Noting that media organizations are still not agreeable to the rewording of a provision in the Data Privacy Act, Sen. Edgardo Angara explained that the law exempts journalists from being penalized for publishing ?leaked? information vital to public interest.
Angara said Section 4 of the Data Privacy Act, embodied in the bicameral conference version, states exclusions to the scope of the measure, which include “Personal information processed for journalistic, artistic, literary or research purposes”.
Other exclusions cover information about civil servants and officials of government.
?Press freedom is provided clearly in our Constitution, but so is a person?s right to privacy,? said Angara. ?What the Data Privacy Act does is simply extend the safeguards on privacy to the personal information transmitted and stored via the Internet and other ICT.?
The Data Privacy Act (SBN 2965) was certified as a priority measure by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) last year.
?But when it comes to matters of public interest like a government official?s assets and liabilities, laws like the Code of Conduct for Government Officials [RA 6713] already underpin the disclosure of certain personal information,? added Angara. ?The same can be said about the law we are proposing.?
The Philippine Press Institute, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas expressed alarm over the bill claiming that its punitive provisions can be used to penalize journalists and their sources, with the effect of curtailing press freedom and endangering the public interest.
?There is nothing of the sort in this bill. Therefore there is absolutely no reason to be alarmed,? stated Angara. ?Our main intention was to generate confidence in IT-BPO, e-governance and e-commerce in the country. Many other countries where these industries are flourishing have similar laws in place. In that way, this law is not unique and just puts us on a par with global standards.?
On the other hand, Angara said the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which is also under bicameral conference review, punishes cybercriminals with heavier penalties for offenses like hacking, Internet fraud, data interference, identity theft, and child pornography.
“For example example, child pornography videos uploaded to YouTube and made viral will warrant greater penalties than the penalties stipulated in the original child pornography law,” said Angara.
The Cybercrime Prevention Act lays down a legal framework for the detection, investigation and prosecution of cybercrimes such as illegal access, illegal interception, data interference, system interference, and misuse of device.
The measure was recently finalized at the bicameral conference committee level and will soon be transmitted to Malacanang for signing into law.
“The Cybercrime Prevention Act will certainly deter people from committing crimes because the virtual world will no longer be a lawless realm. With these measures in place, we are sending the world a strong message that the Philippines is serious about helping keep cyberspace safe,” said Angara.