As an advocate for free speech, I am a little more cautious than many of my social media colleagues in throwing 100% support behind the recent government announcement that it will arrest and file charges against people who spread terrorist propaganda online.
Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Rodolfo Salalima describes this as “cyber sedition.”
Sedition, as we know it, is conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or duly-constituted government.
I agree that under the Philippine Constitution, sedition is a crime that is dealt with through appropriate punishment, no question about it.
Already, it is difficult to prove that someone has committed sedition because actions of people are subject to legal interpretation — or misinterpretation — and as always, the burden of proof lies in the accuser. (In recent weeks, the PH government has been quick to accuse or implicate people for serious violations of the law, only to fall just short of retraction.)
More so with sedition based on speech. The line in this case is more blurry.
First of all, the same constitution that criminalizes sedition also protects free speech. That free speech gives any legal person the right to express opposition or to contradict the position of state authority.
And yes, that includes the declaration of Martial Law, the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus, or the use of force to quell what government feels is a threat to the nation’s peace and security.
Someone who opposes Martial Law or questions the legal basis for its imposition should not immediately be accused of inciting to rebellion.
We are still a Democracy and there will always be pros and cons to every issue. Regardless of the majority favoring (or, for that matter, opposing) a policy or action by their government, citizens have the inalienable right to free expression.
“Cyber sedition” is a phrase that we have never encountered before, given the relatively infant stage of the Internet and social media.
Politikal Pinoy therefore hopes that our government treads this new path with utmost care, not only ensuring that any accusation of “cyber sedition” is made with strict and correct interpretation of the law while making sure that people’s free speech are not trampled upon.
Any attempt to silence the opposition does not bode well for a government and a president who has repeatedly assured the citizenry that he will protect people’s right to say things, even if he may not agree with what they say.