MANILA - Justice Sec. Leila De Lima boasted of the Department of Justice's (DOJ) role in the crafting of controversial law Republic Act (RA) No. 10175, also known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, during Monday morning's closing program for the department's 115th anniversary and bared plans to put up a new office dedicated to prosecuting offenses related to the statute.
In a chance interview with reporters, De Lima said the law is responsive to the call of the present times when crimes proliferate cyberspace.
"On the whole, malaking bagay naman na mayroon na tayong ganyang batas.. marami naman talagang hindi talaga maganda na nagagawa dyan sa cyberspace, which, when left unregulated, would have very dire consequences on the morals and the well-being of our people, the youth, the minors," she said.
De Lima admits that the DOJ was opposed to several provisions of the law now being questioned before the Supreme Court (SC) via 6 separate petitions when it was still being deliberated in Congress.
However, since the law was passed and signed into law by Pres. Aquino on Sept. 12, the DOJ now has no choice but to implement it, she clarified. The justice chief bared that over 100 state prosecutors of the DOJ have already been trained on cyber forensics precisely to respond to this new legislation.
"I know there are objectionable portions and may I state, for the record, na hindi sa amin nanggaling ang mga provisions na yun -- the libel provision, the provision that gives us the take-down power. In fact, our position papers would show that we have actually raised questions on that... but that goes into the wisdom of the law and the crafters, yung authors of the law, siguro have to explain why those portions, those provisions are there," she said.
The high court is urged by a wide range of petitioners, ranging from incumbent Sen. Teofisto Guingona III to journalists, bloggers, taxpapers, and Reps. Raymond Palatino (Kabataan party-list) and Antonio Tinio (ACT party-list), to restrain government and its law enforcement agencies from implementing the following provisions of the law:
- Sec. 4 (c) , which criminalizes libel, not only on the internet, but also on "any other similar means which may be devised in the future;"
- Sec. 5, which identifies also identifies the following as violations of the law: (a) aiding or abetting in the commission of cybercrime, and (b) attempt in the commission of cybercrime;
- Sec. 6, which raises by one degree higher the penalties provided for by the Revised Penal Code for all crimes committed through and with the use of information and communications;
- Sec. 7, that provides that apart from prosecution under the assailed law, any person charged for the alleged offense covered will not be spared from violations of the Revised Penal Code and other special laws;
- Sec. 12, which authorizes the real-time collection of traffic data;
- Sec. 15, which authorizes the search, seizure and examination of computer data; and
- Sec. 19, which authorizes the DOJ to block access to computer data when such data "is prima facie found to be in violation of the provisions of this Act."
The 6th petition against the law, filed with the high court on Monday morning by a group led by Palatino and Tinio, expressed fear that with the passage of the Cybercrime Prevention Act, "the prospect of news websites, political blogs, online commentaries summarily taken down based on prima facie finding of violation of a computer data is all too real."
Petitioners also accused the DOJ of becoming an "all-too powerful body which can impose prior restraint and subsequent punishment upon protected speech on the mere disguise of restricting or blocking access to computer data."
For her part, De Lima said that in the absence of any ruling just yet on the constitutionality of the assailed provisions and any amendment on the part of Congress, what may be done for now to address the public's anxieties is to come up with Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) that shall ensure rights are not curtailed.
"Titingnan muna natin yung IRR. Siguro, kailangan ayusin nang husto ang pagawa nung implementing rules and regulations... as much as it can clarify certain ambiguous provisions, as much as it can try to really uphold the spirit of the law without transgressing the letter of the law, siguro best efforts na lang na magkaroon ng maganda or karapat dapat na IRR.
"Doon muna kami mag-uumpisa. I don't think it's an unlimited or unabridged power being given to us... lalo na yung take down clause, I'm sure may mga standards yan... kung paano natin magagawa yung authoriy na yan nang di nava-violate fundamental rights like human rights," she said.
The justice chief, however, admitted that the IRR cannot run counter to the provisions of the law.