PHILIPPINES: Arrest Sparks Heated Debate Over Cybercrime Law

You want to hear ridiculous?!

Filipino environmentalists and Internet users have rallied behind Esperlita Garcia, an anti-mining advocate who was arrested on libel charges for a critical post on her Facebook. She was arrested despite the Supreme Court’s suspension of the law that was used against her, which was actually enacted 18 months after the posting!

The Facebook post was created in April 2011, or 18 months before the enactment of the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which punishes online libel with up to 12 years in prison. The law has since been suspended by the Supreme Court pending a decision on at least 15 petitions to declare the law unconstitutional.

The post criticizes Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr. and his harsh dispersal of people who were meeting inside of a school compound for a planned anti-mining rally. Pentecostes denied Garcia’s allegations and also defended his decision to pursue libel charges against her to “teach her a lesson for her arrogance.”

Barely two days after the 62-year old grandmother’s arrest and overnight detention, Garcia has become the face of the Netizens’ fight against the Cybercrime Prevention Act. Many have visited “Cyber-Perling”, the Facebook page setup to mobilize support for Garcia.

Obviously the law, despite being struck down by the high court, is still being used as a weapon for public officials to stifle citizens’ right to expose abusive acts of public officials. Garcia’s arrest was illegal and should not be tolerated by the Department of Justice or by any freedom-loving Filipino.

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