On Cybersecurity and Human Rights in the Philippines

Manuel A. Rodriguez II

Cyberspace, as the fifth common domain – after land, sea, air and outer space, is in great need for coordination, cooperation and legal measures among all nations. A cyberspace treaty or a set of treaties at the United Nations level, counting cybersecurity, cybercrime and other cyber hazards, should be the framework for peace, justice and security in the electronic world (Schjolberg & Helie, 2011).

Crimes against peace and security in cyberspace should be established as crimes under international law through a Convention or Protocol at the United Nations level for mankind will in the future be completely dependent on information and communication technologies (Ibid).

With the fast changing innovation of technology is new conduct developed among individuals. Good or bad, these forms of conduct, however, must be classified so as to determine those which are gradually destroying our aim for a better environment (Jalayajay & Garcia, 2011).

Serious crimes in cyberspace should be established under international law, whether or not they are punishable under national law (Id.). The main purpose of enacting a law is to govern the conduct of individuals, and to regulate it so as to promote social order. Any conduct, which seems to be in violation of a person’s right must be governed and regulated by a law (ibid).

The Dawn of the Controversial RA 10175

Last September 12, 2012, Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III signed the Republic Act 10175 (RA 10175) or The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 into law to prevent various electronic offenses including forgery, fraud, and identity theft and child pornography. The new crimes are grouped into two sections in the new RA 10175: Internet Crimes and Commercial Crimes. Another new crime created under the new law is “Cyber-Squatting” which is “the acquisition of a person’s domain name in bad faith to profit, mislead, destroy the reputation and deprive others from registering the same.”
On October 3, 2012 the day one of the effectivity of the controversial law, the Philippine Government faced a bombardment of protests. Major news outlets, bloggers, human rights advocates and other critics turned their social media profile black to express their dismay to the Government and indignation on the said piece of legislation. 

The Philippines has one of Asia's most effervescent democracies. But critics say the law echoes strategy to quiet and keep an eye on critics used by former strongman President Ferdinand Marcos when he imposed martial law in the 1970s (Macaraig, 2012).

Orwellian Society Philippines?

"Orwellian" is an adjective describing the situation, idea, or societal condition that George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. It connotes an attitude and a policy of control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past, including the "unperson" — a person whose past existence is expunged from the public record and memory, practiced by modern repressive governments. Often, this includes the circumstances depicted in Orwell’s novels particularly in the award winning novel, Nineteen-eighty-four (Wikipedia.com).

            The most common sense of an “Orwellian” society is the state of complete control of the Government over its subjects, wherein improper thoughts against the Government is a serious crime.  

The dawn of the Cybercrime Prevention Act may have brought to us an online version of an “Orwellian” Philippines. Such a kind of legislation must and should be abhorred for being contrary to the Due Process Clause enshrined on our Constitution, however, declaring a law as unconstitutional is a power vested only in one Supreme Court. As opined by United States Supreme Court Magistrate, Evans Hughes: “Constitution is what the Judges say it is.”

The Constitution is the guide
which I will never abandon.
-          George Washington

Cybersecurity, Human Rights, and Civil Liberties

Internet, the network of networks, is an outstanding way of getting in touch with people and making links. It contributes to the spread of knowledge, to social and economic development and, if nothing else, it can be a way of elevating personal life. But it should not be forgotten that it is also a utensil of power, a place of bazaar where everything can be bought and sold, including personal data malicious software and crimeware tools (Schjolberg & Stein, 2011).

Internet can also be considered as an instrument that allows the development of digital surveillance on a very large scale. This contributes to potentially threatening several human freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of movement (the right to travel and to navigate freely on the Internet), the right to knowledge and information, and the right to respect for private life, family and correspondence. In the world of digital technology, every activity leaves a trace.  Cyberspace is billed as being free but people end up paying for their actions in some way, often payment in kind by providing their personal data (Ibid.).

Connecting the world in a responsible manner should guarantee fundamental human rights and civil liberties as well as the fair and honest handling of personal data. It should help the rethinking of economic models to ensure that personal data are not just considered as an asset to be traded.

Finding a realistic balance between the needs and duties of protection, between the protection of individual and common interests, between the respect of national sovereignty and the need for international collaboration, all the while keeping fundamental human rights in mind, is essential.

