It was long overdue, but it’s finally here. The archaic penal laws of the Philippines have now been updated to keep up with the cyber age with the recent passage of Republic Act No. 10175 or also known as the “Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012”.
One of the basic principles of criminal law in our jurisdiction is that if there is no law, there in no crime. It simply means that there must be a specific law defining a certain act as a felony, before an accused could be tried and penalized. Hence, before the enactment of RA 10175, law enforcers had to be creative in charging unscrupulous people using the internet. Public prosecutors were desperately fitting traditional laws into an emerging new animal called cybercrimes, which most of the time proved futile.
With RA 10175, certain acts which before were not classified as crimes, now become punishable under the law. As they say, better late than never.
Ok, enough about Criminal Law 101 and let’s go straight to RA 10175 and see which acts in the world wide web you were fond of doing, but can’t do any longer, lest you want to be inducted in Sigue-Sigue Sputnik Gang – Bilibid Chapter.
Cybercrime Offenses are group into four (4) categories:
- a) Offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems
- b) Computer-related Offenses
- c) Content-related Offenses
- d) Other offenses.
a. Offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems
Bulk of cybercrime offenses can be found in this first category. It simply involves illegal access of data in the computer system without right or permission from the owner. It also punishes the illegal interception of computer data from one computer to another. The data interference or alteration, deletion or introduction of viruses to a computer data without right. The system interference of a computer network by deleting, altering data that could be found inside, without permission.
Basically, the law made a general, sweeping and blanket definition of hacking. If you access a computer system or a network, or interfere with the traffic of data from the system, or worse you alter, copy or introduce data therein without permission from the owner or admin, and you got caught doing it, just put a fork in your butt, because you’re done.
By the way, “computer” under RA 10175 covers any type of computer device including devices with data processing capabilities like mobile phones, smart phones, computer networks and other devices connected to the internet. Yes, this law anticipates the post-pc era and the emergence of mobile computing.
This category also punishes the misuse of devices. It is the use, production, sale, procurement of a device (which includes a computer program), purposely to commit cybercrime offenses. It is also illegal to use, produce, procure, sell computer passwords, access codes or similar data to access a computer system, with the intent to commit cybercrime offenses.
In fact, mere possession – yes that is right – mere possession or keeping devices in your hard drive, with the intent of using it in committing cybercrime offenses, is punishable in itself. Well, the loophole here is “intent to use”. If you are just keeping it as a souvenir, you are not committing a crime – if the judge buys it.
Finally, there is an introduction of an offense called cyber-squatting. As you can see, the word “squatting” is no longer exclusive to residents along the railways of PNR. Cyber-squatting is the acquisition of domain name in bad faith with the intent to profit, mislead, destroy reputation, deprive others from registering the same. To qualify in this offense, the domain name must be similar to an existing registered trademark or name of a person, other than the registrant who has no right or intellectual property interest over it.
So if you register the name “krisaquino.com” for 500 bucks, and offer it to her for 500K, or you registered the domain name “gogle.com” hoping to get the traffic of people who are stupid enough to misspell google,then consider yourself as a cyber-squatter.
b. Computer Related Offenses
Under the second category, there are three kinds of computer- related offenses:
- Identity Theft.
Computer-related Forgery, is the input, alteration or deletion of any computer data, without right, with the intent that it can be considered or acted upon for legal purpose as if it were authentic. This, in my opinion, applies to alteration of close-source program without permission. Good example is iOS of iPad and iPhone, which is a close-source program. Therefore, jailbreaking your iPad or iPhone, could now be considered illegal if you apply this law strictly and by the letter. While android fanboys can rejoice, because they can continue with the development and flashing of custom ROMs in their devices, considering that android is an open-source program.
Computer-related Fraud, likewise is the unauthorized input, alteration, or deletion of computer data or program or interference in the functioning of a computer system causing damage thereby with fradulent intent. If no damage caused, the penalty is lower.
