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Anti-child-porn, anti-cyber-boso laws could lead to massive freedom curbs PDF Print E-mail
Jan 24, 2010 at 09:58 AM
La Salle research findings show need to balance morality issues with human rights

The newly enacted Republic Act 9775, the Anti-Child Pornography Law, could be misused or even abused to curb Filipinos’ right to use the Internet and deprive them of other civil liberties. This is the carefully weighed warning made by scholars at De La Salle University’s Institute of Governance, who have made urgent policy recommendations that must be considered by those drafting R.A. 9775’s implementing rules and regulations. (See separate story on this page)

The La Salle Institute of Governance (LSIG) released the findings of the research project on January 15. R.A. 9775, a consolidation of a House and a Senate bill, was passed on October 13 and signed by President Gloria Arroyo on November 17.

The law creates an “Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, with a membership composed of the heads of the Department of Justice, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Science and Technology, Philippine National Police, Commission on Human Rights, Commission on Information and Communication Technology, National Telecommunications Commission, Council for the Welfare of Children, Philippine Center on Transnational Crime, Optical Media Board and National Bureau of Investigation” and include representatives from child-focused nongovernment organizations.

The Council is tasked by the law to “promulgate the implementing rules and regulation within 90 days of the effectivity” of Act.
This means R.A. 9775’s IRR must be promulgated by February 17. Those who are drafting the IRR would benefit from the LSIG study “Patrolling the Internet: Mapping the Policy Terrain.” We in The Manila Times believe the experts drafting the IRR should heed its recommendations.

Groups concerned with the protection of children, foremost of which is PREDA, headed by a Times columnist, Fr. Shay Cullen, praise the law.

Fr. Shay says R.A. 9775 is “the first major step forward in protecting children from being sexually exploited through the making and distribution of images of them being sexually abused. The law is hard hitting and among other things prohibits the possession, making, distribution, display, and the attempt to access or transmit on the internet or by cell phone any illegal images depicting sexual activity with or of children or their private parts.”

It is, says Fr. Shay, “one of the few pieces of anti-child pornography legislation in the world that requires by law Internet Server Providers [ISPs] to install filtering software that will block access to web sites though the Internet that contains illegal images of children as defined under the act.”

The La Salle study shows that in many countries, like Britain and many others in Western Europe, ISPs do use filtering software voluntarily.

In addition, “all operators and business establishments have to know and report to the police within seven days any violation of the act in their premises.”

The law strictly outlaws any attempt to knowingly access with reasonable knowledge any child pornography with or without the intent to publish, sell, distribute or broadcast the images.

Under R.A. 9775 the Internet Service Providers must reveal, when asked by the police, the identities of the offenders—their clients trying to access child pornography over the Internet through their servers.

Many ISPs and the association of Internet cafes (see separate story “Internet cafes question law’s provisions”) oppose the required installation of filters and the imposition of the duty to monitor—or spy on—and report child-porno addicts. As the LSIG study documents it, some industry people see this provision of the law as an invasion of privacy and a form of censorship.

The La Salle study tells us of a scenario, brought up at a roundtable held for the research study by Wynthrop Yu, chair of the Philippine Internet Commerce Society, in which a person’s name is on the “blacklist” submitted by the ISP. That person only wound up visiting the porno website for something else—not the porno—or in error. But the government agents are now justified to do surveillance on the person’s usage of the Internet and perhaps of other matters about him.

While generally in favor of throwing out pornography, especially child pornography, from the Internet, the authors of the La Salle study recommend that the authorities must carefully balance morality issues with human-rights protection.

We believe this is an extremely valid point, especially remembering that in our country anti-communist and anti-dissident police and military groups have violated human rights to the point of murder.

Our special report today about Internet Surveillance covers only the fLSIG study’s first part, “I. Public Morality and Law Enforcement: The Anti Child-Pornography Law ad the Cyber-Voyeurism Bill.” We will run a special report on the second part, “II. National Security and Public Accoutability” The Human Security Act and the Freedom of Information Bill” in a future issue. --RENE Q. BAS EDITOR IN CHIEF, Manila Times


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