It would be reasonable to use these points as a main axis for development for cybersecurity measures. Both public and private players should propose technical, legal and economic cybersecurity solutions which are viable and convincing at national and international levels, in order to allow the police and justice systems to function efficiently without damaging fundamental freedoms. It should be kept in mind, however, that no single measure or security solution can protect against the consequences of injustice (ibid.).

The objective is to offer workable solutions for preserving national sovereignty as well as managing cybersecurity and the fight against cybercrime and terrorism, at both a national and an international level. At the same time, there is a real need to develop measures that foster a fair use of personal data and digital privacy for everyone (individual, organization and state) (ibid.).

Cyberspace is not merely virtual; it represents an idea of the world with a political, and economic and social reality.

Why the Supreme Court Should Abhor RA 10175

Section 1 of Article III of the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution provides that '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.'

However, under Section 19 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act, 'when a computer data is prima facie found to be in violation of the provisions of this Act, the Department of Justice (DOJ) shall issue an order to restrict or block access to such computer.'" No court intervention is needed; the DOJ can go right ahead and compel you to stop publishing your posts (Sta. Maria, 2012). It is like police officials breaking inside your home and takes any property of yours without a warrant issued by a Judge.

            The abovementioned is the strongest reason why the law should be declared unconstitutional. Other crimes being prohibited by the law as found out by the writer of this article is reasonable, in fact some crimes in the new law is already prohibited by the Government prior to the enactment of RA 10175 by other special laws and the Revised Penal Code. However, the duration of the penalty prescribed in the new law is not reasonable.


While it may be true that the law has good intentions, nevertheless the end can never justify the means. The Government exist not only to protect the people but also to preserve their rights, if one of those two tasks is left undone then the Government is a failure. Those two tasks are not options for the Government to perform; they are responsibilities which must be performed. Protect the people and preserve rights.

The rights of the people do not end in courts, in the parliament of the streets, or anywhere on Earth. It extends to the intangible world of social media and on the Internet at large. The web is a mere extension of our physical world therefore the Constitution remains supreme therein.


Jalayajay, Betsy Rose & Garcia, Ma. Shiela (2011) DEALING WITH CYBERCRIMES: The Extent and Application of Current Laws. Far Eastern Law Review, Vol. XLII, 2011

Macaraig, Meynardo (2012) Protests as Philippine Cybercrime Law takes effect. www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/276649/scitech/technology/protect-as-philippine-cybercrime-law-takes-effect

Scjolberg, Stein & Ghernaouti – Helie, Solange (2011) A Global Treaty on Cybersecurity and Cybercrime. Cybercrimelaw.net

Sta. Maria, Melencio (2012) An Interaksyon.com Article. www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/276434/scitech/socialmedia/digital-martial-law-10-scary-things-about-the-cybercrime-prevention-act-of-2012




Tribute to the Hero of My Childhood

To the Heavens and Moon 1969: Returning to the Heavens with his passing August 25 2012.

I don't know much about the guy. All that I know is that he is the first man on the moon and (I guess) my first childhood hero. Neil Armstrong was an icon in 1969. Nevertheless, the impact he made to to mankind resounded till the early 90's. 

When I was a kid, I wanted to be like him. One time I remember, my pre-school teacher asked me what I want to be when  I grow up...I answered, "AN ASTRONAUT!" I wanted to be the first to put the Philippine flag on the moon. For me, Mr. Armstrong represents the childhood dreams of many people. 

When we were young, we always think that our "hero" is the greatest, the strongest, and the best. Maybe, there is still a piece of that childhood mentality to every grown-up  person. On August 25, 2012, Mr. Armstrong died and I felt a bit of disappointment. Maybe, at the back of my mind I still carry the idea that my "hero" is the best, the strongest, and it is just a disappointment to the child in me that my "superhero" just died. I guess that is the time when reality is setting back in. Reminding me that my hero Armstrong is not the same as my other heroes who are just a pigment of creative mind of comic artists. 

Real heroes die, heroes in comics doesn't. Superman is immortal, Mr. Armstrong is an 82 year old with a heart ailment. They both went to space, however, Mr. Armstrong is a real person and can be an inspiration to every kid that you don't need to become Superman to reach the moon. Thanks for the good memories Mr. Armstrong. 

Have a great journey back to the heavens. Go beyond the moon this time Sir.



