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The Philippines Cybercrime Prevention Act

The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 was recently enacted in the Philippines in line with the State's recognition of the vital role of information and communications industries in the nation's overall social and economic development and the need to protect and safeguard computer systems and networks from all forms of misuse, abuse and illegal access.

The Act punishes a number of categories of cybercrimes.

The first is offences against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems. This category includes crimes such as illegal access of a computer system (or accessing a computer system without right), illegal interception of any non-public transmission of computer data to, from or within a computer system, and cybersquatting or the acquisition of a domain name in bad faith to profit, mislead, destroy reputation and deprive others from registering the name.

The second category is computer-related offences, which includes computer-related forgery (committed by inputting, altering or deleting computer data without right resulting in inauthentic data), computer-related fraud (committed by the unauthorised input, alteration or deletion of computer data or programs or interference in the functioning of computer system that causes damage) and computer-related identity theft (or the intentional acquisition, use, misuse, transfer, possession, alteration or deletion of identifying information belonging to another, without right).

Finally, the Act punishes content-related offences. This category includes unsolicited commercial communications (except when certain conditions are present such as when the communication contains a way for the recipient to reject receipt of further communications from the source) and libel (by committing libel under the Revised Penal Code through a computer system).

The Act also punishes any person who attempts, or wilfully abets or aids in, the commission of any cybercrime. In addition, the Act provides that all crimes defined under existing laws, if committed through and with the use of information and communications technologies will be covered by the relevant provisions of the Act. Furthermore, a prosecution under the Act shall be without prejudice to any liability for violation of any provision of existing penal laws.

The Act provides for the creation of an Office of Cybercrime within the Department of Justice, to be the central authority in all matters relating to international mutual assistance and extradition, and a Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center, which is empowered to, among other things, formulate a national cybersecurity plan and extend immediate assistance for the suppression of real-time commission of cybercrimes.

The Act took effect on October 3 2012. The Philippine Supreme Court, however, upon petitions filed questioning the constitutionality of the Act, issued a temporary restraining order against its implementation for 120 days from October 9 2012. Oral arguments on the petitions were held on January 15 2013.

Jan Celine C Aba?o-Ranada

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