Delfin Lorenzana, the Secretary of national Defense, reassured Filipinos that the new Anti-Terrorism Law will not be used by the government to monitor our social media activities.
Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, the newly installed Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief, proclaimed that he wishes to use the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 to monitor and regulate the activities of Filipinos on Social Media. This statement was later rebuked by Lorenzana stating to the reporters, “No, the (anti-terrorism law) should not regulate social media. It is not part of its mandate and it would violate freedom of speech and discourse.” He added that he was surprised at the statement Gapay made during his appointment as AFP Chief last Monday. Gapay stated that the AFP would be aiding in the formulation and implementation of rules and regulations of the new law which would include social media regulation. Gapay added that terrorists have been known to use online platforms to spread their ideals, recruit new members, and even plan terrorist acts.
Although Gapay later explained to Lorenzana that the statement he released was incomplete and that he only wishes to regulate and monitor the “dark web”, Lornzana was still not convinced stating that, “Even this is difficult to regulate because it is underground and operates illegally.”
The Armed forces of the Philippines clarified yesterday the statement released that is has no plan or intention of regulating the Filipino’s rights to free speech on social media or any online platforms. Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo stated that the AFP promises to protect the rights of the people as stated in the Constitution. This clarification was issued after Gapay’s statement last Monday.
As of now, the Department of Justice is currently drafting the IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations) of the Law and the AFP are included in those expected to provide insight on how it will be carried out.
The Commission on Human Rights was quick to warn them stating that the regulation of Social Media through the Anti-Terrorism Law would strip people of their basic freedoms stated in the constitution. CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia spoke out regarding Gapay’s statement saying, “Not only is the current proposal vague, but it is also broad and susceptible to overreach in terms of guaranteeing the right to privacy and right of individuals to freely express their ideas. The threat of restraint posed by the inclusion of a provision to regulate social media may constitute a bar for individuals to continue voicing out their opinions and ideas, curtailing fundamental freedoms.”
She also stated that there is nothing stated in the law that allows the regulation of activities on social media. Pushing for that to be included justifies the fear of the people against the law, which is facing more than 20 petitions as of now in the Supreme Court.
According to her, both freedom of expression and the right to privacy are basic rights instituted in the Constitution which makes sure that people are able to speak freely and post, publish, etc. whatever pleases them without any persecution whatsoever.
Meanwhile, the chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Social Communications, Boac Bishop Marcelino Antonio Maralit Jr., stated that including the regulation and monitoring of social media platforms in the anti-terrorism law is alarming and dangerous.
“I believe that this inclusion will be another dangerous element/thing to be added to the controversial and highly contested law. I believe this would just be another window for abuse in the already questionable law,” Maralit stated.
He said it is difficult to see this law being enforced without bias as the Philippines continues to see and experience persecution of people or institutions that speak up against the government.
With additional reports: philstar.com
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