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Read Before You Sign: The Truth about Cybercrime Law

As street protesters and netizens rage their thoughts about the Republic Act No. 10175 also known as Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, there are many questions that are going around such as how the law was passed after series of readings and gained the consent of the President.

According to House Rule 10; Bills, Resolutions, Messages, Memorials and Petitions, there are 12 steps on how a bill becomes a law. These include Preparation of the Bill, First Reading, Committee Consideration, Second Reading, Third Reading, Transmittal of the Approved Bill to the Senate, Senate Action on Approved Bill of the House, Conference Committee, Transmittal of the Bill to the President, Presidential Action on the Bill, Action on Approved Bill and lastly, Action on Veoted Bill.

The Cybercrime Prevention Act was authored by Senator Edgardo Anggara began last July 25, 2011 and was signed by President Benigno Aquino III on September 12, 2012.

Libel “Insertion”

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Its provisions are undeniably helpful to criminalize cybersex, child pornography, computer-related identity theft and fraud, unsolicited spamming and related issues. However, few provisions became questionable especially regarding the Libel and implementation of penalties.

In an interview of dzMM, Senator Vicente Sotto III earlier denied the allegation behind the said “insertion” of libel clause. But the Senate Journal dated January 24, 2012 tells a different story, Senator Sotto proposed Libel as part of the bill during the Conference Committee, reading the definition of libel in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code.

On the other hand, Senator Sotto was quoted by in an article in claiming that he added the libel provision in RA 10175, ““Yes, I did it. I inserted the provision on libel. Because I believe in it and I don’t think there’s any additional harm.”

Section 19: Restricting or Blocking Access to Computer Data

“When a computer data is prima facie found to be in violation of the provisions of this Act, the DOJ shall issue an order to restrict or block access to such computer data.” states the RA 10175.

Reports states that “Prima facie” evidence can be easily fabricated in the cyber world compared to physical world since it’s tangible and cannot be altered. In an interview with digital forensics practitioner Drexx Laggui, this evidence is vague since a person’s information can be easily copied without getting the attention of the owner. “A highly skilled person who wants to frame another person could just create a lot of prima facie evidence against him, or an entire community of people,” he said.

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In addition, simple ‘liking’, sharing, ‘tweeting’ and ‘retweeting’ which are common activity among netizens and digital marketing firms in the Philippines, can penalize a person as offending the Cybercrime law. The Department of Justice can issue a takedown order for any website or computer data if found as prima facie evidence for any offense punishable under it.

Critics find the newly enacted law worse than Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which was halted in the United States. However, Senator Angara tells otherwise. “Clearly, the freedoms we enjoy from high-speed connectivity coincide with expanded opportunities to commit crimes. I sponsored the bill precisely because real harm can be done,”

Are they not reading or listening?

In State of the Nation with Jessica Sojo, Kabataan Party-List Representative Raymond Palatino said that they have raised their objection regarding the Cybercrime Law during its discussion in the plenary and was surprised on how the libel provision was passed. They are hoping for possible revisions on Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).

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At the end part of the journal, it’s stated that there were no objections after Senator Sotto’s Amendments despite the presence of other senators during its review. “Upon motion of Senator Sotto, there being no objection, the Body suspended consideration of the bill.” In addition, “Upon motion of Senator Sotto, there being no objection, the President Pro Tempore declared the session adjourned until nine o’clock in the morning of Monday, January 30, 2012.”

Now, Senator Chiz Escudero, one of the 13 senators who voted to pass the law and have pending decriminalization for libel from his justice and human rights committee, called the insertion of the said provision as a “mistake” and said to take action to repeal the law while Senator TG Guingona who is one of the senators who did not vote for the law stands firm and contends that the provision is too broad and vague.

Since the IRR is not yet available, the Cybercrime Law’s saga in the digital world continues as more people show their grievances with petitions in Supreme Court and in online media.


Anna Villena

About Anna Villena

Anna is one of the pioneer employees of Digitalmoz. From an online media specialist to team supervisor, she now spends most of her time designing websites and managing special projects for the company. After reading her blogs, don't forget to add her in your circles in Google and follow her on Twitter!