MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Edgardo Angara on Friday denied that Senate Bill No. 2965, or the Data Privacy Act targets journalists who publish information leaked electronically or through the Internet.
Speaking to radio dzMM, Angara said the Data Privacy Act is meant to protect individuals whose sensitive information is being sent electronically.
He said data privacy has become a major concern because of the growth of the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector in the country.
He said the data could include “medical profiles of patients from a major hospital or outsourced accounting work from a big company.”
“We are just protecting the confidentiality of the information. If we don’t protect, no one will entrust their personal information and confidential private information to service providers here in the Philippines and our BPOs will not grow,” he said in the interview.
Under the law, which is set to be ratified next week, journalists who publish illegally leaked confidential information risk a 5-year jail sentence and a P2 million fine for "breach of confidentiality and if the information is published or reported by media."
Section 31 of the bill said "the responsible reporter, writer, president, publisher, manager and editor-in-chief" will be held liable for the violation.
The Philippine Press Institute and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines have protested the controversial provision.
In the interview, Angara said the Data Privacy Act is just one of 3 Internet-related measures aimed at protecting individuals and the growing business process outsourcing (BPO) sector in the country. The other 2 are the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and the law creating a Department of Information and Communications Technology.
The lawmaker noted the flow of sensitive data to the Philippines has increased dramatically due to the rise in BPOs specializing in medical transcriptions, accounting and other data processing work.
The senator said the law is supposed to target individuals and organizations that leak sensitive private information in breach of a person’s right to privacy.
He, however, did not discuss the controversial provision that could affect journalists.
“The only person who will be prosecuted are the individuals or the organizations that leaked the information when under their contract, they cannot leak to anyone. They are the ones who will be at fault but the media are absolutely protected from any liability,” he said.
“Press freedom is not affected in any sense under this law,” he added.
He denied that the law stops a journalist from publishing personal sensitive information especially if the individual involved is a public official.
He also noted that the right of the public to know should be balanced with the individual's right to privacy.
Asked what type of sensitive information is covered by this law, he said this includes medical information or privileged communication between lawyer and client; intellectual property outsourced on record to a BPO, and other information such as the individual’s “race, ethnic origin, color and religious, philosophical or political affiliations.”
Angara said the law also mandates the creation of a National Privacy Commission that will ensure compliance with international standards set for data protection. He said the office will receive complaints on possible violations of the law.