Bago pa man magtapos ang Impeachment Trial ng ating (dating) Chief Justice na si Renato Corona, ay akin ng napag desisyunan na respetuhin ang anu mang kalabasan nito. Maging ito man ay hindi sang ayon sa aking nais na maganap para sa bayan. At ganoon nga ang naganap, labin dalawang Senador ang bumoto na “guilty,” at tunay nga na pinataw ang hindi nais sa aking opinyon. Gaya ng aking pangako sa sarili, pinilit ko galangin ang taliwas sa aking pinaglalabang paniniwala sapagkat ako ay may respeto sa institusyon na nilikha ng ating Saligang Batas.

Ngayon at tapos na ang palilitis, ilang mga katanungan ang pumasok sa aking isip kaugnay sa pinag daanan natin bilang isang Estado. Ano ang napatunayan ng administrasyong Aquino sa naganap? Ano kinabukasan ng ating bayan ngayon at wala na ang Punong Mahistrado? Yayaman na ba tayo bilang Bansa? Mawawalan na ba ng mga buwayang opisyal ang Pamahalaan? Ang pagkawala ba ni Corona ay tanda ng isang bagong hudikatura na malinis at tapat? Sino ang tunay na panalo sa Impeachment Trial na naganap?

Habang kasalukuyan ng paglilitis, minsan kung binangit na habang opinyon ko na dapat mapa walang sala ang nasasakdal, higit ko paring nais ang katapusan ng Impeachment Trial ano man ang maging desisyon. Sa aking palagay, habang tumatagal ang paglilitis na iyon ay tayong mga mamamayan ang tunay na talo.

At ngayon na tapos na ang tila apatnaput-apat na episode ng isang teleserye, nagwagi na ba ang mamamayang Pilipino?
Sa aking palagay ay dalawa ang kasagutan sa huling katanungan na iyonOo at Hindi.

Oo, dahil sa wakas ay pagkakataon na ito para humakbang na padiretso ang ating Bayan galing sa isang mabigat na pagsubok.

Oo, dahil ang pagpapatalsik kay Corona ay isang mabigat na mensahe sa bawat isang kawal ng Gobyerno mula sa Barangay hanggang Malakanyang.

Oo, dahil ito ay tila nakapagpa tibay ng pananampalataya ng mamamayan sa mga institusyon ng ating Gobyerno, na hindi lahat ng isyu ay dapat idaan sa lansangan, at na mayroon silang matibay na sandigan sa ating Pamahalaan. Oo, dahil minsan sa iyong buhay ay marahil nakipag talo ka sa ka-opisina, kaklase o kapitbahay ukol sa isyu…ibig sabihin lamang na mayroon kang pakialam at mahal mo ang bayan.

Marami pa akong maraming maidagdag na dahilan kung bakit “Oo,” at bakit tunay na nagtagumpay ang mamamayang Pilipino sa naganap.  Pero ang pag bigay puna natin sa dahilan ng kasagutang “hindi” ay marahil makatulong sa atin sa pag tahak sa “tuwid na daan,” at gumising sa ating diwa at realisasyon kung ano ang tunay na makakabuti sa ating bayan. Dahil ang pagtangap sa katotohanan gaano man ito hindi ka nais-nais ay masakit ngunit higit na makakabuti.

Hindi tayo matagumpay sa naganap pagkat si Corona ay isa lamang sa labin-limang mahistrado ng Korte Suprema. Marami tayong reklamo sa mga hindi patas na nagiging desisyon ng Korte Suprema, ngunit hindi natin ito nalutas pagkat si Corona ay isang boto lamang sa labin-lima. Kung tunay na hindi sila nagging patas, patuloy parin sila magiging hindi patas pagkat isa lamang ang nawala sa kanila.

Hindi tayo matagumpay dahil nabuksan natin sa mundo ng pulitika ang Hudikatura. Ang mga hukom ay hindi pulitiko, at hindi sila binoboto nating mamamayan para malagay sa pwesto. Tama lamang na ganito ang sistema upang maiwasang mabigyan ng kulay ang bawat desisyon na kanilang pinapataw. Upang magdesisyon sila na ayon sa kanilang sariling pagtimbang sa kaso at sa batas na walang halong pagpapa-pogi sa opinyon ng taumbayan. Ito rin ang dahilan kung bakit hindi maaaring ipalabas sa telebisyon ang paglilitis ng isang regular na korte at ng Korte Suprema.

