In the lead up to the May 2010 elections, UNESCO Philippines presented a white paper to presidential candidates enumerating their recommendations for much needed policies in Philippines.
Key among them were policy themes focusing on internet access as instrumental in human resource development; anchors, if you will, for the Philippines in the digital age.
9. Approve a Universal Internet Access Policy aligned with the World Summit on Information Society.
10. Approve a Broad Band Bill of Rights
The World Summit on Information Society took place in 2003 in Geneva. From that initial meeting a Declaration of Principles was released. Important to our current situation is the following declaration:
We reaffirm, as an essential foundation of the Information Society, and as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; that this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Communication is a fundamental social process, a basic human need and the foundation of all social organization. It is central to the Information Society. Everyone, everywhere should have the opportunity to participate and no one should be excluded from the benefits the Information Society offers.
It is important to read the entirety of the document and all sixty-seven principles, they are all in some way applicable to the Philippines today, and most especially our current situation.
A quick run through of the core principles demonstrates a desire on the part of this multi-stakeholder document to foster a global environment of inclusiveness. Of particular note is the fact that there is a concerted effort to project the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) into the digital age. The crafters of this declaration, and all sovereign states that were a part of the process, obviously believed that the fundamental rights of human beings does not end at the keyboard of a computer. What happens in the digital space demands as much attention to human rights and dignity as what happens in the ‘real world.’
Information technology, the internet, social media space, cyberspace, or whatever we choose to call it, falls under the same guiding principles of human rights and development as any other space. The sheer ignorance displayed by Philippine elected officials in drafting and ratifying the the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 is staggering, precisely because it inadvertently infringes on globally accepted standards of human rights. Not only does it infringe on portions of the Philippine Constitution, it seemingly works against key globally accepted multi-lateral agreements.
There has to be a fundamental presumption of protection of basic human rights and freedoms for an enlightened society to prosper. The fear of the unknown and ignorance (this is not an accusation, senators have already admitted they were unaware of all of the Cybercrime provisions) displayed by Congress should give all of us pause in the upcoming elections. A government that seeks to control its population through draconian measures best left in history is essentially setting itself against universally agreed upon standards of human development and rights protections. Rights are not absolute, but neither is government.
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