Cybercrime law set to be passed next congress

The long-awaited cybercrime law is expected to be passed later this year by the new Congress which will convene in July.

Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo predicted that the bill, which has been pending in Congress, could be passed sometime in October. When Congress resumes its sessions, it will likely tackle the issue of the national budget first, after which it can focus on other pending bills such as the cybercrime bill, which failed to get the nod of legislators in the last term of Congress, he said.

The proposed cybercrime law imposes penalties on computer-related crimes such as hacking, virus attacks, intellectual property infringements and even child pornography over the Internet.

In the last session of Congress, the bill was approved by the science and technology committee of the House of Representatives, but a similar bill in the Senate failed to elicit any action from senators.

Claro Parlade, one of the proponents of the bill, also expressed optimism that the proposed measure will find sponsors at the Senate. “Senator (Francis) ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan has actively expressed his commitment to sponsor the bill at the Senate,” he said.

Parlade headed a subcommittee under the legal and regulatory committee of the former Information Technology and E-Commerce Council (ITECC) which drafted the proposed Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2004.

Romulo said most congressmen know how urgent the bill is, and why its enactment into law is so important.

“(A cybercrime law) is an imperative and I’m sure that it will be part of the legislative agenda when Congress resumes in July,” the executive secretary said.

In the recent National Summit on Critical Information and Communication Infrastructure Protection, Romulo was presented with a resolution urging the development and implementation of a Philippine National Cyber Security Strategy (RP-NCCS).

Romulo, in his speech, said the resolution would be a big help for legislators in drafting a new cybersecurity bill.

According to the resolution, the legal infrastructure must be put in place at the soonest possible time. The resolution also called for a nationwide cyber security awareness program to promote a common understanding among stakeholders.

A risk and vulnerability assessment would also be conducted to identify risk areas and effect the establishment and adoption of internationally accepted cyber security standards. Another planned action is the institutionalization of cybersecurity standards A National and Sectoral Computer Security Incident Response Team would also be created to ensure that the country is able to immediately respond to all possible forms of cyber threats and incidents.

Although the cybercrime bill is expected to be re-filed in the next Congress, Parlade said it could still be revised based on the results of public hearings that will be conducted before June.

A previous public hearing showed that some groups still have questions on the creation of an independent cybercrime unit as mandated by the existing House bill, said Parlade.

This proposed cybercrime unit shall be composed of the anti-fraud and computer crime divisions of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine Center for Transnational Crime (PCTC) and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) under the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The independent body will be headed by an executive director who can call upon any government agency for assistance in the course of investigating such criminal acts enumerated in the proposed act.

According to Parlade, some sectors are questioning the need for a separate cybercrime body. “You have to understand that there’s always resistance to the creation of an independent body,” he said, noting such administrative considerations as organizational structure and budget allocations.

The proposed bill also carries provisions on intellectual property infringement. “But, if for example, a PC was used to violate provisions under the Consumer Act, punishment shall be based on the Revised Penal Code,” Parlade noted.