Hindi tayo matagumpay dahil walang duda na naapakan ang personal na karapatan ni Corona sa naganap na paglilitis. Mula sa paghain ng reklamo hanggang sa presentasyon ng ebidensya, maraming abogado at eksperto ang magsasabi ng iregularidad na naganap. Gaya ng mga ebidesya na walang “authentication.” Sa regular na korte ay hindi ito papansinin ng Hukom na parang hindi nya ito nakita. Hindi ito nangyari sa Impeachment Court. Marami ring Senador ang nagbitaw ng hatol na galing umano sa “kunsiyensya.” Ang pagiging Hukom ay dapat marunong kumilatis ng dapat tangaping ebidensya. Ang isang Hukom ay dapat mag bigay lamang ng buhay sa batas at hindi dagdagan ito ng emosyon ng isang taong mortal. At dahil naapakan ang karapatan ni Corona na pinakamataas na Mahistrado, walang duda na mas madali tapakan ang karapatan ng isang ordinaryong Pilipino.

Hindi tayo matagumpay dahil ang mahirap noong nakaupo si Corona ay mahirap parin sa mga susunod na araw. Ang kurakot sa gobyerno ay walang kasiguraduhang magiging tuwid.

Hindi tayo matagumpay dahil hindi si Corona ang tunay nating kalaban. Ang ating kalaban ay ang ating mga makasalanang sarili. Ginawa nating karumaldumal ang kalagayan ng ating Bayang minsang masagana. Ang kurapsyon ay nagaganap hindi lamang sa gobyerno kundi pati sa pribadong sektor.  Ang pinaka-simple sa lahat ng batas, ang batas trapiko ay hindi masunod-sunod. Bawat eleksyon ay may pagtanggap ng pera na nagaganap ng isang botante. Bawat trasaksyon sa Gobyerno ay may under-the-table.  

Ano ang ating tunay na napatunayan? Na ang mga Pilipino ay kayang magpatalsik ng kurakot na lider? Mga kababayan matagal na po nating napatunayan iyon. Dalawang People Power at isang impeachment verdict na natin iyon naipakita sa mundo. Walang duda na kaya natin pumiglas sa masamang lider.

Ang tanong ngayon ay kung kaya ba nating pumiglas sa masamang kalagayan bilang isang Bansa.

Ang mga kadahilanan kung bakit hindi tayo matagumpay ay hindi ko binangit para siraan ang administrasyon at ang masigasig na bagong pag-asa ng ordinaryong Pilipino. Ito ay hamon sa ating lahat saan mang sector ng lipunan kabilang.

Ang pagtataguyod ng ating Bayan ay responsibilidad hindi lamang ng Gobyerno, ito ay responsibilidad ng bawat isa. Sana ang natapos na Impeachment Trial ay simula ng isang magandang bukas para sa Bansa. Wala tayo magagawa sa ngayon kundi ay manalangin at umasa na iyon ay matupad.

Nawa’y ang Bansang Pilipinas ay magbigay buhay sa katagang “Dakila ang Bansa na ang Diyos ang siyang Panginoon.”

MANILA, MAY 29, 2012


Is ‘Vox Populi’ still ‘Vox Dei’?

By Manuel Rodriguez II 

The latin maxim “vox populi, vox dei” has always been a motto of any democratic nation, translated in English it means “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” In the Philippines, the said motto is continuously being used especially during election season. Our very own Constitution is no less emphatic in adherence to the motto; on its very own words it is stated that ‘sovereignty resides in the people.’ 

As a member of a democratic institution, we are already used in hearing the concept of ‘vox populi, vox dei.’ Many Filipinos never dared to question its truthfulness despite the knowledge that human beings are very susceptible to commit mistakes. Logic will tell us that human beings, being imperfect cannot dictate what the ‘voice of God’ should be. 

 Filipinos, with total reliance to the ‘maxim’ (probably due to their religiosity), became irresponsible in using the most precious God-given gift our Nation has, namely our democracy. With the emergence of technology and the strengthening of the media, people’s thoughts are became easily prone to influence, therefore, high profiled people already has the power to manipulate what the ‘people’s voice’ (God’s voice) will be. It’s like them playing god, or becoming the ‘Big Brother’ of Orwell’s classic. Now a query is posed by the circumstance, “Is vox populi still vox dei?”
With the current political crisis that we are facing, specifically the ongoing existence of an Impeachment Court with the highest magistrate as defendant, what role must public opinion play? 

