Youth group Anakbayan today called on the government and authorities to stop the “harassment” being done to Esperlita Garcia, an anti-mining activist arrested last week.
Perlie, president of the Gonzaga Alliance for Environmental Protection and Preservation, was arrested on the basis of a libel suit filed by Gonzaga, Cagayan mayor Carlito Penetescoste Jr. The libel suit was based on a Facebook post by Garcia describing an anti-mining rally last year which was cancelled due to harassment by Penetescoste.
“This is clearly a case of legal harassment. Despite the TRO issued by the Supreme Court, it seems the Palace-backing of Cybercrime Law has emboldened abusive government officials to harass legitimate protests and dissent,” said Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Criosostomo.
Crisostomo assailed presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda who said Anakbayan and those critical of Perlie’s arrest are “ignorant of the issues.” He held Lacierda and the Aquino government responsible for “unleashing e-Martial Law” when they signed and consistently defended the Cybercrime Law.
“Lacierda has now morphed into an e-Martial Law spokesman who is also lawyering for those who want to stifle internet freedom and free speech. He knows very well that libel under the law currently only applies to print and TV, making the case vs Perlie baseless, and yet he twists and spins to justify repressive and fascist acts,” he said.
He said the case vs Garcia is a preview of how rights will be curtailed once the Cybercrime Law is passed.
“Wala pa mang Cybercrime Law, nanggigigil na sila na i-curtail ang free speech online. Paano pa kapag napasa? We should be more vigilant. We should strengthen the fight against Aquino’s Cybercrime Law and fight for civil liberties and democratic rights,” he said.
Crisostomo called on the court to junk the case vs Garcia. Anakbayan also supported calls by various groups to decriminalize libel.###