As youth group frets, BPO firms and police laud Cybercrime Law

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In a statement issued on Tuesday, Sept. 18, the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP) said the cybercrime law will ?add another layer of protection for the industry against theft and fraud and will contribute to a sustainable, healthy business environment and reassure global clients.? ?The Cybercrime Prevention Act will help sustain and enhance investor confidence and strengthen our position as one of the world?s top locations for high-value IT-BPO services,? said Benedict Hernandez, BPAP president and CEO. Hernandez said the industry expects to post 20-percent growth overall for the year to more than $13 billion in revenue. Because IT-BPO firms utilize the Internet and computer technology as the principal channel for communication processes, BPAP said the industry will benefit from provisions covering system and data protection, device security, and penalties for computer-related offenses, according to Hernandez. ?This new law validates the strong partnership we continue to build with the public sector, as well as the government?s recognition of the industry?s significant contribution to our economy and employment,? Hernandez said. To assure enforcement and coordination of the new law, RA 10175 mandates the creation of an inter-agency body to be known as the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) under the administrative supervision of the Office of the President. In 2011, the IT-BPO industry generated $11 billion in revenues and employed approximately 640,000 people. According to an industry roadmap, the industry is projected to become a $25-billion industry by 2016 and to provide high-paying jobs to 1.3 million Filipinos. The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the PNP, on the other hand, said the new legislation will help law enforcers cope with the increasing number of crimes using the Internet. CIDG chief Samuel Pagdilao Jr. said in a statement that the Cybercrime Law will change the manner of addressing Internet-related crimes perpetrated by foreign and domestic syndicates engaged in cyber pornography, online fraud, and other transnational crimes. He also said that the enactment of the law would give the CIDG more teeth in combating cybercrime. Pagdilao said the CIDG, being the PNP?s national support unit against cybercrime, had already racked up a number of accomplishments such as the first conviction of a hacker in the Philippines, the busting of a group of Filipino hackers at the payroll of terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, the arrest of Korean Shin Un-Sun who was tagged in the multi-million hacking of Hyundai company, the busting of international telecom and online fraud syndicates with the arrest of 387 foreigners in Metro Manila and Rizal Province, and the raid against call centers masquerading as legitimate while selling counterfeit drugs online, even before the law’s enactment. He added that the CIDG has also made significant preparation for the enactment of the law by enhancing its capabilities through acquisition of state-of-the-art digital forensic equipment, establishing six Regional Digital Forensic Laboratories and two Training Centers, and the continuous training of personnel through partnership with the US Department of State, Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, (ATAP) and other foreign counterparts. Pagdilao said with the new law, through its Anti-Transnational and Cybercrime Division (ATCCD), the CIDG can conduct further training on the salient features of the Cybercrime Law to its personnel. Before the passing of RA 10175, Singapore was the only country in South East Asia that had a law against cybercrime. While the BPAP and the PNP are ecstatic over the passage of the law, Kabataan Partylist representative Raymond Palatino said there are several provisions in the new measure that post threats to free speech, expression, and the right to privacy of Internet users. ?It?s equivalent to imposing Martial Law online,? the youth solon said. Calling an ?e-Martial Law? legislation, Palatino compared it to several famous Marcos-era decrees, particularly President Ferdinand Marcos? Letter of Instruction No. 1, which led to the sequestration of several media outfits during Martial Law. ?All of these issues remind us of how Marcos released decrees and laws that enabled his regime to search and destroy materials he considered subversive. The only difference is, now, the curtailment of free expression has become high-tech,? Palatino said. Chapter IV Section 12, for example, authorizes the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to collect traffic data from users even without a court warrant. It defines traffic data as data which include the electronic communication?s origin, destination, route, time, date, size, duration and even type of service. The provision excludes the collection of content or identities of electronic files, both of which require a court warrant before state authorities can lawfully collect said information. ?But there are