A survey conducted by Pulse Asia (many would like to refer to it as the ‘False’ Asia) said that 47 percent of Filipinos think Chief Justice Corona is guilty of the charges filed against him, 43 percent are undecided, and only 5 percent say believe he is innocent. The remaining 5 percent are the ones who claim that they do not have enough basis to make a decision. Again, let me pose a query, does the survey mirror the “voice of God?” 

The survey was conducted to 1,900 respondents across the country. I am no expert in surveys or in statistics, but in my personal opinion, I do not think that the 1,900 can speak to the more than 90 million Filipinos. What the survey did was only to destroy the thinking caps of our fellowmen and tilted their beliefs to be against Corona by having a press release that says he is unpopular. Once again, we saw a showcase on how powerful media is in manipulating the opinion of many. Sad but true, Filipinos are poor thinkers as regards political stands. How many times have we elected an official whom we later on regretted? Many. 

Another point is about the timing of the said survey. Pulse Asia conducted the survey from Feb 26 to March 9, before the defense presented its evidence in the impeachment court. Therefore, the veracity is questionable. How come the 47 percent arrived on a conclusion that the Chief Justice is guilty when in fact there is no evidence from the defense team has been presented yet? Common sense tells us that the Pulse Asia survey was conducted prematurely. 

Our fellowmen (especially the Senator-Judges), must base their opinion on an educated analysis of the evidence presented. While it is true that not all citizens are learned in the science and art of law, a sense of justice is surely present in the consciousness of everyone.

One must view an issue objectively and with an open mind, that is the essence of the “principle of due process” and the “rule of law.” When this is done, issues may be seen differently. The propaganda of the President against Corona outside the impeachment court will be seen as unjust, the signing of the 188 Congressmen will be seen as capricious, and the accusations in the impeachment will be seen as weak arguments, the court performance of the prosecution team will be seen as unpersuasive, and His Excellency will be seen as a tyrant. 

These things are what I saw using objective eyes, it is my hope that you too will see things in this light. We can all agree to disagree. I respect the adverse opinion of others on this issue; all that I ask is for an educated stance in siding either for the prosecution or for the defense. And for the record, it is not the Chief Justice that I support, it just so happened that he is the one at the other end of the rope. What I support are the principles of justice, the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary. In my view, if we let the Chief Justice’s Constitutional rights be trampled upon, all the more we open the door to let them trample upon our rights as mere ordinary citizens. 

The impeachment court’s duty now is to administer justice and not to conform to the opinion of the public. As pointed out by the Presiding Officer, the Honorable Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile: 

“I will look at the evidence. If we use surveys to convict a person charged in the courts, then we don’t need courts. All we have to do is conduct surveys whenever somebody is charged.”

Let us be remembered that the Son of God himself was a victim of a “survey judgment.” It was public opinion that led him to be hanged on the cross instead of Barabas. I do not think that the Jewish chanting “kill him” and “crucify him” is the “voice of God.” 

I am not advocating that ‘survey firms’ should be banned. I believe that banning them will lead to a violation of their constitutional right to expression. What I am saying merely is that, every person must be responsible in their actions. Article 19 of our Civil Code says it all: 

“Every person in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.” 
I think aside from the results, survey firms should disclose other facts behind the conducting of the survey such as the margin of error used, the number of respondents, the purpose of the survey, the questions in the survey, the time the survey was conducted, what party sponsored the survey and other relevant information so as to educate the people on how to properly assess a political issue (especially during election time).

There is really no hard and fast rule to determine the true “voice of God.” Ergo, the answer to the question on whether ‘vox populi’ is ‘vox dei’ is “not always.” All we could do as mere mortals is to live out the wordings of Civil Code’s Article 19, hold on to our faith, and be responsible in using the democracy that we have. 

We Filipinos should be united in two things, first, united in prayer to make our fellowmen wise citizens and second, united in action, that in all our dealings we contribute to nation building. 

MANILA, March 27, 2012
My photo
Professor of "The Humanities" at the Lyceum of the Philippines University. Law Student at the Far Eastern University, Institute of Law. President and former Auditor of Legal Network for Truthful Elections (UST Chapter) Former Vice President- Internal of Batas Tomasino: The UST Law Society, Former Chairperson of UST-Students' Democratic Party. Former Vice President- Internal of UST UNESCO. Former Public Relations Officer (PRO) of UST Arts and Letters Student Council. Former Vice President Internal of Community Achievers' Association (UST-AB). Bachelor of Arts in Legal Management (University of Santo Tomas, '09) High School Education (Christian Academy of Manila, '05)