Computer-related Identity Theft, this is the intentional acquisition, use, misuse, transfer, possession, alteration or deletion of identifying information belonging to another, whether natural or juridical, without right. So next time you go to an internet cafe and you see in your rented computer a logged Facebook account belonging to another, probably from a previous customer, please resist the temptation of changing his profile pic to the photo of Vice Ganda, or putting in his status that he is coming out and revealing his long-suppressed sexual orientation. It’s now a crime.
c. Content-related Offenses
There are four (4) types of content-related offenses:
- Child Pornography
- Unsolicited Commercial Communications
Cybersex. Well, Bon and Joel, sorry to break the news but the willful engagement, maintenance, control, or operation, directly or indirectly, of any lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system, for favor or consideration, is now a felony.
This only applies to organized and established syndicates, who maintain pornographic sites, may it be images or videos. Well, call me defensive but I can’t really contribute much in this topic for I usually avoid those sites. But as to people who use skype to talk to their sweethearts and do what-not, well it’s not illegal as long as it is not done for favor or consideration, except love – or mutual lust. Again, that’s just what I heard of what other people do with their web camera.
Child Pornography. The unlawful or prohibited acts defined and punishable by Republic Act No. 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, committed through a computer system: Provided, That the penalty to be imposed shall be (1) one degree higher than that provided for in Republic Act No. 9775. Self-explanatory.
Unsolicited Commercial Communications. The transmission of commercial electronic communication with the use of computer system which seek to advertise, sell, or offer for sale products and services are prohibited. One word to describe this – SPAM. Not the imported Maling, but those pesky advertisement that eats space in your screen.
Sending spam per se is not a crime, unless:
- There is prior affirmative consent from the recipient, or
- The primary intent of the communication is for service and/or administrative announcements from the sender to its existing users, subscribers or customers.
Also, the following conditions must be present:
- The commercial electronic communication contains a simple, valid, and reliable way for the recipient to reject receipt of further commercial electronic messages (opt-out) from the same source
- The commercial electronic communication does not purposely disguise the source of the electronic message
- The commercial electronic communication does not purposely include misleading information in any part of the message in order to induce the recipients to read the message.
Ok, the next time your Facebook friend slash regular spammer put his/her pathetic products/services in your wall without your consent, tell him/her it’s now punishable under Section 4(c) paragraph 3 of RA 10175.
Libel. The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.
I don’t really get what is the fuss about this introduction. To be fair with Sen. Tito Sotto, despite the fact that he reaped a blog post and the speech of Kennedy wholesale, this provision didn’t create a new law or amend the substance of existing libel provision under the Revised Penal Code. This merely updated the libel law to expressly define publication through the internet.
You can still criticize, or border-line insult your favorite public officials, celebrities or public figures provided it’s fair and without malicious intent. Before, since one element of libel is publication, it’s difficult to establish publication if it was done in the internet. Therefore, an amendment is in order to reflect the changing times, hence this. That’s it. For God sake, libel law has been existing since early1900’s, so it’s not new at all. Just be responsible for what you write. Man-up! For extensive discussion of libel law, just go to my site panyero.net and search it there (sorry have to plug).
d. Other Offenses
Finally, acts such as aiding or abetting the commission of cybercrime or attempt in the commission of the same are also punishable.
So that’s it, hope we have enlightened you to the significant provisions of RA 10175. We can only hope that this law will make the world wide web safe against unscrupulous people who exploit the anonymity of the internet.
Disclaimer: This is just an interpretation and legal opinion of one lawyer, based solely on the four corners and text of RA 10175. Considering that this law is new, there is still no settled jurisprudence or Supreme Court Decision that will give definitive interpretation of its every provision. We all know that every lawyer has its own legal interpretation. As the saying goes, “if you ask ten (10) lawyers for a legal opinion, they will give you fifteen (15) different interpretations.”