For sure, Filipinos have gotten the message: Big Brother is watching, and he can trace the authors of anti-administration statements posted in cyberspace. Now that the message has been sent, with mixed results, the government should focus on the difficult task of containing a pandemic, and let people cooped up in their homes enjoy democratic space.
Police have arrested three persons so far for posting messages offering rewards for the assassination of President Duterte. Just looking at the bounties offered should indicate whether the statements were made with serious intent: P50 million, P75 million, P100 million. Surely even tycoons with that kind of money to spare amid the economic apocalypse unleashed by the coronavirus disease pandemic have better uses for their money.
Yet police and the National Bureau of Investigation have earnestly pursued the suspected authors of the statements, and promptly indicted them for violation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act. Arrested so far are construction worker Ronald Quiboyen of Boracay; college graduate Maria Catherine Ceron of Cordova, Cebu, and Zambales public school teacher Ronnel Mas, who tearfully admitted after his warrantless arrest, in a video taken by the NBI, that he offered the original P50-million bounty so his social media account would attract attention.
Clearly, none of those arrested could even imagine earning that kind of money on their current means of livelihood. Already suffering from the pandemic, they now have the additional burden of litigation.
The cases come on the heels of an attempt by Philippine labor attaché in Taiwan Fidel Macauyag to have Filipina caregiver Elanel Egot Ordidor deported for “nasty” comments she posted against the Duterte administration. Fortunately for Ordidor and the cause of free expression, Taipei thumbed down the call.
Authorities claimed they were simply applying the cybercrime law in pursuing charges against Mas, Quiboyen and Ceron. Let’s hope the same zeal will be applied in going after those who also use cyberspace to threaten administration critics with death, kidnapping and rape. The law is supposed to apply to all.