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AQUINO III et al Certiorari & Prohibition [With Application for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction] Supreme Court, Manila Filed on 04 October 2012 BACKGROUND Bloggers and netizens – citizens who have and who actively use their internet access – raise the alarm over a newly-signed and newlyenacted law violating their individual and collective rights, and destroys the idea and reality of the Internet as an open public forum and marketplace of ideas. Inasmuch as they are concerned by the new law’s many violations of their fundamental and constitutional rights as individuals, they toll the bells now over the clear and present dangers Republic Act No. 10175, otherwise known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (“Cybercrime Prevention Act”), pose on the internet as a platform for close to one-third of the population. The internet is where they could discuss issues and concerns, respond during disasters and crises, demand improvements in various aspects of national life and, most importantly, to speak truth to power. Before, citizens solely depended on newspapers, periodicals, radio, and televisions to exercise their fundamental and constitutional rights to free expression, to redress of grievances and even to assembly and association. Today, the internet and even mobile phones have become the platform and mediums of citizens themselves from which they exercise their rights. In fact, Filipinos have excelled in internet use and earned for the Philippines the new monicker “social media capital of the world”. To the complete shock of citizens, the Government adopted a new law that involves spying on citizens, seizure without probable cause, prior restraint, subsequent punishment, and other acts prohibited under the Constitution.
Thus, in light of this grave context, conferred upon the Judiciary is the ponderous duty to rein in the Legislative and Executive Branches of Government to their own allocated places under the Constitution. As the final arbiter of all legal controversies and the last bulwark of democracy in this jurisdiction, the Supreme Court is tasked with the most noble and awesome duty to uphold the Constitution and protect the liberties of citizens. The Honorable Court is petitioners’ only ally in upholding their inalienable civil rights under the Constitution, most especially the following indisputable entitlements under the Bill of Rights: • RIGHTS TO DUE PROCESS OF LAW & EQUAL PROTECTION OF LAW “Section 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” • RIGHT AGAINST UNREASONABLE SEARCHES & SEIZURES “Section 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.” • RIGHT TO PRIVACY OF COMMUNICATION & CORRESPONDENCE “Section 3. (1) The privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise, as prescribed by law. (2) Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.”
RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH AND EXPRESSION
“Section 4. 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.” • RIGHT AGAINST DOUBLE JEOPARDY
“Section 21. No person shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense. If an act is punished by a law and an ordinance, conviction or acquittal under either shall constitute a bar to another prosecution for the same act.” Now more than ever, therefore, with all due respect, the power of judicial review must not be abrogated or abandoned by the Honorable Court. Otherwise, the other branches of Government will be able to operate as they very well please even beyond their fences, to the detriment of citizens. It is precisely for this reason that petitioners assail the constitutionality and legality of the following Assailed Provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act: (1) SECTION 4(c)(4) separately criminalizing acts of libel, as defined under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, that are committed through a computer system or any other similar means that may be devised in the future (“Cyber Libel”); SECTION 5 criminalizing acts that aid or abet the commission of any offense punishable under the Cybercrime Prevention Act, as well as the attempt to commit the same, including Section 4(c)(4) on Cyber Libel; SECTION 6 imposing a higher penalty for the commission of any offense punishable under the Cybercrime Prevention Act, i.e., one (1) degree higher than that provided under the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and special laws; SECTION 7 providing that a prosecution under the Cybercrime Prevention Act shall be without prejudice to any liability for violation of any provision of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, or special laws;
SECTION 12 authorizing any and all law enforcement authorities, with due cause, to collect and/or record by technical or electronic means traffic data in real-time without prior judicial warrant, sanction and/or approval; and SECTION 19 authorizing the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to restrict and/or block access to computer data that are prima facie found to be violative of the provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act. The other provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act that flow from the above Assailed Provisions are likewise assailed by the instant Petition, including the provisions that authorize the disbursement of public funds for the implementation of the law.
In view of the constitutional and legal infirmity of the Assailed Provisions, petitioners hereby invoke the Honorable Court’s power of judicial review and comes now before the Honorable Court with an earnest plea to correct a grave and serious injustice and transgression of the Constitution that impinge upon petitioners’ most cherished and jealously guarded fundamental civil rights, which include, as previously mentioned, Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, and 21, Article III of the Constitution. As it stands, the Cybercrime Prevention Act is a quantum leap backwards that destroys the very fabric of the free exchange of ideas that has allowed democracy to thrive in this country. Moreover, the Cybercrime Prevention Act is contrary to the commitment to transparency that the present dispensation has supposedly championed. It is likewise unfortunate to note that the Legislative and Executive Branches of Government chose to prioritize the passage of an overreaching law that curtails citizens’ rights and effectively shepherds the nation to the Cyber Dark Ages, as opposed to enacting laws that promote transparency and good governance, such as the Freedom of Information Bill. Further, a great number of our Overseas Filipino Workers (“OFWs”), who are heralded as modern-day heroes, certainly look forward to and expect the benefits of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to free speech, which they most probably do not enjoy as much, if at all, in the countries where they are deployed. They will be much affected by the draconian statute.
