REEDOM ON THE
telecommunications companies, and SIM card vendors are required to authenticate the National
Identity Card details of prospective customers with the National Database Registration Authority
before providing service.
Furthermore, under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance—a
2007 bill that required ISPs to retain traffic data for a minimum of 90 days, among other
—telecommunications companies were required to keep logs of customer
communications and pass them to security agencies when directed by the PTA. While the bill
officially expired in 2009, the practice is reportedly still active.
In February 2013, the upper house of parliament passed the Fair Trial Act 2012, which had been
approved by the National Assembly in December.
The legislation allows security agencies to seek
a judicial warrant to monitor private communications “to neutralize and prevent [a] threat or any
attempt to carry out scheduled offenses;” and covers information sent from or received in Pakistan
or between Pakistani citizens whether they are resident in the country or not.
The bill was
proposed by Law Minister Farooq Hamid Naek to thwart terrorism, but its critics counter that the
act’s wording leaves it open to abuse, and that it grants powers to a broad range of agencies.
Under the law, service providers face a one-year jail term or a fine of up to PKR 10 million
($103,000) for failing to cooperate with the warrant.
In 2013, a report by Citizen Lab indicated that Pakistani citizens may be vulnerable to oversight
through a software tool present in the country. The “Governmental IT Intrusion and Remote
Monitoring Solutions” known as FinFisher Suite described in the report includes the FinSpy tool,
which attacks the victim’s machine with malware to collect data including Skype audio, key logs,
The analysis found FinFisher’s command and control servers in 36 countries
globally, including Pakistan, on the PTCL network. This does not confirm that actors in Pakistan
are knowingly taking advantage of its capabilities. Nevertheless, civil society organizations called on
PTCL to investigate and disable FinFisher tools.
Pakistan is also reported to be a long-time customer of Narus,
a U.S.-based firm known for
designing technology that allows for monitoring of traffic flows and deep-packet inspection of
internet communications, and some media reports say Pakistani authorities have also acquired
National Database Registration Authority, “Verification of CNICs: Nadra Signs Contract with Three Cell Phone Companies,”
July 29, 2009, http://bit.ly/gNdXsW ; Bilal Sarwari, “SIM Activation New Procedure,” Pak Telecom, September 3, 2010,
Kelly O’Connell, “INTERNET LAW – Pakistan’s Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance, 2007,” Internet Business Law
Services, April 14, 2008, http://www.ibls.com/internet_law_news_portal_view.aspx?s=latestnews&id=2030.
“Senate Passes ‘Fair Trial Bill,’” Dawn, February 1, 2013, http://dawn.com/2013/02/01/senate‐passes‐fair‐trial‐bill/; The
Gazette of Pakistan, “Investigation for Fair Trial Act 2013,” February 22, 2013, http://bit.ly/18esYjq.
Yasir Rehman, “Fair Trial Act Gives Pakistan Authorities Wiretapping Powers,” Central Asia Online, December 28, 2012,
The laws covers the Inter‐Services Intelligence, the police, Intelligence Bureau and the three military intelligence agencies.
See, Digital Rights Foundation, “Fair Trial Bill is an Official Intrusion on Privacy: Digital Rights Foundation,” December 22, 2012,
Morgan Marquis‐Boire et al, “For Their Eyes Only,” Citizen Lab, May 1, 2013, http://bit.ly/ZVVnrb.
Digital Rights Foundation, “Global Coalition Of NGOs Call To Investigate & Disable FinFisher’s Espionage Equipment in
Pakistan,” May 3, 2013, http://bit.ly/18AvwGb.
Timothy Carr, “One U.S. Corporation’s Role in Egypt’s Brutal Crackdown,” Huffington Post, January 28, 2011,
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/timothy‐karr/one‐us‐corporations‐role‐_b_815281.html; “Narus: Security Through
Surveillance,” Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, November 11, 2008, http://hvrd.me/ewSFSg.
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REEDOM ON THE
surveillance technology from China. In 2013, when news reports described the possible
introduction of new filtering software to address the YouTube crisis, some said the information
ministry objected to its additional capacities for monitoring communications. PTA chief Farooq
Ahmed Khan denied any intent to use it for surveillance.
Pakistan is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for traditional journalists, with seven killed
in 2012 alone, either on the job or in reprisal for published reports.
Violence has yet to affect
online journalists in the same way, though they are equally vulnerable to some attacks, such as
double-bombings that target first responders at the scene of one blast with a second, delayed
detonation. In January 2013, twin blasts hit a Shia Muslim community in Quetta, the provincial
capital of Balochistan, killing over 100 people, including three media professionals and Irfan Ali, a
blogger and human rights activist who was helping survivors at the scene.
In a particularly high-profile case, an unknown gunman shot 15-year-old Malala Yousufzai in the
head while she was traveling in a school van in the Taliban-controlled Swat region of Pakistan in
October 2012; she had received threats for writing an online diary for the BBC in 2009.
she used a pseudonym, the diary included personal details about her family; she also appeared in an
online video series for The New York Times,
among other local media appearances, and became an
informal spokesperson promoting education for women, which the Taliban had recently banned.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the shooting, saying she had “divulged secrets of the
mujahideen and Taliban through BBC [sic].”
Yousufzai survived the shooting and was flown to the
United Kingdom where she was treated for a severe head wound.
Pakistan was shocked by the attack, and social media played a significant role in driving public
debate over the case,
which criticized military and intelligence leaders for failing to check the
and prompted a retaliatory online smear campaign accusing Yousufzai of being a U.S.
Local journalists reported Taliban spokesmen contacting them by e-mail and text to defend
the action and warn against negative coverage.
Several other free expression activists and bloggers have also reported receiving death threats.
Many publicize them—and sometimes attract more—on Twitter. Most are sent via text message
from untraceable, unregistered mobile phone connections, often originating from the tribal areas of
the country, and several include specific details from the recipient’s social media profiles or other
“PTA and MoIT has No Set Plan of Action over the Internet Censorship,” Green and White (blog), January 10, 2013,
http://bit.ly/10nnhOt; Anwer Abbas, “PTA, IT Ministry at odds.”
Committee to Protect Journalists, “Journalists Killed in Pakistan,” accessed February 2013, http://bit.ly/9YP7fx.
Michael Ross, “Pakistani Activist Killed in Quetta Attacks,” The World, PRI, January 11, 2013, http://bit.ly/ZDXGeY.
“Diary of a Pakistani School Girl,” BBC News, February 9, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7889120.stm .
Adam B. Ellick, “Class Dismissed: Malala’s Story,” New York Times, October 9, 2012, http://nyti.ms/Tf3CaH.
Marie Brenner, “The Target,” Vanity Fair, April 2013, http://vnty.fr/109Ff7x.
“Pakistan Media Condemn Attack on Malala Yousafzai,” BBC News, October 9, 2012, http://bbc.in/VL9AGh.
Talat Farooq, “Malala is a Mirror,” The News International, October 17, 2012, http://bit.ly/Xlj3CE.
Electron Libre, “Pakistan: Smear Campaign Against Malala on Social Media,” France 24, October 18, 2012,
Sumit Galhotra and Bob Dietz, “After Malala Shooting, Taliban Goes After Media Critics,” CPJ Blog, October 17, 2012,
REEDOM ON THE
online activity. In addition, some militant Islamic groups in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA attack
cybercafés, which they consider sites of moral degradation. In January 2012, an explosion outside
an internet cafe in Peshawar, provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, killed two people;
least three more attacks on cybercafés or mobile phone stores were reported in different areas of
the country in the first half of 2013.
Technical attacks against the websites of NGO’s, opposition groups, and activists are common in
Pakistan but typically go unreported due to self-censorship. Minority organizations such as the
Catholic-run human rights advocacy group National Commission for Justice and Peace have also
been subject to technical attacks. The websites of government agencies are also commonly
attacked, often by ideological hackers attempting to make a political statement. In March 2013, an
unidentified hacker defaced the electoral commission’s website in advance of elections.
defaced websites belonging to the Supreme Court and the PTA in October 2011 demanding stricter
controls for online pornography.
Hackers have also infiltrated Pakistan’s internet registry
PKNIC, which manages the country’s top level domains, including major news websites and
Microsoft and Google regional homepages. The first attack came on November 24, 2012 and
resulted in several sites being defaced, including Google’s search engine, which was replaced with
an image of penguins and a Turkish-language message reading “Pakistan Downed.”
failed to adjust its security and was infiltrated again on February 4, 2013, apparently to highlight
“Bomb Blasts in Pakistan Kill Six, Wound 29,” UPI, January 3, 2012, http://bit.ly/vNBddl.
“Blast in Nowshera Destroys Internet Cafe, Music Store,” Dawn, February 2, 2013, http://bit.ly/X1XVk8; “Fresh Bomb Attacks
Kill 2 Shias, Wound 20 in Pakistan,” Press TV, January 13, 2013, http://bit.ly/Ssoth2; Police: Bomb Blast at Mall in Northwestern
Pakistan Kills 1 Person, Wounds 12,” The Associated Press via Fox News, February 21, 2013, http://fxn.ws/YI5QCq.
Hisham Almiraat, “Cyber Attack on Pakistan's Electoral Commission Website,” Global Voices Advocacy, April 1, 2013,
Shaheryar Popalzai, “Compromised: Official Website of the SC Hacked,” Express Tribune, September 27, 2011,
http://tribune.com.pk/story/261497/hacker‐defaces‐supreme‐court‐website/; Jahanzaib Haque, “Ban Porn or Else: Hacker
Penetrates PTA Site,” Express Tribune, October 10, 2011, http://bit.ly/pLS7cC.
“Cyber Vandalism: Hackers Deface Google Pakistan,” Express Tribune, November 25, 2012, http://bit.ly/SlFhlE.
“Pakistani Hackers Expose PKNIC Vulnerabilities that Caused Defacements of .PK Domains,” Pro Pakistani, November 26,
REEDOM ON THE
The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, currently suspended by the Supreme Court,
would allow authorities to block online content without a warrant, facilitate
government surveillance, and punish online libel with up to 12 years’ imprisonment
Civil society activism fuelled 15 petitions to the Supreme Court to suspend the new
Cybercrime law; its status going forward is unclear (see L
As of March 2013, there were eight proposed bills in the Senate calling for regulation
of online child pornography, gambling, and phishing, which could add to overbroad
restrictions on cybercrime (see L
Obstacles to Access (0-25)
Limits on Content (0-35)
Violations of User Rights (0-40)
*0=most free, 100=least free
REEDOM ON THE
People in the Philippines enjoy nearly unrestricted access to the internet. There have not been any
reports of the government systematically blocking access to online content. This excellent record
was marred in September 2012 by the passage of an anti-cybercrime law boosting official powers to
censor and monitor internet users without judicial oversight.
The Philippines first connected to the internet almost twenty years ago via the Philippine Internet
Foundation, but experienced very low penetration until the government deregulated the industry
in the 1990s, allowing new players to compete with the dominant Philippine Long Distance
Telephone Company (PLDT). Recent mergers and acquisitions, however, mean PLDT controls 70
percent of the market and still lacks the kind of competition that would spur it to innovate or
become more efficient for the end user. In addition to this the de facto monopoly, lack of
infrastructure and bureaucratic government regulation continue to slow penetration. Mobile phone
use is more widespread, though this has yet to result in higher mobile internet use.
During the coverage period for this report, the senate approved the notorious Cybercrime
Prevention Act, which President Benigno Aquino Jr. signed into law in September. Civil society
groups and lawyers immediately petitioned the Supreme Court to issue a restraining order against
it, particularly provisions that allow the government to block content without a court order,
monitor online activities with the help of service providers, and classify libel—already criminalized
under the penal code to the detriment of free expression—as a cybercrime punishable by harsher
jail terms than the same offence committed offline. The court, under newly-appointed Chief Justice
Maria Sereno, suspended the law’s implementation indefinitely on grounds that it may be
unconstitutional. Sereno’s predecessor was unseated in an impeachment trial related to corruption
allegations in May 2012.
This suspension, while positive, left the status of the law ambiguous, and drew attention to its
creators’ intent in ways that are already chilling online expression. In oral arguments defending it, a
government lawyer warned that “liking” a defamatory Facebook post is tantamount to committing
libel. A libel complaint over a YouTube video is pending, since the investigation cannot continue
until the status of the law is clarified. Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police formed an Anti-
Cybercrime Group based on one of the act’s provisions in early 2013; it is unclear how the law’s
suspension will affect the group’s activities.
REEDOM ON THE
Internet penetration in the Philippines stood at 36 percent in 2012.
Usage is concentrated in
urban areas, with rural areas largely underserved.
A significant number of users still rely on dial-up
connections, as just two percent of the population had fixed broadband subscriptions in 2012.
Mobile phone subscriptions, on the other hand, have increased significantly in recent years, with
penetration reaching 107 percent in 2012, indicating that some users have more than one device.
SMS has been hugely popular for 2G cell phone users since the mid-2000s. Penetration of 3G
devices enabling internet access remained comparatively low, at 11 percent, at the end of 2012.
the first quarter of 2013, leading mobile service providers Globe Telecommunications and PLDT
wireless subsidiary Smart Communications began expanding 4G LTE coverage outside the
metropolitan area surrounding the capital, Manila.
