Sex scandal bares need for cybercrime law

by Purple S. Romero, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Posted at May 29 2009 12:13 PM | Updated as of May 29 2009 08:17 PM

While the 2003 Optical Media Act served as a groundbreaking anti-piracy legislation in the region, it needs to catch up with the times and identify the internet as a platform for sex video reproduction, an official said.

Rosendo Meneses, executive director of the Optical Media Board (OMB), said Thursday during the Senate hearing on the sex video scandal of Dr. Hayden Kho and actress Katrina Halili, that the present law falls short in determining the link between the proliferation of sexual videos online and in optical media such as digital video discs (DVDs) and video compact discs (VCDs).

“The controversy has brought to the fore the gaps in the law,” he said.

The enactment of the Optical Media Act in 2003 beefed up the country’s legal arsenal for the protection of intellectual property rights. It led to the removal of the Philippines from the US priority watch list for piracy in 2006.The Philippines is now included in the US ordinary watch list, along with around 30 developing countries.

However, the Optical Media Act is silent on online piracy. “The jurisdiction of OMB is limited to optical discs,” Meneses said.

OMB chairman Edu Manzano has described the internet as the latest vehicle for material theft and duplication since people can easily download and copy the information in disks. 

But under the present law, those who conduct home-based internet piracy will not be put behind bars since penalties are limited to those who manufacture optical media for commercial purposes.

Pass cybercrime bill

The Philippine National Police (PNP), on the other hand, urged lawmakers to expedite the passage of the anti-cybercrime bill.

Gen. German Doria, PNP director for Police Community Relations, said in Thursday's hearing that law enforcers are rendered powerless against the spread of obscene materials online because of the lack of legislation.

“We do not yet have a law to penalize cybercrime,” he said.

Two years ago, the spread of sex videos in a website called boybastos.com pushed Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara to introduce House Bill No.190, which defines and sanctions cybercrimes.

Mark Verzo, the operator of boybastos.com, went scot-free because the bill had not been passed.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile authored a similar bill in April this year. Senate Bill 3177, otherwise known as Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2009, punishes perpetrators of cybercrimes with prision correcional (imprisonment from 6 months to 6 years) or a fine of P100,000-P500,000.

Under Angara’s bill, on the other hand, guilty parties could be locked up from six to 12 years and fined P200,000-P800,000.

Preventing campus porn

Sen. Manuel Villar also earlier filed Senate bill 752, which prohibits the spread of indecent materials through computers. Violators would be slapped with the penalty of prision mayor and fined P6,000-P12,000.

Another measure, Senate bill 751, aims to restrict access to adult-themed sites in schools. If passed, libraries in both private and public educational institutions would be mandated to install software programs which would bar access to websites that promote violence and pornography.     

Villar also put on the table the creation of a Student Internet Protection Task Force which would keep internet café operators on a tight leash. 

“The Internet has become a very powerful medium for learning and information. Unfortunately, obscene and violent can also be accessed online. We should regulate Internet access or usage inside classrooms or even outside in public Internet shops, which students frequent,” the senator said in a statement.