now advanced methods that can reveal identities and other private information simply from traffic data,? Palatino said. ?Collection of such information goes against several provisions of the 1987 Constitution,? he added. Section 3(1) of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution states, ?The privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise as prescribed by law.? Upon issuance of a court warrant, Internet service providers can even be compelled to produce all available data for any particular subscriber. Also, Chapter IV of RA 10175 also empowers government authorities to keep all collected data for up to six months. ?In the fast-paced electronic era, six months is an eternity, especially as the creation of back-up copies for unscrupulous or unauthorized filing of shady officials,? Palatino said. ?We fear that such provisions might start an online witch hunt for those that are vocal about criticizing the government, and even whistle blowers. With this new law, the Internet is no longer a safe place to air dissent. Now that?s why we call it a de facto e-Martial Law,? Palatino explained. Meanwhile, James Mark Terry Ridon, national president and general counsel of Kabataan Partylist, also pointed out ?due process issues? in RA 10175. ?The law may be treading upon unconstitutional waters on the powers being granted to law enforcement agencies, which includes preservation, disclosure, search and seizure and destruction of computer data,? Ridon said. Ridon explained that certain provisions, including the sections on preservation and disclosure of data, may give rise to due process issues. ?In RA 10175, the power to compel the disclosure of computer data through a court order has been granted to law enforcement authorities. Although the law requires the issuance of a court warrant prior to such order, the nature of such court warrant is unclear. This is due to the fact that instead of the order to disclose arising from such court order or warrant, it is the law enforcement authorities that are imposing the order to disclose information,? Ridon said. ?This may be a violation of the constitutional rights to privacy and due process, as only the courts can compel, through an order, the production or disclosure of information regularly within the ambit of the right to privacy,? Ridon added. Ridon also expressed fears on sections that empower government forces to seize and destroy computer data. ?As to search and seizure, the procedure state in the law does not follow the constitutional, statutory and jurisprudential standards and doctrines on the conduct of search and seizure of private property,? Ridon said. ?There is no mention on the conduct of accounting on the property seized, nor does the law require the presence of the persons owning such property to be seized, among others persons who must be present during the conduct of search and seizure operations,? Ridon added. RA 10175 also states that upon the expiration of the period provided, computer data subject to preservation and examination shall be destroyed. ?This is a dangerous provision that allows the taking and destruction of private property without a determination whether such property are proceeds or instruments or related to a criminal act to merit continuing seizure and eventual destruction,? Ridon said. ?Without qualification, all computer data that had been subject to preservation and examination orders may be summarily destroyed instead of being returned to the owners, regardless of whether such computer data are not proceeds, instruments or related to a criminal act,? Ridon added. The anti-cybercrime law is supposed to be the legal instrument of the NBI, DOJ, and other agencies in running after hackers, malicious spam and virus senders, cybersex operators, and hi-tech gangs that engage in phishing, credit card fraud, among others. ?But the inclusion of online libel in the list of dangerous cybercrimes would fundamentally affect and alter the implementation of the law,? Palatino said. The youth solon cited Senator Vicente ?Tito? Sotto III?s recent statement wherein the senator said the new Cybercrime Law may be used to penalize users who post defamatory messages against him online. ?Under this law, politicians can easily file charges against ?hostile and combative? critics and witnesses by claiming that virtual protesters have threatened their life and property. Censorship will lead to repression once an activist or reform advocate has been labeled a cybercriminal,? Palatino said. ?Woe to the NBI agent and DOJ prosecutor who will be swamped with cybercrime cases filed by showbiz actors, politicians, business tycoons, and other untouchables who want to punish their online critics. Instead of dealing with cyberwarfare, our agents will be investigating online libel,? the youth solon added. ?RA 10175 is a big issue, especially for the technology-savvy youth. Just as what Marcos did during Martial Law, this new law signed by Aquino posts threats to Internet freedom and might be used to run after government opposition,? Palatino said.]]>

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