There is growing concern among gay activists in the Philippines that the new Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 signed into law this month by President Benigno Aquino III, will unleash a massive wave of extortion, harassment, and suffering by the hands of law enforcement officers and anti-gay groups.
ProGay – The Progressive Organization of Gays claims the Republic Act 10175 contains some rather vague provisions which could criminalize a wide array of shared electronic activity and communication between consenting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults. They also feel it will invade their personal privacy like nothing else before.
The group say a particularly worry is the definition of Cybersex crime, which could result in a prison sentence of between six and ten years or fines of up to half a million pesos (US$23,963. UK£14,784) “The wilful engagement, maintenance, control, or operation, directly or indirectly, of any lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system, for favor or consideration,” the new law reads, which is causing great concern.
“There are many transgenders who are forced by poverty into baring their bodies before a webcam just to feed their families and send their siblings to school, and they are unwilling victims of trafficking by profiteers. This law can potentially double the victimization of poor trans and gay persons because the terms wilful and favour and consideration are so vague. The law can deem trafficked persons consented to work for pay,” Clyde Pumihic, the secretary general of ProGay said in a statement.
Pumihic also advised that homophobia and transophobia was common place among law enforcement officers, saying that for almost a century, transgender and gay Filipinos engaged in sex were targeted by police who used the recently abolished Anti-Vagrancy provision of the Revised Penal Code in the streets and bars. “But now, they have this PNP and NBI fielding the Office of Cybercrime agents who will stalk LGBTs by the thousands without even having to prowl on patrol cars, they just have to use a keyboard to track down LGBTs. It’s like having the Vagrancy Law on Internet,” he said.
It is not just action from the authorities that worries the gay community, Pumihic explained the danger is more widespread, saying the Cybercrime law can also be used by thugs, syndicates and other private violent groups in entrapping and blackmailing innocent gay, bi and trans people who are simply surfing online for dates or lovers or fleeting acts of exposure, “Instead of protecting us from the real cybercriminals, this law is indeed unwittingly turning us into cybercriminals,” he said.
The ProGay leader appealed to the Supreme Court to declare the law unconstitutional because of its invasive threats against the private lives of LGBT citizens. The group has also called on Aquino to work to pass the Antidiscrimination Law in Congress.