Restricting social media ‘dangerous’ – Lacson
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Tuesday rebuffed the “dangerous interpretation” of top military officials whose proposal to use the anti-terrorism law in restricting social media use fueled public perception that it was intended to stifle legitimate dissent.
Lacson, the primary sponsor of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, reiterated that the measure was never designed to limit the Filipinos’ use of the cyberspace in expressing their views as suggested by Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay.
He also scoffed at the remarks of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., who told members of the congressional Commission on Appointments on Monday that the law’s implementing rules and regulations may spell out the “terms and conditions” on what individuals “are allowed to do” in social media.
“Irresponsible statements coming from certain top officials of the AFP like ‘regulating social media’ should be discouraged as it implies prior restraint,” Lacson said in a Viber message to the Inquirer.
“[It is] violative of the ‘overbreadth doctrine’ or a law being overly broad in that proscription of unprotected speech may also proscribe protected speech, which is clearly not the legislative intent of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020,” he said.
The senator stressed that Section 4 of the measure explicitly stated that terrorism “shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights.”
Lacson, a retired national police chief, advised Gapay and Parlade to consult their legal officers before issuing such statements to the media, noting that dozens of petitions questioning the law’s constitutionality had been filed in the Supreme Court.
In his confirmation hearing, Parlade supported Gapay’s position to “regulate” the use of social media as it would help curb terrorism in the country.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, a former justice secretary, said the military official’s view was “very disturbing” as it would violate the Constitution.
“This is what prior restraint is all about. When you regulate what [a person] is allowed to do, that’s prior restraint. That’s prohibited under our Bill of Rights and our democratic system of government,” Drilon told Parlade.
“They may be charged with sedition or with violation of the antiterror act,” the veteran lawmaker said.
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