Moreover, Cybercrime Prevention Act is a direct assault to the time-honored principle of each citizen’s right to privacy, which is the inalienable right of an individual to be let alone. The right to be let alone is a fundamental right that extends to the information platforms and media offered by technology. A simple post or shout-out through a Twitter account or Facebook page may, to some, be undeserving of legal protection. However, such seemingly simple and mundane acts of sharing opinions and perspectives on various subject matters may well be considered as the natural consequence of the evolving concept of the right to privacy, the right to be let alone. More so, it should be underscored that a person does not waive, shed or otherwise give up his right to privacy simply because he or she used a different medium of communication, such as the internet. It is unfortunate, even alarming, to note that although the Legislature had all the opportunity to craft a law that is, and should be, responsive to the evolving times, it instead produced a Panopticon that will not hesitate to strike down any and all online acts and utterances that are deemed undesirable and unacceptable according to the fleeting and subjective standards of law enforcement authorities, without the benefit of any judicial oversight or sanction. Given these grave circumstances, the President had the corresponding opportunity, even the duty, to veto the all-embracing law on behalf of millions of freedomloving citizens yet he did not see it fit to protect, preserve and advance the rights of his constituents in the face of a mammoth legislation. As a result, a regime of round-the-clock surveillance – a constant axe hanging overhead, read to strike – effectively chills and silences legitimate action, thought, free discussion, and dissent. Indeed, as consistently held by the Honorable Court, in the realm of the political life of a nation, debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide open and that it may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials. When, as in this case, the Legislative and Executive Branches of Government act in complete defiance of the clear letter and spirit of the Constitution, it is the sacred duty of the Honorable Court to uphold the fundamental law and, consequently, strike down the Assailed Provisions in order to affirm the most cherished and jealously guarded fundamental rights of citizens under the aegis of a democracy that was painfully fought for by great forebears who stand to be dishonored and disgraced by the implementation of legislation that is unprecedented in the manner by which it seeks to curtail the rights of the very citizens that are the beneficiaries of freedom fought and won – until now.
Otherwise, fear would be abundant as fundamental freedoms fall by the wayside. Thus, petitioners file the Petition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court for Certiorari and Prohibition seeking to nullify and enjoin the implementation of the Assailed Provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Law. THE PARTIES Petitioners are directly and adversely affected by the implementation of the Assailed Provisions and are suing in their capacities as citizens and taxpayers of the Republic of the Philippines 1. PETITIONER ANTHONY IAN M. CRUZ is an active social media user, owner of the tech and political blog tonyocruz.com and the Twitter account @tonyocruz, president of consumer and netizen group TXTPower.org, Inc., and a social media strategist by profession. He is a previous winner in the Philippine Blog Awards. 2. PETITIONER MARCELO R. LANDICHO is an active social media user and owner of the political humor site The Professional Heckler and the Twitter account @HecklerForever. His blog has won repeatedly in the Philippine Blog Awards. 3. PETITIONER BENJAMIN NOEL A. ESPINA is an active social media user, owner of Atheista.net and the Twitter account @atheista, and a social media analytics director by profession. He is a previous winner in the Philippine Blog Awards. 4. PETITIONER MARCK RONALD C. RIMORIN is an active social media user, owner of the blog Marocharim Experiment and the Twitter account @marocharim, and a social media intelligence director by profession. He is a previous winner in the Philippine Blog Awards. 5. PETITIONER JULIUS D. ROCAS is an active social media user, owner of blog The Four Eyed Journal and the Twitter account @jhayrocas, and an online publisher by profession.
6. PETITIONER OLIVER RICHARD V. ROBILLO is an active social media user, owner of several blogs and the Twitter account @blogie, and a social media consultant by profession. He is one of the founders of the Mindanao Bloggers Community. PETITIONER AARON ERICK A. LOZADA is an active social media user, owner of the blog PinoyGossipboy.ph and Twitter account @pinoygossipboy, and a student of the College of Law of the University of the Philippines. 8. PETITIONER GERARD ADRIAN P. MAGNAYE is an active social media user, owner of the blog Noisy Noisy Man and the Twitter account @ademagnaye, and a social media officer by profession. 9. PETITIONER JOSE REGINALD A. RAMOS is an active social media user, owner of the blog dronthego.net and the Twitter account @dronthego, contributor to the tech blog Technoodling and a freelance internet contractor by profession. 10. PETITIONER MA. ROSARIO active social media user, convenor of organizing group TweetUpMNL, owner of @juanxi and an entrepreneur and a social by profession. T. JUAN is an Twitter meetup Twitter account media strategist 7.
