Philippine Internet freedom among best in world, but Cybercrime law lowers score

Posted on October 05, 2013

INTERNET freedom in the Philippines remains among the best in the world, though its score went down with the passage of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, according to an annual ranking published by Washington-based advocacy group Freedom House.

In the Freedom on the Net 2013 report, the Philippines retained its "free" status for the second year and placed 11th out of 60 countries surveyed. Only 17 countries were given the same Internet freedom status this year.

The report -- the fourth in a series published since 2009 -- evaluates countries based on obstacles to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights. The Philippines joined the list only last year.

Iceland came in first, followed by Estonia, Germany, the United States, and Australia.

Rounding out the top ten were France, Japan, Hungary, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Iran, meanwhile, placed last.

According to the report, although the Internet in the Philippines is still considered one of the best in the world, its score declined by two points due to the passage of the Cybercrime Prevention Act last year.

"In the year’s most significant development, the 2012 Cybercrime Prevention Act was passed into law in September, threatening to infringe on the Philippines’ otherwise open online environment by introducing content restrictions that even a government lawyer admitted are unconstitutional," read the report.

The Cybercrime Prevention Act, currently suspended by the Supreme Court (SC), would allow authorities to block online content without a warrant, facilitate government surveillance, and punish online libel with up to 12 years’ imprisonment.

President Benigno S. C. Aquino III enacted the law in September last year, but the high court issued a 120-day stay order the next month, followed by an indefinite stay order in February amid protests over the law’s allegedly unconstitutional provisions.

The report, however, noted that "despite the Supreme Court’s restraining order on the law’s implementation, it has already created a chilling effect among Internet users."

The government was nonetheless recognized for its efforts to make the Internet more open.

The report also cited the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom filed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago in the Senate.

"As of March 2013, there are eight other proposed bills in the Senate calling for regulation of online content pertaining to child pornography, gambling, and phishing...," it added. -- Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag