Senate Bill No. 1091: Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom of 2013

In today’s increasingly wired and interconnected society, Internet connectivity has become more than Just a luxury, and certainly more than just a tool for the educated and the elite. It is essential in the provision of basic government and private sector services, in sharing educational information to our students, in the conduct of everyday business, and even in gathering real-time, life-saving information.

For instance, we saw during the onslaught of Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009-and in the natural disasters following these-how the Philippine online community worked together from behind computers and mobile phones to send crucial information about flooded areas, missing persons, areas in need of immediate rescue and relief, fund raising efforts, and many others. In an age of climate change and harsher weather conditions, being connected and “in the know” could spell the difference between life and death.

Internet-enabled platforms and services have likewise given birth to new industries, which in turn have opened up hundreds of thousands of jobs for ordinary Filipinos. The Business Process Outsourcing (SPO) and Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) industries, for example, would not be able to survive without the infrastructure for secure Internet connectivity. Likewise, a growing number of freelancers, start-up entrepreneurs, online marketers, and the like have been able to find gainful employment and livelihood thanks to Internet technology. Even loan services and fundraising efforts have been powered by the Internet, making it more accessible for groups with great ideas to get the funding support that they need.

Beyond these, the Internet and social media have become integral to ensuring transparency, accountability, and good governance not only in the Philippines but also in many corners of the world. For many, the Internet represents a lifeline to citizen watchdog groups and media organizations that shine the light on truth where it is most needed. Internet-enabled platforms have become complementary tools for democracy, allowing for debate and discourse, the free exchange of ideas, and open access to public servants. Moreover, developments in the social media space have made it possible for government to engage with its constituents on a one-to-one level, bringing government service directly in the hands of hands of the people.

It is for these reasons, and many more, that we seek to support the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom (MCPIF), in order to push for universal access to the Internet, the freedom and the ability to access public information online, freedom of speech, the right to create without fear of intellectual property infringement, and many other rights that are afforded Filipinos as citizens of a democratic republic. Specifically, we wish to push for a provision that makes free WIFI (also: wireless local areas network or WLAN) access mandatory for designated public spaces within local government units (LGUs), such as city or municipal halls, and the like. Public WIFI access will ensure that the Internet and other digital or social media platforms may be used by LGUs and their citizens for such functions as: the provision of basic government services (e.g., business registration, the accessing of government data online, etc.); real-time monitoring and disaster response coordination during times of natural and man-made disasters; data gathering, transmission, and monitoring during local elections; online training and capacity-building, and many others.

Just as the MCPIF upholds many of our civil liberties, it likewise protects citizens’ privacy online and also outlines the limitations of Internet use. For instance, as defined in Part I Section 2 (f):

“The Internet has the potential to become a theater of war, and that ICT can be developed into weapons of mass destruction; thus, consistent with the national interest and the Constitution, the State shall pursue a policy of no first use of cyberweapons against foreign nations, and shall implement plans, policies, programs, measures, and mechanisms to provide cyberdefense of Philippine Internet and ICT infrastructure resources;”

The MCPIF also tackles such issues as hacking, Internet libel, hate speech, child pornography, cybercrime, human trafficking, and a host of other issues.

Finally, to exercise jurisdiction over the Philippines’ ICT sector and the mapping out of the country’s ICT road map and systems, the MCPIF proposes the establishment of a Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), which, as defined here, “shall be the primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing, regulating and administrative entity of the executive branch of the government that will plan, promote and help develop the country’s ICT sector and ensure reliable and cost-efficient communications facilities, other multimedia infrastructure and services.”

The world is changing at breakneck speed, and we believe that a piece of legislature such as the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom will enable us to manage the winds of change.



Scroll to top