SENATORS on Monday rejected calls to regulate social media for terror activities through the rules that will enforce the country’s expanded law against terrorism.
Senator Franklin M. Drilon said the law does not contain a provision allowing authorities to regulate social media.
“We do not recall any provision of the Anti-Terror Act which would authorize the regulation of social media,” he told high-ranking military officers undergoing confirmation hearings at the Commission on Appointments.
Southern Luzon Command head Lt. Gen. Antonio G. Parlade, Jr. told lawmakers he agrees with Armed Forces chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay’s proposal to regulate social media through the law’s implementing rules.
“We all know that social media is being used by elements, organizations to destabilize the government,” he told the appointment body when asked by Mr. Drilon about his position on Mr. Gapay’s earlier statements.
“As we speak, even on social media, they are talking about how to make bombs, molotov bombs,” he added.
But Mr. Drilon reminded him that the law does not have a provision on social media use, adding that regulating the platform constitutes “prior restraint” that violates the Bill of Rights.
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, the principal author of the measure, backed Mr. Drilon and said the law requires authorities to establish “intent and purpose” in committing terrorism.
“Just a piece of advice: When you issue statements, be very careful, and be very conscious because when you say you want to regulate social media, that’s what Senator Drilon is calling prior restraint,” he said.
“And that is not the legislative intent of the anti-terrorism law when we deliberated on it on the floor and when we passed it,” he added. Mr. Lacson asked the military officer to relay this advice to Mr. Gapay.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Solicitor General asked the Supreme Court to cancel the oral arguments for various lawsuits questioning the validity of the law.
In an urgent motion, the agency said the hearings were unnecessary and “unsafe and impractical” amid a coronavirus pandemic.
“To be sure, conducting oral arguments through videoconference would not necessarily address the logistical conundrum and health risks caused by this pandemic,” it said.
The court should instead require the plaintiffs and defendants to file their pleadings, it added.
The Solicitor General also argued the lawsuits contained factual questions that are better handled by lower courts.
Court spokesman Brian Keith F. Hosaka earlier said the tribunal would hold hearings in the third week of September.
More than two dozen lawsuits were filed against the government questioning the legality of the law that allegedly arms the state to quell dissent and violate human rights.
The Anti-Terrorism Act, which took effect on July 18, considers attacks that cause death or serious injury, extensive damage to property and manufacture, possession, acquisition, transport and supply of weapons or explosives as terrorist acts.
It also allows the government to detain a suspect without a warrant for 14 days from three days previously. — NPA and Vann Marlo M. Villegas