(UPDATED 3:00 P.M.) MANILA, Philippines – A local hacking group calling itself “Anonymous Philippines” defaced the official websites of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), and a sub-site of DOH in protest of a new law that it said “effectively ends the Freedom of Expression in the Philippines.”
On Wednesday night, the hacking group replaced the homepage of the country’s central bank, the MWSS website, including the Dep’t of Health’s “SmokeFree” sub-site to call the attention of the government regarding the newly enacted Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
Under the new law, also known as Republic Act No. 10175, among the cybercrime offenses listed include hacking, computer fraud, cybersex, and online libel.
Tagging the passage of the law as “the most notorious act ever witnessed in the cyber-history of the Philippines,” the group called out certain provisions in the law that it said curtails the ability of Internet users to express themselves freely over the Internet.
“Some part (sic) of the bill basically says it can imprison anyone who commits libel either by written messages, comments, blogs, or posts in sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or any other comment-spaces of other social media in the Internet,” the group’s message declared.
Anonymous Philippines said they want the bill revised as it retards “our march with the rest of the world” in terms of fully giving citizens the freedom to express themselves through the Internet by including the antiquated libel laws as one of the cybercrime offenses.
Anonymous is a decentralized global “hacktivist” group which engages in high-profile hacking and defacement activities to protest certain political issues. The global group, however, has yet to confirm affiliation with the group using its name in the Philippines.
Wednesday’s defacement is the first in what appears to be a series of attacks calibrated by local hacking groups to call attention to the contentious provisions of the new law.
Among other things, lawyers and civil society groups have tagged the libel provision, the takedown provision (Section 19), and the traffic data monitoring provision (Section 12) of the Cybercrime law as among the vague and unconstitutional facets of the Act.
Some camps have gone on to say that certain provisions of the Act are “very dangerous,” especially as they infringe on citizens’ civil liberties.
Even the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the local police, one of the implementing agencies of the Act, is having a hard time pinpointing how certain provisions will be implemented.
The Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) had earlier announced plans to convene a Cybercrime body who will be tasked to draft the implementing rules and regulations of the new law.
Not so original cyber statement
In the unholy task of delivering their cyber message, Anonymous, unfortunately, lifted verbatim, without the author’s knowledge or consent, a whole paragraph from a September 17 analysis of the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act written for InterAksyon.com by TV5 legal analyst Atty. Mel Sta. Maria.
In a message the hacking group posted on the defaced sites (above photo), Anonymous called the Cybercrime Prevention Act “the most notorious act ever witnessed in the cyber-history of the Philippines.”
The third paragraph of the hackers’ message, however, is the last paragraph of Sta. Maria’s column, “ANALYSIS | The Cybercrime Law and how it affects your freedom of expression.”
The paragraph goes: “New technologies give us new opportunities to connect with a lot of people not only in this country but all over the world. They can also provide us with a medium through which our political, public and even private views can have an immediate and direct impact on individuals, communities and even countries. It is just so disappointing that our government, in adopting our 80-year-old antiquated libel laws to the Cybercrime Law, again seems to have retarded our march with the rest of the world with respect to giving full force to the people’s freedom of expression.”
In a post on his Facebook wall that he requested be shared, Sta. Maria, a professor at the Ateneo Law School, noted that Anonymous “quoted verbatim my last paragraph in my article…”
“I just want to let everybody know that I have no part in this Anonymous group and their use of my statement is without my consent,” Sta. Maria said.
“I am for free expression but everything must be done in a legal, civil manner in the spirit of the Constitution,” he added.