The Cybercrime bill is justifiably getting a lot of attention these days.  Even those not normally politicized recognize that a law that makes even the FB “sharing” of government criticism punishable by imprisonment is, well, a tad bit harsh.

“If you click ‘like,’ you can be sued, and if you share, you can also be sued,” said Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, one of the lawmakers who voted against the passage of the law.

The provision, according to Guingona, is so broad and vague that it’s not even clear who should be liable for a given statement online. And if you’re found guilty, get ready to spend up to 12 years in prison.  *from:

This is legal.

This is no infraction of the law.  This is no misreading of the law.  This is no mistake.

This is legal–which makes protest illegal (obviously).

Many people seem to recognize this.  This is quite refreshing because it pokes through a “unknown known” we all have.  That group of things we all know but often either don’t realize we know, or we forget that we know.  Specifically that ‘legal’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘just.

“Yes yes,” you might say.  “I know that.”  But I want you to really delve into this, because the ramifications are deep.

First you need to untangle justice from law.  How do you know that one thought is correct and another incorrect?

[Photo by alex felipe from a coconut hacienda in Luzon.]

Well, for me at least, we have to weigh our concept of ‘what should be’ with how this would affect the people as a whole, and with a focus on the middle and lower classes in specific.  Does the law/Does your concept of what-should-be, serve the goal of helping the majority live in a way that respects them both as individuals and as members of a community?  Will it allow people to live to their potential and protect their individual and communal interests—while still allowing for a diversity of ideas and ways of life?

And if you do decide your opinion is just but contrary to the law, what then?

If you believe that a law (or laws), while perfectly legal, is/are also unjust then you realize that to fight against it/them is to act illegally.  That means that you must also accept that the government is in its rights to punish you.  And so the dilemma: What should one do?

And lets take it further.

It is a reality that the Philippines political system is set up to ensure that those with means will continue to increase those means.  It’s a system that benefits foreign capital over local industrialization.  A system where legal criticism is not only punished by jail time, but also with enforced disappearances, torture, and in many cases death by hit squad.

I think what makes the anti-Cybercrime movement so popular comes down to demographics.

With the majority of the big issues I raise above the only ones (directly) affected are the lower classes, and those that advocate for them.  This law affects—what in polite society are called—“normal everyday people.”  In other words, us in the middle class.  Those with some means but live with the privilege of not being part of the exploited classes, and who are able to aspire (however misguidedly) to joining the upper class.

Naturally, when it hits home we hit back.  We feel this.  And we don’t like it.

It’s in moments like this that we have a semblance of the lives of those in positions worse than us:  Those who toil as virtual medieval serfs on Philippine haciendas—landless and with no choice but to work for the benefit of their landlord masters.  Those who are forced off their land by foreign multinational mining corporations (many from Canada) or face grave human rights violations.  Those without decent work (if any work at all) and so must consider leaving their families and loved ones to work abroad at jobs locals don’t want, for a salary they would not stand.  And on and on…

How we fight, when we fight, and why we fight is an interesting issue to me because it can be so fickle.  The same rational in one situation seems so obvious and yet in another almost unthinkable.

For example with this internet law it was instantly clear to so many that they would freely choose to rebel.  That they would flaunt the law.  That they would chose to be criminals in the face of what they see as injustice.

And yet…

If it is right to break the law for freedom of speech, what then to defend your land and family?  For decent work?  For decent health care and education?  For your culture and way of life?

In other words what then for actual freedom? For actual democracy?  For control of your own future rather than having it sold to the highest international or local bidder?  Aren’t these the problems of the Philippines as a whole today?

And so if the reasoning is that we should rebel in response to the cybercrime law… how does that reasoning work when applied to these bigger issues?  How then should we view the most striking form of rebellion happening in the Philippines today: armed resistance?

In some circles this question of defense through arms is openly discussed.  Socially conscious Filipino rapper Bambu makes clear in an interlude in his provocatively titled new album …one rifle per family that symbolic resistance is not enough “…that rifle is symbolic of that defense, but—I really do mean a rifle…”

This is not a question with easy answers.

To those that are justifiably discontent about the cybercrime bill, where do you stand on these other issues?  How far does your solidarity go?

What I do know, is that the solidarity that has arisen around the Cybercrime bill is very encouraging.  And I hope it deepens.

Solidarity has lost a lot of its meaning these days.  It’s not enough to merely state it, or to buy some product in support of something, or to make a donation, etc.  Solidarity is about common action, the struggle for collective improvement, of all taking common shared risk.

Solidarity isn’t safe, but in it we find the seeds of a different way of doing things, in contrast to the individualistic focus our society has now.

In the Cybercrime law the government lays bare its true interests, and makes clear who lies on the opposite side.  We in the middle class are not immune.  The crisis is not just borne out be those working in the fields, or by those in factories.  The struggles of those on the bottom will not (and clearly with this law are not) limited to them.  We are all being squeezed out by global trends that favour the elites of society, forcing the rest of us to rely on their benevolence.

This is not justice.  And this is clearly not democracy.

So what will you do?  Where will you stand?  And when this Cybercrime law issue is no longer in the headlines, when it becomes normalized, what then?

Take this moment to reflect.  And if you decide you want to do more… we hope you will get in touch.

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alex felipe

BAYAN-Canada, Toronto spokesperson / Anakbayan- Toronto organizer

*for non-Filipino readers, we also have connections to Canadian and international orgs that we’d love to connect you with.  Just let us know!