Defense Secretary: Anti-terror law should not regulate social media

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana does not support the idea of Anti-Terrorism Law regulating social media in the country.

“The ATL should not regulate social media. It is not part of its mandate, and it would violate freedom of speech and discourse,” Lorenzana said in a message to media.

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Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, the newly appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief, wants to utilize the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Anti-Terror Law to regulate the use of social media in the Philippines.

The AFP’s 54th chief of staff said the measure would prevent radicalism and radicalization of the youth.

“We’ll be providing some inputs on countering violent extremism and likewise, maybe regulating, even regulating social media because this is the platform now being used by terrorists to radicalize, to recruit and even plan terrorist acts,” Gapay told reporters.

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Gapay’s suggestion received criticisms from other government officials such as presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.

“First of all, that is the opinion of General Gapay. I read the anti-terror law. There is no provision that says it can be used on social media. What we have for that is the cybercrime law, where there is a provision (about social media), but that would be subject to the authority granted by the courts,” Roque said.

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Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the new AFP chief’s suggestion to use Anti-Terror law in regulating social media is “illegal and unconstitutional.”

“That will go beyond the real intent of the law and, therefore, it is illegal and unconstitutional. Freedom of speech is a sacred and inviolable right of every human being. The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech,” Drilon said.

The Defense Secretary he already discussed the issue with Gapay. He said Gapay told him his explanation during the press briefing on Monday was not complete.

According to Lorenzana, Gapay pertains to the “dark net” or “dark web” and the private network that sells drugs, traffics people, sells guns and explosives, hires assassins, and other illegal activities.

Lorenzana, however, believes even the “dark web” would be difficult to regulate since they are operating illegally and underground.

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