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ICT laws in the Philippines

Darren M. de Jesus



Jim Paredes, Chito Miranda and Hayden Kho are just few of the celebrities seen in sex videos circulated online. It feels like it’s just a matter of time until the next video will be uploaded. If we talk about the pros and cons of technology and social media, this definitely falls under the negative side of the discussion. We can debate on who really is at fault in these viral videos. It can be the individual who filmed it, the person who stole and uploaded it, or the people who spread it online, depending on the cybercrime committed. Bottom line is — do not do online what you are prohibited (or ashamed) to do offline.

As for the case of Paredes, objectively speaking, he is primarily the person at fault, and he (Paredes) graciously admitted this. Based on the images I’ve seen and narratives I’ve read and heard, since I would not even dare to watch the video, Paredes appears to be in a video call with someone else while he was busy fondling himself. The thought alone is disturbing already, but you have to feel sorry for the guy even if I find myself disagreeing with most of his political views.

Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) came to the defense of Paredes by saying that those who share the video may be held liable under the Cyber Crime Prevention Act, and he is correct in so saying. But before I delve into the comments of the DICT Chief, let’s briefly discuss the status of ICT laws in the Philippines.

The “I Love You” Virus placed the Philippines on the map back in 2000, and the US authorities that traced its source to our country were appalled to learn that the perpetrator could not be prosecuted due to the absence of laws penalizing this act. Congress scrambled to come up with legislation, and soon the E-Commerce Act was signed into law in 2000, criminalizing the acts of hacking and piracy. However, this law was considered a landmark piece of legislation not only because of the offenses identified therein, but for its legal recognition of electronic documents, electronic data messages and electronic signatures as the functional equivalents of its written counterparts. The more senior judges had no reason to reject admissibility of electronic documents with the Supreme Court’s issuance of its Rules on Electronic Evidence in 2001.

What happened next was a game of catch-up between technology and Philippine legislation, and the divide has been ever increasing with the developments in technology becoming more rapid every year, while politics hampered the pace of coming up with more meaningful and relevant laws. When the sex videos started cropping online, the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act was enacted in 2009, and when senators got tired of being ridiculed by blogs, the Cyber Crime Prevention Act was passed in 2012.

The government also took notice on how its policy-making bodies on ICT have been passed around by different government offices, from the Office of the President to the former Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC), and even in the Department of Science and Technology (DoST). In 2012, the Data Privacy Act was signed into law, which led to the creation of the National Privacy Commission (NPC); then, in 2015, the DICT Act was signed, creating the department now headed by Acting Secretary Rio.

Rightly so, the DICT has the mandate of spearheading nation-building through the use of ICT, safeguarding of information, and the advancement of ICT in the Philippines. The proper implementation of the newer ICT laws, such as the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act of 2017, and the Telecommuting Act of 2018, now falls on the hands of the DICT.

Going back to our initial topic, Acting Secretary Rio was correct in saying that those who share the video of Paredes may be held liable under the Cyber Crime Prevention Act. In the Supreme Court case of Disini, Jr., et al. v. Secretary of Justice, et al. (GR 203335, 11 February 2014), certain provisions were struck down as unconstitutional but these did not include the section on aiding and abetting the commission of the offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems. To recall, it is Paredes’ position that the video was taken from his device without his knowledge. In the Disini case, the SC ruled that it is the provision penalizing the sharing of cyber libel to be unconstitutional and void. However, for there to be a case, Paredes himself must lodge the complaint, though I’m pretty sure he is no longer interested in doing that.

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