11. PETITIONER BRENDALYN P. RAMIREZ is an active social media user, owner of the blog Brendarna and the Twitter account @BryRamirez and a digital accounts manager by profession. 12. PETITIONER MAUREEN A. HERMITANIO is an active social media user, owner of the Twitter account @mobilemaui, a contributor to the Philippine Online Chronicles and BlogWatch.ph, and a government employee. 13. PETITIONER KRISTINE JOY S. REMENTILLA is an active social media user, owner of the blog www.tinrementilla.com and the Twitter account @tin_rementilla, and a social media manager by profession.
14. PETITIONER MARICEL O. GRAY is an active social media user, a developer belonging to the Google Developers Community, owner of the Twitter account @cellofoodiegeek and an IT business development executive by profession. 15. PETITIONER JULIUS IVAN F. CABIGON is an award-winning advertising professional, digital marketing practitioner, and active social media user – heavily reliant on the internet for his craft. 16. PETITIONER BENRALPH S. YU is an active social media user, owner of the Twitter account @wherehaveyouben, and a multi-awarded student, leader and scholar at the University of the Philippines, Manila. 17. PETITIONER RUBEN B. LICERA JR. is president of CEBU BLOGGERS SOCIETY INC. (“CBSI”), the country's first bloggers association registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, an active social media user, owner of several blogs and of the Twitter account @rubenlicera and an online marketing specialist by profession. 18. PETITIONER PEDRO E. RAHON is the ManilaLuzon coordinator of the PINOY EXPAT/OFW BLOG AWARDS INC. (“PEBA”), an active social media user, owner of the blog "Pinoy Chocophile", and a migrant worker advocate by profession. The respondents are as follows: RESPONDENT HON. BENIGNO S. AQUINO III, President of the Republic of the Philippines; RESPONDENT SENATE OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile; RESPONDENT HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, represented by Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr.; RESPONDENT PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR., the Executive Secretary; RESPONDENT LEILA M. DE LIMA, the Secretary of Justice; RESPONDENT LOUIS NAPOLEON C. CASAMBRE, Executive Director of the Information and Communications Technology Office under the Department of Science and Technology; and RESPONDENT NONNATUS CAESAR R. ROJAS, Director of the National Bureau of Investigation; RESPONDENT NICANOR A. BARTOLOME, Chief of the Philippine National Police.
ARGUMENTS I Section 12 Of The Cybercrime Prevention Act Is Patently Unconstitutional Considering That It Violates An Individual’s Right To Privacy And The Privacy Of Communication And Correspondence: A. An Individual Has A Reasonable Expectation Of Privacy Of Personal Electronic Data, As Well As Communication And Correspondence. Section 12 Of The Cybercrime Prevention Act Constitutes An Unreasonable Government Intrusion As It Lacks Safeguards Against Possible Abuses By Possessors Of Acquired Data. Section 12 Of The Cybercrime Prevention Act Constitutes An Unreasonable Government Intrusion As It Renders Existing Safeguards Against Invasion Of Privacy, As Well As Communications And Correspondence, Nugatory.
II Section 12 Of The Cybercrime Prevention Act Is Patently Unconstitutional Considering That It Violates An Individual’s Right To Unreasonable Searches And Seizures. III Section 19 Of The Cybercrime Prevention Act Is Null And Void For Being Unconstitutional Considering That: A. Section 19 Of The Cybercrime Prevention Act Is Violative Of The Due Process Clause Under Section 1, Article III Of The Constitution, For Failing To Provide Any Procedural Safeguards In Its Implementation And/Or Enforcement. Section 19 Of The Cybercrime Prevention Act Is Violative Of The Right Of Citizens Against Unreasonable Searches And Seizures, As Provided Under Section 2, Article III Of The Constitution. Section 19 Of The Cybercrime Prevention Act Is Violative Of The Right Of The People To Freedom Of
Speech, As Provided Under Section 4, Article III Of The Constitution.
IV Sections 4(C)(4), 5, 6, And 7 Of The Cybercrime Prevention Act Are Null And Void For Being Unconstitutional Considering That Said Provisions Are Violative Of The Due Process Clause Under Section 1, Article III Of The Constitution And Of The Free Speech Clause Under Section 4, Article III Of The Constitution. V Section 6 Of The Cybercrime Prevention Act Is Null And Void For Being Unconstitutional Considering That It Is Violative Of The Equal Protection Clause Under Section 1, Article III Of The Constitution.
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