IRR won't cure cybercrime law defects, experts say

by Jojo Malig,

Posted at Oct 08 2012 10:08 PM | Updated as of Oct 09 2012 07:22 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Implementing rules and regulations (IRR) will not cure defects in Republic Act No. 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, legal experts said.

Citing Supreme Court rulings, Atty. Trixie Cruz Angeles told Monday that an IRR will only carry out provisions of a specific law.

"The power of administrative agencies is confined to implementing the law or putting it into effect," she said.

"That administrative regulation cannot extend the law and amend a legislative enactment. The clear letter of the law is controlling and cannot be amended by a mere administrative rule issued for its implementation," she added, citing High Court decisions in Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, Inc. v. National Wages and Productivity Commission (GR 144322) and Lokin v. Comelec (GR 179431-32).



Atty. Theodore Te also told that an IRR can't fix the cybercrime law that is now being questioned by 15 petitions filed before the Supreme Court.

"If the remedy to the vagueness is to provide substantive terms, IRR would still be ultra vires and void," he said.



Senator Edgardo Angara, author of RA 10175, earlier admitted in a press statement than an IRR "cannot amend the law" and "can only clarify vagueness and ambiguity."

Fr. Joaquin Bernas, a Supreme Court "amicus curiae" also said in a blog post that an IRR will not be able to resolve perceived Constitutional violations in the cybercrime law.

"It will not do to say that whatever shortcomings there are in RA 10175 will be remedied by its IRR (implementing rules and regulations). Rules and regulations cannot cure defects in a law," he said.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Saturday said the cybercrime law signed by President Benigno Aquino is unconstitutional because its provisions are too broad or too vague.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier urged the public to join an October 9 forum to help craft the law's IRR.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the IRR will "harmonize and clarify" questioned provisions of the law, such as the provisions on libel and the "takedown powers" of the DOJ on websites.

She said the IRR will set the limits to the powers and authority provided for in the law.

Under the RA 10175, De Lima has the authority to block any website even without a court order.

Section 12 allows law enforcement authorities to monitor, collect, and record Internet and electronic traffic data even without a court warrant.

Section 4C(4) also declares that online libel is now considered a cybercrime that can be punished under the Revised Penal Code, with Section 6 setting the penalty on Internet libel at "one degree higher" than print libel.

This means that a person found guilty of libelous content on the Internet could spend up to 12 years in prison with no possibility of parole. The person can also be tried separately in another case if the content is printed.

Nica Dumlao of the Foundation for Media Alternatives told ANC Monday that they want the Supreme Court to declare RA 10175 unconstitutional, instead of lawmakers just amending it.

"We are against the cybercrime law. The IRR will not cure it," she said.