Chilling effect: Proposal to regulate social media via anti-terror law hit

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 05 2020 10:11 AM | Updated as of Aug 05 2020 11:59 AM

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MANILA - Every Filipino would be "fair game" if the anti-terror law is used to regulate social media, a lawyers' group said Wednesday after the country's military chief made the proposal to counter radicalization and recruitment of terrorists.

AFP Chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay made the remark as the justice department has begun drafting the new law's implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

The IRR, however, cannot rise above its source, according to National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) president Edre Olalia.

"Everybody’s fair game. Who do you know that doesn’t use social media right now? Even abroad where there are a 10th of a billion Filipinos who are also covered by the law by the way," he told ANC. 

"It sends a chilling effect because it restrains, discourages or even penalizes and amounts to either prior restraint or subsequent punishment of freedom of speech and expression which is unconstitutional and in violation of international law."

Government already has enough tools in countering terrorist recruitment and radicalization, Olalia said.

"Even without going to this overreach step of monitoring social media, if they just do the intelligence work properly intelligently, scientifically and competently, you don’t need to spend so much time and effort monitoring millions of posts, likes, shares," he said.

If there is basis to monitor suspected terrorists then authorities can ask courts for permission to wiretap and survey, he added.

Malacañang earlier said the law cannot be used to regulate social media as it was not among its provisions.

The law, which the President signed last month despite various sectors' opposition, is facing 22 petitions questioning its constitutionality before the Supreme Court.