The text of Nancy Binay’s e-violence bill floated on the Interwebs yesterday when Rappler published the juicy details. The bill focuses on an amendment to the Violence Against Women and Children law. It is a bill specific to protect women and children from domestic violence. The bill’s provisions is “activated”, based on the relationship between the woman and her attacker. The Binay amendment is redundant and archaic in light of a bill such as the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom.
Section 5 (b) (ii) of the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom states specifically:
(b) A person’s right to unrestricted access to the Internet may, upon discretion of the appropriate Cybercrime Court whose jurisdiction is defined in this Act, be suspended as an accessory penalty upon final conviction for any of the following criminal offenses:
(i) The felonies of robbery, theft, estafa, falsification, malversation, and usurpation of authority or official functions, as defined in appropriate penal laws, committed by through or using the Internet or information and communications technology;
(ii) Any criminal offense defined and punishable in the following special penal laws: the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 (RA 9208), the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA 6713), the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 (RA 9160), the Violence Against Women and Children Act (RA 9262), the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act (RA 7610), the Child and Youth Welfare Code (PD 603), the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009 (RA 9775), the Human Security Act of 2007 (RA 9732), or the Data Privacy Act of 2012 (RA 10173), committed through or using the Internet or information and communications technology; or
(iii) Any criminal offense defined and punishable by this Act.
So there is punishment for the use of ICT when you break the Violence Against Women and Children Act.
The Binay Bill focuses also on cyber-stalking. The MCPIF already covers privacy protection. Section 15 (e) states that the state is required to “Protect the rights of individuals to privacy and confidentiality of their personal information.” Section 16 (o) “Protect the rights of consumer and business users to privacy, security and confidentiality in coordination with concerned agencies”. The protection is further guaranteed in Section 46 (a) “It shall be unlawful for any unauthorized person to intentionally access or to provide a third party with access to, or to hack or aid or abet a third party to hack into, data, networks, storage media where data is stored, equipment through which networks are run or maintained, the physical plant where the data or network equipment is housed. The unauthorized access or unauthorized act of providing a third party with access to, or the hacking into, data, networks, storage media where data is stored, equipment through which networks are run or maintained, the physical plant where the data or network equipment is housed shall be presumed to be malicious.”
And on surveillance? It is already prosecutable under the current Violence Against Women and Children law, and again, further strengthened by Section 5 of the MCPIF.
The Binay Bill is also focused on revenge. According to DZMM (ABS-CBN radio), “In an interview with ABS-CBNnews.com, Binay media relations officer Rex Elite admitted the experience of senator during the campaign was part of this decision serve such a bill.
Remember Binay become a target of ridicule on the Internet’s alleged lack of sufficient experience and qualifications to become senator.”
(Translated from the original: “Sa panayam ng ABS-CBNnews.com. inamin ng media relations officer ni Binay na si Rex Hirang na ang naging karanasan ng senador noong kampanya ay bahagi ng desisyon nitong ihain ang naturang panukalang batas.
Matatandaang naging target ng pambabatikos sa Internet ang umano’y kawalan ng sapat na karanasan at kwalipikasyon ni Binay para maging senador.”)
Anger is one hell of a way to write a bill. It never leads to anything good. And it doesn’t look at the whole picture, or with absolute clarity and depth.
That said, Section 52 of the MCPIF on Internet libel and Hate Speech protects an individual or group of individuals from electronic violence. There is relief for below the belt attacks but this version of libel is far from the libel presented in such laws like the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012:
(a) Internet libel. –
(i) Internet libel is a public and malicious expression tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead, made on the Internet or on public networks.
(ii) Malice as an essential element of internet libel. – Internet libel shall not lie if malice or intent to injure is not present.
(iii) Positive identification of the subject as an essential element of internet libel. – Internet libel shall not lie if the public and malicious expression does not explicitly identify the person who is the subject of the expression, except if the content of the expression is sufficient for positive and unequivocal identification of the subject of the expression.
(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) Exceptions to internet libel. – The following acts shall not constitute internet libel:
(1) Expressions of protest against the government, or against foreign governments;
(2) Expressions of dissatisfaction with the government, its agencies or instrumentalities, or its officials or agents, or with those of foreign governments;
(3) Expressions of dissatisfaction with non-government organizations, unions, associations, political parties, religious groups, and public figures;
(4) Expressions of dissatisfaction with the products or services of commercial entities;
(5) Expressions of dissatisfaction with commercial entities, or their officers or agents, as related to the products or services that the commercial entities provide;
(6) Expressions of a commercial entity that are designed to discredit the products or services of a competitor, even if the competitor is explicitly identified;
(7) An expression made with the intention of remaining private between persons able to access or view the expression, even if the expression is later released to the public; and,
(8) A fair and true report, made in good faith, without any comments or remarks, of any judicial, legislative or other official proceedings, or of any statement, report or speech delivered in said proceedings, or of any other act performed by public officers in the exercise of their functions, or of any matter of public interest.
(b) Internet hate speech. –
(i) Internet hate speech is a public and malicious expression calling for the commission of illegal acts on an entire class of persons, a reasonably broad section thereof, or a person belonging to such a class, based on gender, sexual orientation, religious belief or affiliation, political belief or affiliation, ethnic or regional affiliation, citizenship, or nationality, made on the Internet or on public networks.
(ii) Call for the commission of illegal acts as an essential element for internet hate speech. – Internet hate speech shall not lie if the expression does not call for the commission of illegal acts on the person or class of persons that, when they are done, shall cause actual criminal harm to the person or class of persons, under existing law.
(iii) Imminent lawless danger as an essential element for internet hate speech. – Internet hate speech shall not lie if the expression does not call for the commission of illegal acts posing an immediate lawless danger to the public or to the person who is the object of the expression.
The Binay Bill is also focused on specificity: women and children. While there is absolutely nothing wrong in protecting women and children, and especially against domestic violence, it is somewhat, if not slowly becoming archaic. Gays and Lesbians have relationships, and though not recognized by the Philippines, it doesn’t preclude the fact that they do have relationships. Do they have Facebook flame wars like any straight couple does? Can they not stalk the partner? Can they not also do psychological harm against the partner? Is it conceivable that they would do a partner harm? Why not establish a law that fairly covers everyone? Shouldn’t justice be equal?
In the real world, women are far more easily abused. That is why there is a law called Violence Against Woman and Children. On cyberspace, like a lot of things, the playing field is leveled. Women can just as much inflict atrocities on others. And a person’s sexual preference doesn’t make one less violent, nor less prone to inflict harm on another person.
So what’s the whole point of the Binay Bill when all the bases have been covered either by existing legislation, or better covered by such proposed measure like the MCPIF? Why is there a need for specificity when another proposed legislation already blankly covers it? Why is there a need to drill down, when such drill down is unneeded?
Does the Binay bill need refinement? Does it need to be rethought? If anything the Binay Bill shows that the Violence Against Woman and Children also need to cover other relationships that are manifesting themselves in our society. Crazy that the conservatives would turn a blind eye on things like this, but like it or not, the reality is that they do exist, and that such partner in those relationships also need the equal protection of the law. Therein lies Justice for all. Isn’t that about building a better society? Isn’t that what legislators ought to be doing? Isn’t that what we the people ought to be focusing? Fairness and Equality for all is something worth striving for, isn’t it?