Hackers begin string of govt site defacements on eve of Cybercrime Law oral arguments

The defaced MMDA website early Monday morning of January 14, 2013.

MANILA, Philippines — Local hacktivist groups on early Monday morning joined the series of online and offline protests in the run up to the oral arguments for the Cybercrime Law before the Supreme Court on Tuesday by defacing a number of government websites.

Among the high-profile websites hit include that of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), where the local hacking collective — composed of previously identified groups as Anonymous #OccupyPhilippines, PrivateX, Philker, #pR.is0n3r, and d4rkb1t, among others — posted a lengthy message voicing their concern about the controversial law, even citing Article III, Section 4 of the Constitution.

The said provision states: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peacably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

“What happened to the law?” the hacktivist groups asked. “Are all laws meant to be broken? Are they made to fool the people, deprive them of their rights in exchange of what we believe as “Heavens (sic) for Politicians?”

The groups also defended their stance against the Cybercrime Law, stressing that they are not opposing the measure just because it would penalize acts of hacking and site defacements in the Philippines. “WE do not oppose the said law in any way, if it’s for the greater good.”

Other government websites that were defaced on Monday include:

Last week, the groups initially defaced the website of Senator Vicento “Tito” Sotto III, a known advocate of the libel provision in the Cybercrime Law, and replaced it with a deface page calling Sotto out for “denying [the netizens of their] freedom of speech and expression” by passing the law.

The string of defacements is just the first in what appears to be a series of online protests that will be mounted by various groups days before the Supreme Court hears the oral arguments of the law’s petitioners, and weeks before the 120-day temporary restraining order (TRO) against the law expires.

Offline, activist groups have already started mounting protest rallies and online initiatives, which include replacing their social media profile pictures with a black avatar and posting status messages with the hasthag #NoToCybercrimeLaw and #JunkCybercrimeLaw.

Petitioners will reportedly ask the high court to extend the TRO on the law, which would expire on February 6, until such time that the Supreme Court has come up with a decision on the oral arguments.

Among the controversial provisions sectoral groups and Internet users want to strike down include that of cyber libel, the so-called “takedown provision,” and the clause allowing the government to collect traffic data on suspected violators.