Philippine Senate Approves Cybercrime Prevention Act

In an effort to provide law enforcement services with better ammunition against cybercrimes, the Philippine Senate has approved, on third and final reading, the Senate Bill 2796, or the so-called Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (CPACT).

The proposed law focuses on punishing “computer related fraud,” which can include “content-related offenses” including child pornography and and “cybersex.” The CPACT will authorize the monitoring and logging of online activity, as well as the seizure of computer equipment and data for law-enforcement related investigations, provided that there is a sufficient warrant for such.

In particular, offenses punishable under this law are the following:

  • Offenses against the confidentiality, intergrity and availability of computer data and systems (illegal access, illegal interception, data interence, system interference, cyber-squatting, misuse of devices);
  • Computer-related offenses (computer-related forgery, computer-related fraud)
  • Content-related offenses (cybersex, child pornography, unsolicited commercial communications, libel).

Offenses covered by the first two items will be punishable by up to 12 years imprisonment, as well as a fine of at least PhP 200,000 (US$ 4,680), depending on the severity of the damage, or as ordered by courts of law. Further, persons found guilty of cybersquatting are punishable with prison mayor or a fine of at least PhP 500,000 (US$ 11,700). Persons found guilty of “unsolicited commercial communication” are liable for up to six months of jail time and/or PhP 250,000 (US$ 5,850) fine. Meanwhile, persons found to engage in “cybersex” are to be imposed prison mayor and fined anywhere from PhP 200,000 to PhP 1 million (US$ 23,400).

Child pornography is already covered by Republic Act 9775 or the Anti Child-Pornography Act of 2009. Meanwhile, online voyeurism is covered under Republic Act 9995 or the Anti Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009. Scribd has a copy of the approved Bill.

Legislating Morality?

The passage of the bill was voted upon 13-1, with Senator Teofisto Guingona III voting against the Senate Bill because of the cybersex provision. Sen. Guingona says the law “legislates morality,” and is unconstitutional. As such, he has voted against passage “because it has a prior restraint on freedom of expression, freedom of speech.”

It legislates morality, it tells you what is moral and what is immoral. As a libertarian I feel that is not within the realm of the legislature. No one has the right to say what is moral and what is immoral.

The law defines cybersex as “the willful engagement, maintenance, control, or operation, directly or indirectly, or any lascivious exhbition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system, for favor or consideration,” which is considered a broad definition by some. There is likewise question on enforce-ability with pornographic sites usually being hosted in physical locations outside of Philippine jurisdiction.

Implementation and Budget

The bill, once signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III, also orders the creation of an Office of Cybercrime under the Department of Justice. Meanwhile, a National Cybersecurity Coordinating Council will also be created under the Office of the President for the planning and execution of a national cyber-security plan. The ICT Office of the Department of Science and Technology is also ordered to create a National Cyber Security Center to aid in these planning efforts.

The CPACT will initially involve a budget of PhP 10 million (US$ 233,970) every year for implementation.