IT is the “dark net”—not the social media—which newly installed Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay wants to regulate under the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Anti-Terrorism law, Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana clarified on Wednesday.
The defense chief issued the clarification after Gapay’s statement on the regulation of social media, which the military official favored to be included in the still being crafted IRR, stirred criticisms from certain quarters that include Sen. Franklin M. Drilon.
“I asked Gen. Gapay yesterday [Tuesday] what he meant because I was likewise surprised to hear him say it during our press con after he was installed as CSAFP [Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines]. He said his explanation was incomplete,” Lorenzana said.
“According to him he meant the dark net, that clandestine network that peddles drugs, traffic people, sells guns and explosives, hire assassins and other illegal activities. But even this [the dark net] is difficult to regulate because it is underground and operates illegally,” he added.
Lorenzana said that Gapay pointed out that the dark net is also being used to “recruit and plan terroristic acts.”
Even the defense secretary is not in favor of regulating the social media and its inclusion in the IRR of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
“No, the ATL [anti-terrorism law] should not regulate social media. It is not part of its mandate and it would violate freedom of speech and discourse,” he said.
During his virtual news briefing with Lorenzana after he was installed as chief of staff on Monday, Gapay wanted the social media to be included under the coverage of the new law’s IRR, citing how it has been used by IS-allied groups in Mindanao to recruit fighters.
“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 the terrorists to radicalize, to recruit and even plan terrorist acts,” Gapay said during the news briefing.
“That’s why we need to have to specific provisions of this in the IRR pertaining to regulating the use of social media, and of course, likewise regulating materials in the manufacture of IEDs [improvised explosive devices],” he added.
But again, as Lorenzana said, Gapay’s explanation was incomplete during the briefing.
Reacting to his statement, Drilon, who voted in favor of the anti-terrorism law, said the new law could not be used to regulate the social media since it would violate the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech, stressing the IRR cannot alter the law.
“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.
Full understanding of the law is already being cascaded down to the local level, with military and police officials taking steps to educate local officials with the help of lawyers and advocates.
Gapay had said he would make the implementation of the law one of his priorities as the top honcho of the military.