Philippines cybercrime bill moves a bit closer

The science and technology committee of the House of Representatives has approved the fifth draft of the Cybercrime Prevention Act 2003, but with the qualification that this consolidated version of the bill should undergo revisions based on the inputs gathered by the committee.

Members of the committee headed by Representative Rodolfo Bacani recently discussed the inputs accumulated from a number of government agencies, including the Department of Justice (DOJ), Social Security System (SSS), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and Department of Science and Technology (DOST), to further enhance and refine the contents of the bill.

Based on Section 33 of Republic Act No. 8792, or the Philippine eCommerce Act, the cybercrime prevention bill seeks to impose penalties on such illegal acts as hacking or cracking a computer or communications system. It also contains provisions on piracy and protection of copyrighted materials used variously in different telecommunication networks including the Internet.

These agencies were given three days to submit their respective position papers which would be collated and forwarded to the other concerned congressional committees for further review and discussion. The results of these discussions will be presented during the House plenary session in October.

One of the issues raised during the deliberations was increasing the penalties and fines on cybercrimes which are considered too low at 100,000 pesos (US$1,820) to 800,000 pesos when compared to international standards.

To cut costs, it was suggested that the functions of the Presidential Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Council be reduced by mandating the participation of existing law enforcement agencies to fight cybercrimes.

The bill specifics penalizing cyber criminals targeting local systems but are outside the Philippine territorial coverage were also discussed.

Bacani said the need for cybercrime preventive measures in the country is becoming more evident as the spread of viruses, Web defacement, and the hacking of massive online gaming accounts, among other criminal acts, become more rampant.

“We are really pushing for the enactment of the cybercrime bill at the soonest time possible,” he said. “The Philippines has long been due in implementing (these preventive) measures since many cybercrimes have already been detected but almost none are punished (because of the) absence of a law.”

Drafted by the Information Security and Privacy Subcommittee (ISPS) of the Information Technology and eCommerce Council (ITECC), the Cybercrime Prevention Act 2003 harmonizes all other cybercrime bills pending in the Senate and House of Representatives.

These include Senate Bill No. 2025 by Senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr., House Bill No. 1908 by Representative Victoria Locsin, HB No. 3241 by Representative Eric Singson, HB No. 1310 by Representative Nanette Daza, and HB No. 4083 by Representative Amado Espino. Several provisions from the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1996, U.S. Communication Assistance for Law Environment Act of 1974 and the EU Cybercrime Treaty of 2001 have also been incorporated in the bill.

The fifth draft, however, is more streamlined, said Albert de la Cruz, the private sector co-chairman of the ISPS, as cases like illegal interception, system interference, and illegal access can be dealt with in several sections. It also includes new provisions on privacy, fraud, and child pornography.

Although the science and technology committee has given its nod on the bill, De la Cruz is pessimistic about its immediate passage. “The chances of getting the act approved before the 2004 national elections are quite low because we’re having a hard time presenting the matter to local officials who are too busy attending public forums we conduct,” he lamented. “Also, there are so many alterations that have to be done and requirements to be fulfilled, which can only be realized during the presentations.”

The House committee, on the other hand, has high hopes for the bill as it is already looking for cybercrime lawyers to implement the provisions of the law when it is finally enacted.

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