A busy schedule (what else is new?) kept me from writing about anything the past week, although there were a number of interesting issues that occurred. Here's a quick look at each of them:
Updates on the Cybercrime Law
The Supreme Court issued a 120-day temporary restraining order on the implementation of Republic Act (R.A.) 10175, otherwise known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act. This should allow lawmakers to revise or amend the law, especially on its provisions on libel and the so-called "take-down" provision, which would allow the Department of Justice (DOJ) to block websites simply on the suspicion that they are involved in cybercrime. Our legislators can also probably take a look at the libel provisions in the Revised Penal Code, which have been criticized by journalists and the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
The Cybercrime Law is an example of the apparent sloppiness of our government in crafting laws, as both the legislative and executive arms let the law pass, even though it became clear that there were infirmities in its provisions. Hopefully, it will spur our officials to be more careful about creating laws.
Peace Pact in Mindanao
I've not really kept up with the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but the signing of a preliminary agreement between the two sides is a welcome development. The agreement apparently calls for the creation of a new Bangsamoro autonomous body, which raises the question of what will happen to the current Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which has, sadly, not been able to alleviate the problems in Mindanao.
Sin Tax Brouhaha
Senator Ralph Recto, the chair of the Senate ways and means committee, is in hot water over his proposed "sin tax" bill. Senator Recto's version aims to raise 15-20 billion pesos, which is a far cry from the estimated 60 billion pesos in the version proposed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and supported by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Department of Health (DOH). Senator Recto was lambasted by health advocates, and suspicions were voiced that the Senator had caved in to the lobbying by the tobacco and alcohol industries.
I'm neither a smoker or a drinker, so I'm not too well-read on the issue, but, from what I understand, the sin taxes will impose heavy levies on the sale of tobacco and alcohol products, which, in a country where both are vices in which Filipinos engage, could make it difficult for the ordinary Filipino. Still, the sin tax is a measure to help curb such addiction. For me, if it will help cut down on drunken rages commonly reported in the news, I'm all for it.
Netizens, especially those from Ateneo and La Salle, were outraged when the official UST publication, the Varistarian, came out with a scathing, insulting editorial slamming both schools for having allowed their professors to take a stand for the RH Bill, which the Catholic Churtch opposes. The editorial was not scored for its stance against the RH bill, but, rather, for the very strong language it used in its condemnation of both schools; for instance, it scored the professors as being "intellectual pretenders and interlopers! (sic)" It called for the professors to resign from the school, if they persisted in their stance on the RH bill.
It's not the first time the Varsitarian came out with such an editorial, as it issued a similar-sounding statement in 2008, when the Ateneo professors first came out with their statement on the RH bill. However, since social media was still in its infancy then, it wasn't given as much attention as the current editorial.
What is disappointing about the Varsitarian editorial is that it appears the writer/s would rather engage in name-calling and fallacious arguments than tackle the issue from an objective and rational stance. Along with the actions of serial plagiarist Senator Tito Sotto, the Varsitarian does not adequately represent the anti-RH bill side.