Hackers Attack Philippine Central Bank Site to Protest Cyber Law

Hackers attacked websites of the Philippine central bank and at least two other government agencies last night to protest a law against cyber crime set to take effect next week.

The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 “effectively ends the freedom of expression in the Philippines,” according to a statement posted on the central bank website by a group that called itself Anonymous Philippines. Websites of Metropolitan Waterworks & Sewerage System, the Pilipinas Anti-Piracy Team and the American Chamber of Commerce were also defaced, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported today.

President Benigno Aquino signed the law on Sept. 12, which identifies, prevents and punishes Internet-based crimes such as hacking, identity theft and spamming. Provisions on online libel and the authority of the Department of Justice to block websites without a court order have been opposed in several petitions filed with the Supreme Court.

The law will “infringe on the Constitutional-guaranteed freedom of speech and expression,” Senator Teofisto Guingona, a member of Aquino’s party, said in a statement today. Guingona asked the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional several provisions of the law to take effect Oct. 3.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ website was restored by 2 a.m., Deputy Governor Juan de Zuniga said in a statement today, apologizing for last night’s interruption. “For a few hours, our website was inaccessible to those who needed to get real-time information from the BSP,” he said.

The water agency’s website was still down as of 3 p.m.

Limitations of Liability

Guingona asked the high court today to stop the implementation of provisions criminalizing online libel, setting stiffer penalties for cyber crime and making a person liable twice for the same offense. He also opposed the law’s “vagueness” on limitations of liability.

“Without a clear definition of the crime of libel and the persons liable, virtually, any person can now be charged with a crime, even if you just like, retweet or comment on an online update or blog post containing criticisms,” Guingona said, referring to actions that can be performed through Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. accounts.

These contradict the Constitution’s equal protection and the law against double jeopardy, the senator said in his petition.

The science and technology department is working to strengthen the security of government websites, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a briefing in Manila today. Freedom of expression is “not absolute” and critics should bring the issue to the proper forum, he said.

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