“ICT-Enabled Senators” Push Progressive Legislation

Democracy.Net.PH commends the Senators of the 16th Congress of the Philippines for proposing various information and communications technology (ICT) and Internet policy legislation that, if enacted, will surely benefit the Filipino people. These bills complement civil rights principles and constitutional guarantees and work in parallel to promote rights, governance, development, and security for Philippine ICT and the Internet. It will be recalled that Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom (#MCPIF), filed as SBN 53 in the 16th Congress, was the first bill to encompass and espouse all these principles.

No less than five bills have been filed repealing parts of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero’s filed SBN 126 repealing the infamous Section 4(C)(4) on online libel, while Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s SBN 11 countermands the treatment of “ICT as an aggravating circumstance.” Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano’s SBN 249 does both, and, in addition, repeals Section 5 on “aiding and abetting cybercrime” and the double jeopardy provision of Section 7. Sen. APCayetano also seeks to amend RA 10175’s takedown clause Section 19 through SBN 248, by requiring a judicial order—a concept integral to the #MCPIF’s promotion of equal protection of the law and due process of law—before any takedown is implemented. Sen. Pia Cayetano’s SBN 154 repeals Sections 4(c)(4), 6, 7, and 19 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act. Her bill also repeals Section 12, or the warrantless collection of data, and ensures that Section 4(a)’s definition of offenses against confidentiality, integrity, and availability are aligned with the Data Privacy Act, or RA 10173. Her bill’s repeal of Section 4(c)(1) and mandate of the alignment of RA 10175 with the provisions of RA 9208, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, for ICT-enabled human trafficking is in keeping with the #MCPIF’s approach that online rights and protections should be the same as those offline. Together, these proposed bills would effectively be the equivalent of Sen. Defensor-Santiago’s wholesale repeal of RA 10175 via Section 42 of the #MCPIF.

Another set of bills decriminalize libel and promote the freedom of information (FOI). Sen. Escudero’s SBN 127, Sen. APCayetano’s 245, and Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan’s SBN 210 provide for the decriminalization of libel. Sen. PCayetano’s SBN 149 does so as well—and applies in its stead Articles 19 and 26 of the Civil Code. This will allow courts to deal with cases of cyberbullying. Basic FOI is proposed by Sen. Sergio Osmena III’s SBN 44 and Sen. JV Ejercito’s SBN 217. Sen. Escudero’s SBN 18, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s SBN 36, and Sen. APCayetano’s SBN 90 implement FOI through websites, and Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III’s SBN 74 promotes FOI through publicly-accessible databases. These bills echo the #MCPIF principle of using ICT and the Internet as tools for transparency and good governance.

Other bills filed also show our senators’ recognition of the great benefits of ICT and the Internet. Sen. Cynthia Villar’s SBN 140 and SBN 297, parallels Sen. Edgardo “Sonny” Angara’s SBN 195, SBN 198, and SBN 292, as well as Sen. Loren Legarda’s SBN 355 on the integration of computer education into our curricula and the modernization of schools using ICT infrastructure. Sen. Osmena’s SBN 169, or the “Philippine Business Registry Databank (PBRD) Act”, intends to make ICT and the Internet as engines of Philippine business growth. In parallel with Sen. Defensor-Santiago’s #MCPIF, Sen. Legarda filed SBN 358, establishing the Department of Information and Communications Technology, which shall be key to furthering ICT-enabled governance.

Other legislation involve the intersection of consumer rights and ICT. Sen. Villar’s SBN 145, or the “Revised Consumer Act”, makes misleading text or email commercial spam advertising unlawful, while Sen. Santiago’s “Prepaid Calling Card Consumer Protection Act” (SBN 385) works for fair standards between prepaid load consumers and service providers. Sen. Osmena’s SBN 42 and Sen. Ejercito’s SBN 219 provide telecommunications service standards, and Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.’s SBN 183, or the “National Telecommunications Commission Reorganization Act” mandates an ICT and Internet policy implementation body to protect the interest of the average Filipino.

Perhaps most radical among these initiatives is Sen. Guingona’s “Crowdsourcing Act” or SBN 73, which promotes direct democracy via ICT- and Internet-enabled means. Democracy.Net.PH lauds Sen. Guingona for his effort to institutionalize direct participatory democracy through the use of ICT and the Internet. The #MCPIF is positive proof of the promise of crowdsourced democracy.

Democracy.Net.PH commends these legislators for their willingness to explore how ICT and the Internet may be harnessed for the country’s good. We trust that, having proposed bills in line with principles of rights, governance, development, and security for Philippine ICT and Internet, they will support the enactment into law of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom.