Senate Bill 53 Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom | HOW CAN THIS BILL BE IMPROVED?

Monday, May 5, 2014 0 comments



Chapter I Introduction
Chapter II The Evolution of Senate Bill 53
Chapter III The four Pillars of MCPIF
Chapter IV The so-called Bill of rights
Chapter V The Salient Features
Chapter VI Grey areas in the Bill
Chapter VII how can this bill be improved?
A)     Advocacy
B)     The Provisions
C)     Considerations
Chapter VIII Conclusions

Chapter I


In 2012, as May we recall, Senator Angara introduces Republic Act 10175 otherwise known as the Cybercrime Prevention act of 2012 which gives rise to controversies and thousands of people including netizens opposed aggressively in the enactment of the said law. The Cybercrime law aims to protect the rights of the people in the cyberspace against criminals who sells, reproduce, interfere, hacked unlawfully without authority; and the like by means of cyberspace. According to the netizens, the Cybercrime law violates certain constitutional rights of the people particularly to their freedom of speech. The said controversy leads them to file a petition before the tribunal court to assail the constitutionality of the said law. In the case of Disini vs Secretary of Justice which was promulgated on recently on February 2014. The Supreme Court held that Ra 10175 is Constitutional expect for certain provisions that was specially mentioned in the said case.

Chapter II
The Evolution of Senate Bill 53

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After Republic Act 10175 was signed by President Benigno Aquino III and became into law on September 2012. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago previously introduced on November 2012, two months after RA 10175 became into law, the Senate Bill 3327 which is now, the Senate Bill No. 53 otherwise known as the “Magna Carta For Philippine Internet Freedom”  Senator Santiago re-filed the said bill on July 1 2013. It was also known as MCPIF for brevity. Some netizens even used hashtags #MCPIF to spread the support of the said bill by means of social media.

Before we go any further, let us first find out the history of senate bill 53. This bill was drafted by netizens from different fields of careers; some of them are bloggers, social media users, subscribers and those who involved in computer related professions and the like. They group themselves via social media and further created their own domain website which was the MCPIF team advocates the civil and political rights of the people in the cyberspace.

In relation to their advocacy, their second goal is to promote the bill to every citizen of the Republic of the Philippines to waken up their awareness of their constitutional rights especially to their freedom of speech and freedom of expression and to support the bill through social media. According to them, this bill would be considered as the first Crowdsourced bill here in the Philippines. A Crowdsourced bill is an online activity to combine efforts in which case they solicit or rather ask support from a large group of individuals on their own initiative in order for them to accomplish a certain task. Similarly, the MCPIF team consolidated their efforts to draft the bill via online which could be somehow analogy in exercising their right to initiative as provided in the 1987 constitution of the Philippines.

The MCPIF team had a hard time and took enough efforts before the bill was recognized by our honorable senators when they endorsed the same into the senate. They first endorsed the bill with Senator Pia Cayetano, then afterwards with Senator Guingona III but none of them response to their proposal until after few weeks later. The proposal was recognized and accepted in the office of Senator Miriam Defensor – Santiago. Today, the senate bill 53 is still pending on the Philippine Legislature, but according to the records, Senate bill 53 has already been passed for first reading of both Senate and the House of Representatives. Now it cannot be denied that the bill was drafted clearly as to leave no doubt in both professionals and in layman’s perspective. However, considering that it is still pending in the bicameral committee, it is said to be that this bill has to be improved and enhance for faster approval and further implement it as soon as they can since the Cybercrime law has already been upheld by the Supreme Court its constitutionality, it’s time for our legislators to act and concentrate to enhance and pass this bill in support of the Anti- Cybercrime act of 2012.

The main question is whether the Senate bill 53 is necessary to pass in order for them rebut the constitutionality of the Cybercrime Law of 2012? What are the ways to promote and give the legislators of their attention to this bill? What is the effect of this bill into our society? Does the Senate bill 53 is really intended to repeal the Anti- Cybercrime act of 2012? These questions would further be discussed into the next chapter.

Chapter III
The four pillars of MCPIF

As we have discussed earlier, the bill provides for the civil and political rights of people in cyberspace. As per Senator Miriam Santiago stressed that this bill is really intended to repeal or to counter the controversial law which they referred the Anti- Cybercrime act of 2012. The main highlight of this bill is to uphold the free speech of Filipinos in cyberspace since the cybercrime law provisions according to some of the netizens is too broad and vague that could possibly penalize the innocent users of the internet especially to those people who are involve in social media in the modern era. Now the MCPIF team had built four pillar on the bill, what are they? They are Rights, Governance, Development and Security. What are these all about? Lets start with RIGHTS: these rights referred to political and civil rights, these rights shall be fully guaranteed by our constitution in cyberspace both online and offline.

GOVERNANCE. This is addressed to our government, which provides that:

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Section 2. Declaration of Policy. – (a) The State affirms that all the rights, guarantees, and privileges provided by the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, as well as those established under general principles of international law and under treaties and conventions to which the Philippines is a signatory, shall govern in the use, development, innovation, and invention of information and communications technology (ICT) and the Internet by the Filipino people.
(b) The State affirms its commitment to the people and to all nations that, in the crafting of laws and regulations governing the use of the Internet and of ICT, these shall be subject to the parameters set forth under the Constitution.
(c) The State reaffirms the vital role of communication and information in nation-building, as stated in Article II, Section 24, of the Constitution;[i]
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DEVELOPMENT the bill encourage that it seeks to innovate advanced technology in the modern generation which also provides social benefits that will be undertaken by the government and private sector and lastly SECURITY, that protect the Filipino people against any threats committed from cyber means provided in the bill. The specific rights provided in the bill would be further discussed in the next chapter. These four pillars are the so- called foundation of the bill aside from our 1987 constitution which tends to support the main objectives of this bill. 

Chapter IV
The So called Bill of Rights

The Senate Bill provides Internet Rights and Freedoms; this was indicated in Part 3, Page 12 of the bill. It cannot be denied that we often compared this bill into RA 10175. Why? Because as per Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago claimed that this bill is really intended to repeal RA 10175. The latter does not provide any rights and freedoms pertaining to internet. Hence, it led to polemic controversy through the year until it was contested and stride the case into the Supreme Court. 

And for that matter, our fellowmen who drafted this bill came up with the idea to provide methods to cast aside all the vagueness questioning the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, right to privacy and the like from RA 10175 which was allegedly violated since the three mentioned rights is the most cited ground that was being asserted as part of their argument who questioned the validity of Ra 10175.

Moving on to the senate bill 53, the following are the Internet rights and freedoms provided in the bill:
a) Right to Freedom of speech and Expression on the Internet; b) Universal Access; c) Right to privileged Access to and control and devices; d) Protection of the freedom to innovate and create without permission; e) Right to privacy of data; f) Right to security of data; g) Protection of intellectual property; h) Protection of the internet as an open network; i) Promotion of network neutrality; j) Transparency in governance and freedom of information

By incorporating this, hopefully there would no longer doubts as to the constitutionality of the law, in case this bill is approved by our president. The provisions pertaining to rights and freedoms would surely accredit by public at large especially for those who are involved in the cyberspace as part of their daily lives either they used it for living or for any other purpose unless it is unlawful. Since the parameters of this bill is also intended to gleam the rights and freedoms on the internet of people into the limelight without jeopardizing nor violate any precautions that the government might encounter into the near future nor without limiting the acts of the netizens or the people who is part in the cyberspace world unless it is unlawful

What is the relevance of this? In the internet world or otherwise known as cyberspace, some of the people are either bloggers who used to post article via online for living regardless of their objectives, Legitimate online sellers, Social Media users such as facebook, twitter and the like; White hackers who normally performed this for a living as part of their profession and etc… however on the downside, the intention of the people in the cyberspace are dissimilar, it may be lawful or unlawful. Technologies these days are so advanced which likely tend to induce evil motives whether for profit or not. This is what our government seeks to prevent.

By providing these rights, these people who cause damage to another person in the cyberspace cannot just explain its justification on the basis that he is authorized to do so or he does not have any intention to commit these cyber offense against the person whether online libel , cyber bullying or any other means. Why? Because these reasoning are baseless, once again, this bill gives its ample protection to guarantee the rights and freedoms in the internet to the people. In other words, this so called bill of rights serves as a safeguard or shield against unlawful act committed by means of internet, network and the like.

Without these, the public, the netizens, the concerned Filipino people will not stop in asserting their rights and freedoms that would be raise in the actual case in the near future. There would be no jurisprudence that would govern, support and addressed mechanisms in the advanced technologies here in the Philippines. It would be an endless litigation. 

Chapter V
Salient Features

I have noticed that some of the provisions of the bill refined the most disputable provision in RA 10175. Please be mindful that in this particular chapter, I will only discuss some of the provisions in the bill that really caught my attention. I will not fully tackle all of the provisions in spare parts. Now, Let’s start first with Libel, Section 52 of the bill provides internet libel, hate speech,  Child Pornography, and Other Expression Inimical to the Public Interest. It provides more detailed and clearer discussion of what really constitute internet libel without violating any constitutional right. The provision is not vague and it provides that “malice”, and Positive identification” as an essential element of internet libel. It also provides a list of exceptions which does not constitute as an internet libel. The contents under section 52 under fully satisfied my requirements especially for those users who used social media in their everyday lives regardless of their purpose. Since these days, 9 out 10 people here in the Philippines use social media networks often times especially in facebook and twitter which usually involved a lot of chaotic situation or which we often called “internet war”.

Some users who in turned to be the author of the libelous status or post should be responsible in every situation whenever he will post, upload or express his sentiments in the social media. in other words, “think before you click”. Undoubtedly, this is a democratic country, however, our government still needs to provide means and methods to penalize all the wrong doings that might be prejudicial to the interest in the community. And on top of that, the libel provision here in the bill only penalize the offense for civil liability only. As compared in the cybercrime law, it punishes libel as a criminal offense, such provision does not have a wide acceptance into the public which gave rise to voluminous petitions in the Supreme Court.

Second, Illegal Search and seizure. This provision makes it clear that the government cannot deprive a person’s right in relation to his internet right without the judicial order. On the contrary, the cybercrime law as we may recall, the provision regarding real time collection of traffic data, restricting or blocking access to computer data by department of justice, calls the attention of the court to clarify the intent of the legislature regarding this. Since it is violative to a person’s right under our 1987 constitution, and this actually refers to due process law. Now the Magna Carta bill clarifies the following:
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 Section 4 (c) Any State action that constitutes prior restraint or subsequent punishment in relation to one’s Internet’s rights shall be authorized only upon a judicial order issued in conformity with the procedure provided under Section 5 of this Act. Provided, that notwithstanding Section 5, any such judicial order issued upon motion of the Republic of the Philippines, any of its political subdivisions or agencies including government-owned or controlled corporations, shall be issued only upon the following grounds[ii]
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Third, Violation of Security Data. The bill provides Hacking, Cracking, Phishing. Although the  cybercrime law already provides for certain cyber offenses. However, some of the people opposed it, as the definition is very vague and broad which makes it criminalize other people beyond the scope of the cyber offense. Now, the bill provides a plain meaning which could be understood by an ordinary person and makes the offense covers under certain limitations by the bill.

Fourth, the bill also provides National Cybersecurity, Cyberdefense, Counter-Cyber terrorism and Counter – Cyberespionage. Previous internet laws that was enacted here in the Philippines, does not provide cyber offenses in relation to National interest. As may we recall, the I LOVE YOU virus worm that was created by our fellow Filipino Onel de Guzman who successfully attacked millions of computers in the year 2000. Eventually, there are no specific law that could be charged against him. This scenario may not be the proper category for this provision, but this may be somehow analogy to what the government intended to prevent in the future. Going back to I love you virus, the legislature enacted E-commerce Act afterwards. 

On the contrary, the former was drafted way back during the 20th century, Now the government in the modern generation need a better version of law that address realities of the present and challenges of the future.As per DND secretary Voltaire Gazmin stressed “as we become increasingly dependent on information and communication technology, we are also confronted with cyber threats. While cyber security previously focused only on individual hackers, recent trends show that attacks against government portals could come from organizations. Thus, we need to develop our cyber-related capabilities as we secure our channels of communication” [iii]
Chapter VI
Grey areas in the Bill

There is couple of provisions that caught my attention. And I found that the construction of these provisions makes them ambiguous or doubtful. The first example would be found in Section 13 paragraph d of the bill which provides the following:
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 Section 13 (d) The State shall maintain websites or applications with mechanisms to allow for the public to provide feedback, lodge complaints, or report instances of malfeasance or misfeasance. Such mechanisms shall not disallow anonymous feedback, complaints, or reports, and the State shall take appropriate steps to protect persons making feedback, complaints, or reports from retaliation or persecution. [iv]
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Although this does not violate any constitutional right as what the others usually invoked. In this case, I believe it is highly impossible to maintain a website neither application to provide means whereby people can report complaints, feedbacks and the like. As if the government can entertain such matters constantly. The government has been lodged with pending transactions which is inimical to the national interest and that has been idle for a prolong time. This provision is no longer necessary, since its is impractical especially when a report or complaint is so serious that is very disturbing to the interest of individuals. The question is that, how would the government guarantee that every feedback ,complaint, report that they will received is genuine? Since, these matters may actually lead to fraud, cyber offense directly against the state. In other words, this provision is infeasible.

Another example of grey area in the bill is section 52 paragraph a (iv) which talks about internet libel. I know assailing internet libel in the internet laws are too mainstream but I thought this part of provision makes it interesting since the bill makes the offense libelous as long as there is “Malicious intent” and “positive identification” as an essential element of the offense. However, the bill qualified the following:
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Section 52 par (a)
(iv) Truth as a defense. – Internet libel shall not lie if the content of the expression is proven to be true, or if the expression is made on the basis of published reports presumed to be true, or if the content is intended to be humorous or satirical in nature, except if the content has been adjudged as unlawful or offensive in nature in accordance with existing jurisprudence.[v]
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My point is that, it is not necessary that the expression alleged to be libelous should be proven to be true. Why? In reality, whether true or not, the mere fact that the offended party has been damaged and there is an malicious intent on the part of the author. Such acts should suppose to constitute as an internet libel already. The offense internet libel would no longer relevant if the legislative intent has to deal with the truthfulness of the offense. It cannot be denied that the revised penal code under Article 361 it states there that the defendant shall be acquitted in case the libelous charged is true. However, be mindful that in Magna Carta Philippine internet freedom the bill seeks to penalize the internet libel for civil liability only. In other words, whether the libelous mark, use the reasoning of “Truth” as a defense or not, or whether it is proven to be true, the offense of libel  shall still be established as long there is a malicious intent on the part of the author.  That way, the former could be an exception to the rule that “the truth shall be an absolute defense in internet libel.”

Chapter VII
How can this bill be improved?

A. Advocacy

This bill is still pending on the legislature since year 2012, it is now year 2014 and yet the congress has not yet gives its attention to pass this bill. Why is that? I believe the main reason why this bill is still idle is because it does not yet surpass its pointed issues in the public media. It cannot be denied that a certain bill would not be ripen as a national issue not until the media got its attention to criticize it whether in a good or bad way. Unfortunately, some of us have forgotten the MCPIF bill and rather focus their attention into other issues which they found more highly controversial in the recent news or shall we say they would rather focus their attention to what is “trending” in the recent case. In which case, we need to provide certain means to resurrect this bill, although it was mentioned in the second chapter that Senator Miriam Santiago re-filed this bill on July 1, 2013, as if the bill have forgotten in the legislature.

Does the MCPIF team who drafted this bill have lost their interest in promoting this bill? Although the team has formerly strived enough efforts to endorse this bill in the senate, in the recent case, I have noticed that this team has lost its interest in promoting this bill. Why do I say so? Remember the I have search about their social accounts in the social media, in the facebook and in their twitter. I will not deny that I tried to join in their group accounts to fully interact with them or so that I can be a part of their advocacy. Sadly to say, I am not sure whether this team has forgotten the bill or has lost their interest? Or they just rely the promotion of this bill into the congress? Despite of its slow process, the MCPIF team have not yet speak about the recent updates of this bill. Considering that these people who drafted this bill had their own personal lives. Now what is our solution?

Croudsourcing a bill is one of the social side of strategy. Nobody knows what is really the current situation of MCPIF team. To strengthen their advocacy in this bill, they still need to rethink more efforts to plan certain strategies and innovations to motivate interested people across the nation, what this bill is really about. Their freedom and rights, advantage, opportunities, benefits, and lastly, to realized how this bill would affect their lives in the future. Maybe they can provide programs and collaborate with private sectors in the IT industry to interact and explain or informed these interested people about the bill. That way, if the MCPIF team achieve with this kind of strategy, the government would received an effective response from the public either good or bad. These kind of solution might aid the MCPIF team and the senator who introduced the bill to promote awareness and easily passed the bill. As I mentioned earlier, the more famed it gets, the more the government will accept.

B. the Provisions

B.1 Internet Capacity and Usage

Philippines is a developing country, on the contrary, Our internet is still a puzzle waiting to be assembled. Although this bill does not really aim to address the issue on internet capacity and usage. Why am I saying this? I would not further discussed about the usage of internet here in the Philippines, but My point is that, the provisions here in the bill fails to provide means and method to encourage the government and the private sectors as well to plan and develop ideas and lastly, for them  to get their  attention on the infrastructure components. Internet is one of the basic needs of individuals especially in the business field. It is one of the elements of technology which helps us to makes our lives easier. As time goes by, Internet in the modern generation highly extend economic opportunities and key services to millions of people. However, these chances may not be met if the Philippines lack of efficient high speed internet in the ICT sector.

            B.2 Internet Libel Provision

Another thing is the liability aspect of the internet libel provision. Once again, this topic may be overexposed or too mainstream to be discussed as far as the internet law is concerned. But to clear out any ambiguities, the bill must be improved as to provide a specific provision to address this problem, since this topic relating to internet libel is still debatable, despite the case of Disini vs Secretary of justice was promulgated last February 2014. Now what is the issue? As may we recall, there is a controversy that majority of the netizens wanted to decriminalize libel as a cyber offense since the cybercrime law makes libel as a criminal offense as an extension of the revised penal code. In other words, they just want to make it appear, that libel should only be penalized as a civil liability. Now to provide a solution for this, the MCPIF team came up with Magna carta Philippine internet freedom amending the libel provision provided in the Cybercrime law. The bill does not provide any provision penalizing libel as a criminal offense.

even though the bill decriminalized the liability of internet libel which is highly acceptable to the public at large; which provides under:
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section 63 (ad) violation of section 51 (a) internet libel – this shall only give rise to civil liability and the amount shall be commensurate to the damages suffered.[vi]
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Although the provision is very clear. On the contrary, the bill still needs to clarify that the Rules provided in the revised penal code relating to the crime of libel shall not be applicable to Magna Carta Philippine Intenet Freedom bill. Why? First,To prevent further voluminous petitions to question the constitutionality of the bill. By inserting this provision, there would no longer doubt as to the applicability of the offense. Second, to prevent any confusion as to applicability of the rules. Why? The Exception to the general rule of libel between the Revised penal code and the bill are different. The bill expands the exceptions to the internet libel as compared to the revised penal code. This may be favorable to some individuals especially those who are involved in the social media, some may be not since they think it may not be necessary. Well, this is a democratic country, but at the end of that day, when it comes to laws, our legislation’s decision will prevail.

C. Considerations

The ultimate question is that, what is the effect in case Senate bill 53 became into law? Undoubtedly, most of the provisions of Senate bill 53 is identical to RA 10175 and the provisions of the former was drafted by our fellowmen. Obviously, if this bill became into law, it would surely repeal RA 10175 or the cybercrime law. But the controversy doesn’t end there, assuming that the bill now became a law, would there be a full guarantee of implementation, notwithstanding the fact that it cannot be avoided that it may also be subject to attacked again to questioned its constitutionality, not just an ordinary citizen who does not involve in the government but a citizen who is a public official that may came from the legislature nor judiciary as the case may be, this is possible. The provisions indicated in the bill came from the will of Filipino people itself, it may seem an infinite scenario again if they cite the constitutionality of MCPIF on the ground that it violate certain rights provided in the constitution. To avoid this scenario, the government may provide mechanisms, in case this bill would be pass, to encourage and influence the public about the good side and effects of this law. This may sound quite politics, but currently considering the condition of the Philippines in the ICT sector, the government and the public at large shall combine its efforts through collective action for the development internet laws especially in this particular bill. In other words, the rules pertaining to internet shall be liberally construed in favor to lawful internet users.

Chapter VIII

to sum it up, the magna carta Philippine internet freedom bill if passed would undoubtedly guarantee to shield our liberties against unscrupulous acts in the cyberspace both online and offline regardless of whether or not an individual is an expert in the computer field. Nevertheless, the legislature need to put this bill in the limelight since our internet laws here in the Philippines needs to strengthen in order for us to adapt further jurisprudence in actual cases since technologies now these days in the modern generation have increasingly broaden its transactions and communication and further provide innovations regarding electronics. Hence, We need a proper statutory remedy that will empower our government in case a person whether natural or juridical has malicious intent to commit cyber offenses against an individual.

In my humblest opinion, as a courtesy to the MCPIF team, they fully drafted this bill very well. Considering that these people, does not involve in the law profession to be an expert to make laws. On the brighter side, in drafting this bill by their heart, by fully aware of what rights they are entitled and deserve, this could not be bad for a novice who wants to improve and secure internet rights and freedom of Filipino citizen that will address challenges, issues and offenses related to the use of cyberspace. The government have to put their trust to the people at large especially those people who drafted this bill. That way, these collective actions would build a strong foundation to increase the IT Literacy here in the Philippines. 

The technologies in this generation are increasingly developed. Meanwhile, there would still be criminals that are progressively developing new unlawful mechanisms to attack an individual, system or networks and the like.

To come up for a solution, It is the role of the legislative power to provide legal remedy governing our jurisdictions and to ensure security in cyber space. Hence, The adoptions of the provisions provided in the Magna Carta Philippine Internet Freedom bill shall be taken as soon as they can, for the better development of our economy in the ICT sector.


[i] Section 2 of Senate Bill 53
[ii] Section 4 paragraph (c) of Senate bill 53
[iv] Section 13 paragraph (d) of Senate bill 52
[v] Section 52 paragraph (a) of Senate bill 53

[vi] Section 63 paragraph (ad) of Senate Bill 53

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