Why did four senators file nearly identical cybercrime bills?

Exclusive By Raïssa Robles

Posted at Oct 09 2012 09:39 PM | Updated as of Oct 10 2012 05:39 AM

Four senators filed Cybercrime Bills that were almost totally identical to each other and to the final bill that was signed into law late September by President Benigno Aquino III.

The four were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Edgardo Angara, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.

The highly technical bills they filed were nearly all the same in wording, sentence construction, paragraph order and even punctuation marks.

There are two questions here:

1.Why were they identical?

2.Was there a common source?

Let me answer the second question first. This morning, Department of Justice (DOJ) Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy held a press conference to explain and defend to the media how the Cybercrime Law would work. Sy could play a key role in the DOJ’s anti-Cybercrime Unit.

But there was one thing Sy neglected to tell the media: He was the one who had given the drafts of the Cybercrime Bill to the four senators.

“The proposal came from Assec Sy,” Tala Maralit, the chief legislative staff of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile told me this afternoon when I asked her who had drafted Senate President Enrile’s Senate Bill No. 134 (SBN 134 filed July 5, 2010) and why it was almost identical with the Cybercrime bills of three other senators, namely:

SBN 52 of Senator Edgardo Angara (filed on July 10, 2009)
SBN 2534 of Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (filed on September 22, 2010)
SBN 2721 of Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla (filed February 28, 2011)

Think about it: the government agency that would implement the Cybercrime Law, the agency that would wind up with huge and vague (critics say “repressive”) police powers was the very same one that had written the draft law and pushed it in Congress to begin with.

Furthermore, the very same person — Assec Sy — who physically gave copies of the draft bill to the four senators could end up occupying a key post in the Commission on Information and Communications Technology – the anti-Cybercrime Unit that this law will create.

But I’m getting ahead of my story. I will explain later the other implications of having Assec Sy – the very man who had pushed for this legislation – probably sit as head of this powerful unit that will have a say on blocking websites and filing criminal lawsuits against violators of the Cybercrime Law. I interviewed Assec Sy on the matter.

Anyway, let me start from the beginning.

I stumbled on this story by accident, when I was working to verify something else, which was the assertion by Senator Pia Cayetano that she had nothing to do with two of the Cybercrime Law’s particularly offensive provisions — the ones authorizing government to perform “real-time collection of traffic data” (what critics call in effect, illegal surveillance of all digital devices) and to “take down” (more accurately, block) websites that government deemed violated the Cybercrime Law.

Because of the vague way the Senate records were structured and written, I had published and article saying  that Cayetano had moved for those provisions, whereas it turned out she had not. I corrected my story and issued an apology.

To view it, please read – To the staff of Senator Pia Cayetano,http://raissarobles.com/2012/10/08/to-the-staff-of-senator-pia-cayetano/

But in the process of verifying this, I went through a lot of documents I downloaded from the Senate website.

That was when — to my surprise — I discovered that four of the filed bills on Cybercrime were practically copies of each other.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.