Smart was also reportedly testing to improve
mobile data speeds.
The government does not place any known restrictions on internet connectivity. Indeed, bridging
the digital divide through development of ICT infrastructure is one of the goals of the government’s
Philippine Digital Strategy for 2011 to 2016. As a result, it is now testing TV White Space
technologies—which tap previously unused frequencies and overcome physical obstacles like
concrete or dense foliage—to increase connectivity in poor rural areas.
However, steep broadband
subscription fees still stand in the way of higher penetration in a country where 42 percent of the
population lives on US$2 a day.
In 2013, even as legislators urged telecoms to cut rates by 50
percent in order to promote universal access,
the average cost of broadband subscriptions
remained between $7 and $19 a month.
An industry monopoly has contributed to these inflated costs. In the 1990s, government legislation
allowed competitors a foothold in the market, previously dominated by the PLDT, a company that
International Telecommunication Union, “Percentage of Individuals Using the Internet, 2000‐2012,”
Tam Noda, “Phl to Test TV White Space Technology in Rural Areas,” February 1, 2013, Philippine Star,
International Telecommunication Union, “Fixed (Wired)‐Broadband Subscriptions, 2000‐2012.”
International Telecommunication Union, “Mobile‐Cellular Telephone Subscriptions, 2000‐2012.”
Mary Meeker and Liang Wu, “2012 Internet Trends,” Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, http://kpcb.com/insights/2012‐
Marlon C. Magtira, “Globe, Smart Activate New LTE Sites,” February 20, 2013, Manila Standard Today,
“Philippines Network Tests Huawei Supplied TDD‐LTE Infrastructure,” Cellular‐News, March 21, 2013, http://www.cellular‐
Tam Noda, “Phl to Test TV White Space Technology in Rural Areas.”
Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, “Philippines Country Briefing,” Multidimensional Poverty Index Data Bank,
(University of Oxford, 2013) http://www.ophi.org.uk/wp‐content/uploads/Philippines‐2013.pdf?cda6c1.
Newsbytes.ph, “79% of Philippines Homes no Internet, Telcos Urged to Cut Rates,” January 21, 2013, Digital News Asia,
Based on current rates published by the three biggest providers: Sun Broadband (owned by Digitel and acquired by PLDT in
October 2011), PLDT, and Globe Telecom as of March, 2013.
REEDOM ON THE
had been US-owned and Philippine government-owned before its current incarnation as a private
However, in the absence of antitrust laws to promote healthy competition between
businesses, the PLDT has retained its dominance though a series of mergers and acquisitions. After
acquiring majority shares in rival Digitel Telecommunications in 2011, it now controls 70 percent
of the country’s ICT sector.
Although the industry appears to have diversified, some of these changes are superficial: The most
recent government statistics reported 304 registered internet service providers (ISPs) as of 2010,
yet most connect to the international internet through the PLDT. The company still owns the
majority of fixed-line connections—and consequently the most stable backbone—as well as the
10,000-kilometer domestic fiber optic network that connects to several international networks. It
also owns or manages several international cable landings,
and offers the highest total bandwidth
capacity of 250 Gbps.
By the end of 2012, the only remaining challenger to PLDT’s Smart was Globe
Telecommunications, which purchased debts amounting to billions of Philippine pesos from
struggling competitor Bayan Telecommunications in 2013 with a view to acquiring the company.
The rivalry has not resulted in the kind of competition which reduces costs and increases efficiency
for the end user. Instead, Smart and Globe have been mired in negotiations over interconnecting
their networks for several years, which has also delayed the development of broadband services in
Interconnection allows customers to communicate with users on rival networks
without incurring extra costs.
Companies entering the market go through a two-stage process. First, they must obtain a
congressional license that involves parliamentary hearings and the approval of both the upper and
lower houses. Second, they need to apply for certification from the National Telecommunications
Commission, which has regulated the industry with quasi-judicial powers and developed tariff and
technical regulations, licensing conditions, and competition and interconnection requirements since
its creation in 1979. The constitution limits foreign entities to only 40 percent ownership of a
business to be established in the country. Internet service is currently classified as a value-added
service and is therefore subject to fewer regulatory requirements than mobile and fixed phone
Mary Ann Ll. Reyes, “PLDT: From Voice to Multi‐Media ( First of Two Parts), Philippine Star,
Winston Castelo, “Controversy on PLDT‐Digitel Merger,” The Official Website of Congressman Winston “WINNIE” Castelo,
November 22, 2011, http://www.winniecastelo.net/controversy‐on‐pldt‐digitel‐merger/.
