Rejinel Valencia, The Philippines
As a student of journalism from the University of the Philippines, Rejinel is currently writing his thesis which focuses on the manifestation of Orientalism, or the cultural representations of the Orient made by the Western powers, in texts produced by the Philippine media. When not writing his thesis, Jinel is enjoying traveling. Rejinel describes himself as an outgoing person and he hopes his experience in at the #Case4Space roundtable will allow him to get to know a lot of people from different nations.
How are trends in legal and regulatory frameworks affecting youth? Roughly seven in every 10 active internet users in the Philippines are youth, according to the 2016 Digital Report of the Singapore-based organization, ‘We Are Social’. Prior 2012, the democracy group Freedom House said we were enjoying the greatest degree of online freedom in Asia. With the absence of laws curtailing our freedom of expression, we were literally harnessing the power of the online media to fight corruption in our country. However, there has been a decline in this online freedom, since the Philippine Supreme Court (SC) upheld the constitutionality of the libel clause of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, according to the 2015 report of the Freedom House. While there have been numerous calls to decriminalize libel in the Philippines, the Act did the opposite by expanding its coverage to online defamation. Penalties for defaming anyone online are likewise tougher compared when it is done through offline means. Yes, anyone. Do not get me wrong for I support the state’s obligation to protect its citizens from defamation. However, the SC justices unwittingly extended the mantle of protection of the Act’s libel clause to public officials by re-adopting the libel's definition from the antiquated Philippine Revised Penal Code. Its Article 354 makes reference to reports of ‘any judicial, legislative, or other official proceedings’ which inevitably involves state officials. More intriguing is the fact that behind the provision is a Philippine senator who once received flak online for allegedly plagiarizing the work of US Senator Robert Kennedy. A news outlet even quoted him, saying he felt vindicated by the High Court’s decision. According to the United Nations, the 16th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) aims to “promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies” by ensuring “responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.” The Act’s provision on online libel poses a great challenge to the success of the SDG 16 in a sense that no genuine participation can happen when individuals are being led towards self-censorship. Its chilling effect may force the youth to deter voicing out their criticisms, even if true, because of the fear of the sanctions imposed by the Act. The consequences, however, go beyond its chilling effect. Youth interests could only be properly expressed by the youth, themselves. But now that this expression is curtailed, who will speak for us? For instance, the budget of the education sector in the Philippines – the foremost interest of the youth – remains below the prescribed 6 percent of the gross domestic product. It is ironic that despite our online presence, the support for our interests remains low. Hope is there, though. The internet law bill ‘Magna Carta for Internet Freedom’ was recently passed in the Philippine Congress that would repeal the Act’s libel provision. The youth sector should do its part in the passing of the said law.