08 October 2012

How Did the Anti-Cybercrime Law Get Out of Congress?

When I was in management, I strictly observed a simple personal and professional rule: I never affixed my signature to anything that I did not fully understand. Being a corporate signatory meant that I along with another colleague were the end of the line for usually an Accounting procedure.

This procedure usually culminated in disbursement; and the assumption was that, since the paper trail included stops at several desks up the corporate ladder, any document or check that reached my level had been carefully scrutinised for weaknesses, errors or inconsistencies with policies.

In a perfect world, yes; and, indeed, I could have been forgiven had I preferred to sign thoughtlessly. At the end of the day, however, that was my signature on the document; and if the shit hit the fan, it would be my head on the executioner’s stone and not those of the officers along the paper trail.


In the workplace, when something got to my desk with errors of the sort that I earlier discussed, then somebody below did not do his job properly. The parallelism that I am trying to make should be obvious.
Hence, I carefully perused the documents that arrived at my desk; sometimes tall as a man in just one day. Volume precluded reading each document verbatim; but I just sort of learned as I went along where to look. Believe me, at that level, I still often came across some very basic mistakes.

For instance, there was this check to the amount of eighty thousand pesos addressed to the Mary Mediatrix Medical Center that was requested by one of the colleges in the school where I used to work. The check requisition was, curiously, addressed to the Lipa Medix Medical Center. The discrepancy had me storming from my desk to confront the clerk who prepared the requisition.

There was another one; although this was more comical and the amount less significant. There was a check requisition to reward one of the volleyball coaches after his team had won an interscholastic competition; but the check itself was addressed to his wife. A brief call to the Accounting Office revealed the clerical mistake.

Whatever mistakes were made by my division, whether they were made by me or any of the officers along the way, at the most affected roughly ten thousand people; and I would like to think that none of things that we did on a day to day basis in any way could really be called matters of life and death.

Now, imagine all that I have described on a much larger scale; the position being that of a Senator and the scope being an entire nation of 94 million people. Imagine the subject being legislation or the process of enacting laws which affect not ten thousand people but all 94 million citizens.

Imagine the Senators simply affixing their signatures to a bill without having thoroughly given it the attention that it deserves.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago is the latest among the country’s lawmakers to question the Anti-Cybercrime Law or call it unconstitutional. This makes me want to ask a man-on-the-street question: “Didn’t that law come from you guys in Congress?”

Albeit, Defensor-Santiago, in an interview with newsmen, said that she was indisposed at the time when the bill passed through the Senate for review and signing; and that this was also around the time when the impeachment proceedings against former Chief Justice Renato Corona were in full swing.

She also intimated that she did not think that many of her fellow Senators really read the bill fully. This is her opinion, of course; but if what she said is true, then a bill that had the potential to severely affect the lives of 94 million citizens just passed through without having been given all the attention that every law, by its very nature, thoroughly deserves.

This is legislation?

Defensor-Santiago, in a speech delivered before Adamson University students, thinks that the Supreme Court will subsequently declare the new law unconstitutional. Not only does she think that it usurps the right to freedom of speech; she also thinks that it is too broad and vague.

This raises another question: how did it get out of Congress, much more get signed into law?

All the nervous energy that the new law has created – not to mention countless petitions before the Supreme Court to have it declared null and void – could have been avoided if the law from drafting to signing was given all the thought that it deserved in the first place.

I personally believe that an anti-cybercrime law is necessary to regulate use of technology for the greater good. However, when the citizens are potentially placed in harms’ way by a law passed through the express lane, then that obviously cannot be for the greater good. And every law, unless the definition of democracy has changed, ought to be for exactly that…

Because lawmakers the world over are struggling to come to terms with technology by its very nature and how to regulate it, any anti-cybercrime law written by Congress had the potential to be groundbreaking. I am afraid that all the attention that the new law has attracted worldwide has been for all the wrong reasons.

In the workplace, when something got to my desk with errors of the sort that I earlier discussed, then somebody below did not do his job properly. The parallelism that I am trying to make should be obvious.

What is the point of passing a law only for it to create almost an immediate outcry and for those who passed it to publicly admit that, indeed, it can still be improved? Do you package an over-baked muffin and send it to the supermarket to be sold? If this was manufacturing, then quality control is either missing or it failed.

Meanwhile, the law is in place for enforcement.











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