National Statistics Office, “Philippines in Figures 2012,” Republic of the Philippines, accessed July 2013,
Erwin A. Alampay, “ICT Sector Performance Review for Philippines,” in Sector Performance Review (SPR)/Telecom Regulatory
Environment (TRE) (LIRNEasia, 2011).
Darwin G. Amojelar, “PLDT says Internet Bandwidth Capacity Up More than Half with Asia Submarine Cable Project,”
InterAksyon, February 22, 2013, http://bit.ly/1bmgY0r.
“Globe Used ‘Excess Funds’ to Buy Bayan Debt – CFO”, January 7, 2013, Rappler, http://www.rappler.com/business/19281‐
Aya Lowe, "NTC to Intervene in PLDT‐Globe Interconnection Row,” March 6, 2013, Rappler,
REEDOM ON THE
Institutions governing the ICT sector are highly bureaucratic, often with ambiguous or overlapping
responsibilities which slow the pace of development. Successive government administrations have
modified the structure of official ICT bodies, including President Benigno Aquino.
Order 47 of
2011 established an Information and Communications Technology Office under the
Department of Science and Technology (DOST) tasked with conducting research, development,
and capacity-building in the ICT industry.
However, the division of labor between this office and
the Department of Transportation and Communications, which also deals with ICT-related
communications, as well as the National Computer Center and the Telecommunications Office,
was hard to perceive.
A streamlining process is anticipated. In 2012, Senate Bill No. 50 was passed to create a separate
and specialized Department of Information and Communications Technology. The bill is pending
before a bicameral conference committee before being transmitted to the president for approval.
If authorized, all other ICT-related agencies will be abolished and their powers and personnel
transferred to the new department. Some DOST officials challenged the necessity of creating the
All relevant government bodies are headed by presidential appointees. Critics believe this creates a
dependence on the incumbent administration and Congress, which determines their budget.
In the year’s most significant development, the 2012 Cybercrime Prevention Act was passed into
law in September, threatening to infringe on the Philippines’ otherwise open online environment
by introducing content restrictions that even a government lawyer admitted are unconstitutional.
Under the now-suspended act, the Department of Justice can block online information without a
While the new anti-cybercrime act remains on hold, there is no systematic government censorship
of online content, and internet users in the Philippines enjoy unrestricted access to both domestic
and international sources of information. A wide range of Web 2.0 applications, including
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and international blog-hosting services, are freely accessible. No
incidents of politically-motivated website blocking have been reported.
The OpenNet Initiative
Executive Order No. 47, June 23, 2011, Official Gazette, http://www.gov.ph/2011/06/23/executive‐order‐no‐47/.
Ricardo Saludo, “Will ICT finally get its own department?,” Manila Times, April 30, 2012,
Patrick Villavicencio, “DOST Withdraws Support for Dept of ICT,” August 23, 2012, InterAksyon,
Erwin A. Alampay, “ICT Sector Performance Review for Philippines.”
Jacques D.M. Gimeno, “Democracy as the Missing Link: Global Rankings of e‐Governance in Southeast Asia,” in E‐Governance
and Civic Engagement: Factors and Determinants of E‐Democracy ed. A. Manoharan and M. Holzer (Hershey, PA: IGI Global,
REEDOM ON THE
found no evidence of national filtering,
though several organizations reported monitoring and
filtering activities in the workplace.
The Cybercrime Prevention Act, signed into law on September 12, 2012, allows the Department
of Justice to “restrict or block” content without a court order, including some overly-broad
categories like “cybersex,” which fails to differentiate between consensual and illegal acts.
law’s most troubling provisions introduce punitive jail terms for online libel, outlined in Violations
of User Rights.
The reaction to the passing of this punitive piece of legislation was encouraging, if full of apparent
contradictions. Before it took effect, the act’s own sponsor, Senator Edgardo Angara, stated that he
would amend it to require a court order in support of content restrictions: “I’m trying to trace in
the record who introduced this kind of provision,” he told local journalists.
quickly to prevent the act’s implementation, and different groups and stakeholders had filed 15
petitions with the Supreme Court to question its constitutionality by January 2013.
the justices issued a 120-day restraining order to prevent the law from being acted upon, which the
court extended indefinitely in February 2013; in oral arguments, the government’s lawyer
acknowledged that the clauses relating to content restrictions were unconstitutional.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago filed a rival bill with congress that, if passed, would repeal the
Santiago told journalists her Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom bill “provides for
court proceedings in cases where websites or networks are to be taken down and prohibits
censorship of content without a court order.”
