Congress holds bicam for ICT bills, revises contentious provisions

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The bicam, which was held at the Senate building in Pasay, was conducted on Monday, May 28, for the Data Privacy Act and on Thursday, May 31, for the Cybercrime bill. The Data Privacy Bill, in particular, was lambasted by various media organizations for a provision penalizing journalists and media professionals involved in breaches of confidentiality. Under of Section 30 of the bill, liability is extended to reporters, writers, presidents, publishers, managers and editors-in-chief involved in the unauthorized publishing of sensitive personal information. Sen. Edgardo Angara, the main proponent of the measure in the Senate, has earlier vowed to ?rectify? the bill and remove the controversial provision in the bicam. Indeed, a person present at the bicam meeting said the final report on the bill, which will still be manifested in Congress as the final version that will be submitted to Malacanang for signing, no longer contains the said provision. Angara earlier said in a statement that it was not the bill?s intention to penalize the media for doing their job of responsible reporting. “Only those whose actions were directly behind the release of private information will be held accountable,? he said. “For example, a private individual was hospitalized and that person’s medical records were made public without his consent. In this case, the hospital or the records custodian will be sanctioned, not the journalist who wrote about it,” he added. He emphasized that the main objective of the proposed measure is to promote confidence in the country’s booming Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing (IT-BPO) industry and its growing e-government initiatives by mandating public and private institutions to safeguard the integrity, security, and confidentiality of personal information collected throughout their operations. The Data Privacy Act also provides for the creation of a National Privacy Commission tasked to implement the provisions of the bill and to ensure that regulations in the country adhere to international data privacy standards such as that of the European Union and the APEC. As for the Cybercrime bill, the bicam report, which is still not avaible as of posting time, is not clear yet whether it has deleted or modified the provision of ?online defamation? which has rattled some sectors. What is clear in the bicam report, according to person who attended the meeting, is that the penalty for online child prostitution has been upgraded from its previous term. Interestingly, while the bicam meetings have already been held for the Data Privacy and Cybercrime bills, there is no word yet whether Congress is still interesting in convening one for the DICT (Department of ICT) bill, which has also been passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives. ]]>

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