To our esteemed public servants:

I write this open appeal to you -perhaps ultimately in futility- in the hopes that you will all see the reason why we are all up in arms with our keyboards, our laptops, tablets and smartphones in hand about R.A. 10175… particularly the libel clause admittedly inserted by one of your own: Senator Tito Sotto.

I agree with many of the clauses regarding online fraud, online theft and the other crimes that the Act seeks to curtail, but many of us see a very dangerous path with the libel clause; a path that seeks to limit what we can say.

You see, our online personas through Twitter, Facebook or any other site are not ‘like’, ‘kind of’ or ‘similar to’ our voices. There’s no simile or metaphor here.

They are our voices. Plain and simple.

A simple Tweet or a Facebook status update takes seconds; but mind you, they’re precious seconds. Many of us are too busy with our lives to have the time to call a government hotline to lodge a complaint, drop a letter in some ubiquitous little suggestion box outside of your offices or camp out in protest outside government buildings.

In this day and age when the working middle class (most of us netizens who are active online) are too busy with our respective careers, businesses, families and friends, our online voices are all we really have time for.

We post pictures, post videos and post our thoughts onto our webpages so quickly that it has become our staple source for what’s going on around us, with our friends, with work or the industry we belong in. We use it to point out the wrongs in society, to show the abuses made by those who feel wrongly entitled as much as it is used to praise for those who truly deserve it.

It may sometimes be abused and misused, but nevertheless this is our forum… the place where we speak freely. Now this libel clause and implementation seeks to oppress the one place we who are busy have left for free discussion and engaging conversation, with the threat of harsh prosecution and incredibly stiff penalties stemming from a very broad scope that encompasses all online interactions. That’s not right.

Even when it comes to my job, it could have an effect. How can I be truly frank about a car that I (perhaps) don’t like if someone has the option to play the libel card? What if I compare one vehicle to another in an unfavorable manner? Or what if I spot, take a picture of and post the photo of a police officer or traffic enforcer performing something other than their official duties on paid time? Will we be on the receiving end of legal action because of R.A. 10175 now?

This law makes that SOPA business look as mild as the rules the my 3rd grade teacher wrote on the blackboard during the first day of class. It seems more like online tyranny than anything else; another means to try a control a population that’s fed up with corruption, red tape, bribes, poverty, traffic, smuggling, drug problems, overpopulation, floods, garbage problems, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Gangnam Style.

And it doesn’t even have to be the libel part. If two consenting adults want to have cybersex, that’s their thing; something very personal between two people. Sadly, the same goes for legal pornography. But, regardless what we may think, it’s not our place to judge nor is it a good government of a free people’s place to do so.

This Act isn’t the move of a government for a free people. The Act isn’t even implemented yet, and already one kid on Facebook was intimidated by the person or persons handling the Philippine National Police’s Facebook account for posting his thoughts. I wasn’t even born then, but it sounds like 1973 all over again.

Frankly, I don’t subscribe to some Senators saying they “didn’t see the clause” or “needed someone to point it out”. In my opinion (take note: opinion) these kinds of excuses are insults to our intelligence, and I really can’t comprehend how this Act took precedence over the passing of something as critical to our country’s future like the R.H. Bill. Again, in my opinion, the annual PhP 50,000,000 to be allocated for R.A. 10175 could be used for better things like calamity funds, medical benefits for our soldiers, more patrol cars for the PNP, or anything of the like. I can think of 101 better uses for that money than this.

I am no lawyer but I know my rights under Article III (particularly Section 4) of our 1987 Constitution. These are the rights my generation’s parents, titos, titas, kuyas, ates and everybody else who was at Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue risked their lives for in 1986.

I was there, a four year old sitting on my uncle’s shoulders, not really understanding what was going on and what we were there for. Now I know.

Is it too much to think that our generation won’t speak up for what they fought for?

Vince Pornelos

Concerned Citizen

Republic of the Philippines

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