’s vigorous defense of the blasted law. The Philippine portion of cyberspace went into mourning over the attempted murder of Internet freedom, courtesy of President Aquino and his minions in Congress.
A total of 15 petitions – an awesome number which says a lot about the absence of any respectable persons defending President Aquino’s law – were filed before the Supreme Court, asking the tribunal to declare the law unconstitutional and throw to it the trash bin. Eventually, we scored an extraordinary 120-day TRO.
Groups, alliances and coalitions were born, among them were the PIFA, BAND, and the #notocybercrimelaw to keep the pressure on government and to tell authorities that they cannot shove down the law down our throats.
The Cybercrime Law was so unpopular, unconstitutional and wrong on so many levels that even diehard pro-BS Aquino, pro-PNoy bloggers and netizens assailed their beloved President for it. (Another pro-BS Aquino group even attempted to insert itself, thru proxies, among the ranks of Supreme Court petitioners through a hastily-crafted petition which the tribunal rightly threw out.)
Protests upon protests – both offline and online – which were mounted by a rainbow of groups and individuals from various persuasions would later emerge victorious. The valiant pro-Internet freedom lawyers successfully argued our cases before the Supreme Court, hitting President BS Aquino where it hurt as the barristers pointed out and endlessly jabbed at least five obviously unconstitutional provisions of the law.
All this time, President BS Aquino would come out himself and through his spokespersons asserting the law’s constitutionality. But even the solicitor-general cannot accept but concede during Oral Arguments before the court that the Cybercrime Law has a number of very dangerous provisions.
The court would later reward our efforts: It granted an extraordinary indefinite TRO against the implementation of RA 10175.
Our successful campaign against President BS Aquino’s Cybercrime Law is a shining example of what we could accomplish together. It is also an inspiration to fellow bloggers and netizens in Southeast Asia where their governments are attempting to copy what President BS Aquino did.
Let’s now fast forward to today: We now again face President BS Aquino in what has been described as the biggest political scandal of his righteous presidency.
Bloggers and netizens used the cyberspace and social media to call for a successful Million People March last August 26, 2013 at the Luneta, with counterpart demonstrations across the country and in many places around the world where Filipinos live and work.
This Sept. 13, bloggers and netizens are joining hands with personalities like Mother Mary John Mananzan, Fr. Joe Dizon, Prof. Judy Taguiwalo, Henry Khan, Catholic schools from across the country, performers like Darryl Shy, Diday and a long list of organizations to mount #ForwardMarch, a logical sequel to the Million People March.
We say #ForwardMarch because the fight continues until President BS Aquino abolishes the corrupt pork barrel system, until the government charges Janet Lim Napoles and her co-conspirators in Congress and the Senate for plunder, and until we see precious public funds are directly allotted to vital social services we citizens need.
Jeane Napoles, the self-styled celebrity daughter of JLN, is providing ammunition to our movement. Jeane’s Instagram and social media photos, and JLN posing with senators and congressmen, betray all that is wrong with leaders who forget their mandate and are ready to associate themselves with persons of questionable character — are was it but natural to pose with friends with benefits?
The developing and growing role of social media and the Internet in our lives — whether as individuals, companies, groups and as concerned citizens — should make us not regret but instead proud of what we did as a community last year when we fought the Cybercrime Law.
We cannot imagine how Malacanang would have used the Cybercrime Law to harass, scare and criminalize our use of the Internet and social media to organize and coordinate protest actions, to expose the links between the Napoles family and officials of government, and to keep on pushing for good governance. The great thing is that we ourselves disarmed President BS Aquino last year of his Cybercrime Law and he cannot use it for his and his party mates’ defense and offense this time around.
The Internet and social media has become an important part of the way of life of a growing number of Filipinos. We have used it for rescue and relief during calamities and disasters, to support the passage of the Reproductive Health Law, and to help raise awareness of citizens during elections.
This time around, the challenge is far bigger but the outcome would be epic. A government without pork barrel, plunderers and thieves jailed, and a bigger budget for social services – these could be within reach only if we use our social media capital wisely, focus on the goals, reach out and form a strongest possible unity with individuals and organizations online and offline, expose deceptive statements of Malacanang and never give up.
President BS Aquino and his cohorts benefiting from and defending the pork barrel system are challenging bloggers, netizens and our other fellow citizens.