It is not clear how much support Santiago’s bill may
attract, and passing a bill in the Philippines can take months or even years.
As of March 2013, there are eight other proposed bills in the Senate calling for regulation of online
content pertaining to child pornography, gambling, and phishing, some of which would require
ISPs, web hosting services and educational institutions to monitor users and disable access to
banned content. The Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009 also requires ISPs to install unspecified
“available technology, program or software” to filter content prohibited by the act.
OpenNet Initiative, “Internet Filtering in Asia,” 2009, http://opennet.net/research/regions/asia.
Erwin A. Alampay and Regina Hechanova, “Monitoring Employee Use of Internet: Employers’ Perspective,” Inquirer, January
24, 2010, http://business.inquirer.net/money/topstories/view/20100124‐249272/Monitoring‐employee‐use‐of‐Internet‐
“Republic Act 10175,” Official Gazette, September 12, 2012, http://www.gov.ph/2012/09/12/republic‐act‐no‐10175/.
“Author of Cybercrime Law to File Bill Amending It,” Rappler, October 3, 2012, http://www.rappler.com/nation/13545‐
Mark D. Merueñas, “SC Junks 16th Petition vs. Cybercrime Law,” January 24, 2013,
Edu Punay, “SC Extends TRO on Cyber Law,” Philippine Star, February 6, 2013,
“Senate Bill No. 3327,” Senate of the Philippines, accessed July, 2013, http://www.senate.gov.ph/lisdata/1446312119!.pdf.
Norman Bordadora, “Santiago Proposes Magna Carta for Internet,” Inquirer, December 1, 2012,
“Republic Act No. 9775,” November 17, 2009, The LawPhil Project,
REEDOM ON THE
There have been no reports of officials putting pressure on online journalists or bloggers to delete
content when it is critical of the authorities. However, many news websites are online versions of
traditional media which self-censor due to the level of violence against journalists in the Philippines.
While it is fair to surmise that the same attitude is reflected in their online output, the degree is
difficult to establish. Notably, however, one of the Senate’s main proponents of the libel clause in
the Anti-Cybercrime Act argued that it would instill self-censorship in internet users—the actual
phrase was “think before you click,” according to local blogger Raïssa Robles.
More generally, the Philippine blogosphere is rich and thriving. Both state and non-state actors
actively use the internet as a platform to discuss politics, especially during elections. Online
protests against the Cybercrime Prevention Act were common for several months before and after
the law was passed, with individuals blacking out their profile pictures on social networks. Many
dubbed it Cyber Martial Law after the era of military rule in the 1970s when freedom of expression
was seriously threatened.
While encouraging, these protests can only be called successful
inasmuch as they spurred the filing of the 15 petitions with the Supreme Court, which are to be
credited with ultimately suspending the law’s implementation.
The Cybercrime Prevention Act, which passed in 2012 after more than a decade of deliberations,
uncritically adopted archaic libel provisions from the penal code—long challenged by local and
international human rights groups
—and increased the minimum penalty for online violations
from six months to a staggering six years in jail, apparently at the last minute and without public
Other provisions require service providers to cooperate with law enforcement in
monitoring users suspected of cybercrime, and potentially allow police to monitor online traffic in
real time. Despite the Supreme Court’s restraining order on the law’s implementation, it has
already created a chilling effect among internet users. Violence against traditional journalists exerts
a negative effect on freedom of expression in the Philippines, but as of 2013, had relatively little
impact on online communication.
Raïssa Robles, “Who Inserted that Libel Clause in the Cybercrime Law at the Last Minute?,” RaissaRobles, September 18,
T.J.D., “Protests Versus Cybercrime Law Rage on Multiple Fronts,” October 2, 2012, GMA News,
“The Road to the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012,” Rappler, October 9, 2012, http://www.rappler.com/rich‐media/13901‐
Human Rights Watch, “Philippines: New ‘Cybercrime’ Law Will Harm Free Speech,” September 28, 2012,
Jillian C. York, “Philippines' New Cybercrime Prevention Act Troubling for Free Expression,” Electronic Freedom Foundation,
September 18, 2012, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/09/philippines‐new‐cybercrime‐prevention‐act‐troubling‐free‐
Article 19, “Philippines: ARTICLE 19's Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review,” November 29, 2011,
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