Cybercrime body condemns hacking spree-A A +A
Friday, September 28, 2012
THE Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) discouraged hacking groups from defacing government websites as protest against the controversial cybercrime law that allegedly threatens freedom of speech.
The CICC, the main body in charge of inter-agency coordination, monitoring, policy formulation and enforcement of the Cybercrime Prevention Act (RA) of 2012, told critics of the new law to raise their concerns through appropriate means.
"We understand the concerns of the public and our netizens on several controversial provisions of RA 10175, however there are proper avenues for expressing their indignation rather than committing cybercrime to protest a bill that aims to prevent cybercrime," said Engr. Louis Casambre, CICC chair.
Casambre, who is also the executive director of the Information and Communications Technology Office of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-ICTO), also encouraged government offices to step up the security measures of their websites amid the recent hacking incidents.
"[We] would like to request our government systems administrators to review their own policies and utilize industry best practices when it comes to cyber security," said Casambre.
On Wednesday, hackers claiming to be from the group "Anonymous Philippines" defaced the official websites of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc., and the Pilipinas Anti-Piracy Team.
Also hacked were the websites of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Region III, Smokefree Philippines of the Department of Health (DOH), and Institute for Development and Econometric Analysis.
The hackers have called for the revision of the new law, which they described as the "most notorious act ever witnessed in the cyber-history of the Philippines," adding it "ends freedom of expression" in the country due to its libel provision.
The controversial measure, which was signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III on September 12, punishes offenses such as hacking, online fraud, identity theft, cybersex, child pornography, cybersquatting, libel, and other acts of Internet misconduct.
"It is just so disappointing that our government, in adopting our 80-year-old antiquated libel laws to the Cybercrime Law, again seems to have retarded our march with the rest of the world with respect to giving full force to the people's freedom of expression," the group said in a statement posted on the defaced government websites.
On Thursday, the hackers hinted for more possible similar attacks on cyberspace.
One of the alleged hackers identified as "#pR.is0n3r" said the government "will see what Anonymous can do" if the new cybercrime law is used to curtail freedom of speech and expression.
"You want to see Anonymous rise up? Try to shutdown the message, try to chill our speech," said #pR.is0n3r on its Facebook page.
The hackers' latest victim was the website of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, which was defaced on Friday but was immediately restored.
Netizens, legal experts, and media groups have also assailed the libel provision of the new measure as it allegedly tramples the basic rights of freedom of speech and expression.
A group of journalists, bloggers and lawyers filed the fifth petition questioning the constitutionality of RA 10175.
The petitioners including journalist/blogger Ellen Tordesillas, Vera Files writer and blogger Ma. Gisela Ordenes-Cascolan and University of the Philippines law professor Harry Roque sought for the immediate issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) or writ of preliminary injunction against concerned government agencies tasked to implement the recently signed law.
Like the four previous petitions, Roque and company also asked the Supreme Court to nullify sections 4, 5, 6, 7, and 19, which allegedly violate the freedom of expression, rule against double jeopardy and separation of powers.
Roque said the law erred for allowing the Department of Justice to block access to or collect computer data in real time without court order. The proper authority to issue such action should be the courts, not a branch of the Executive department, he said.
They also criticized the longer jail term for those who are found guilty of online libel, which is pegged at 12 years compared to four years if committed using the traditional print media.
The group called on the government to repeal its existing criminal libel law even as the Aquino administration has reportedly shown little inclination to support this legislation pending in Congress.
Named respondents are the Executive Secretary, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Justice, Department of the Interior and Local Government, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police, Information and Communications Technology Office-Department of Science and Technology.
Malacañang, meanwhile, is unfazed by the successive filing of petitions against the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 in court.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Palace is glad that objections are being brought to the proper forum.
"We welcomed that the petition is being taken to the proper forum. Like we have always said, there are legitimate avenues in expressing dissent," Valte said.
On Friday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) also joined the opposition against the cybercrime law.
"The cybercrime law needs to be repealed or replaced," HRW Asia director Brian Adams said in a statement. "It violates Filipinos' rights to free expression and it is wholly incompatible with the Philippine government’s obligations under international law."
"Anybody using popular social networks or who publishes online is now at risk of a long prison term should a reader – including government officials – bring a libel charge," Adams said. "Allegedly libelous speech, online or offline, should be handled as a private civil matter, not a crime."
While local law enforcers have lauded the new measure, they have also raised some questions on the cybercrime act.
Earlier this week, Police Director Samuel Pagdilao Jr., chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), described the new law’s libel provision as "too broad."
He added that the CICC would have to clarify the contentious details of the new measure when they draft the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the cybercrime act.
Casambre, the CICC head, said they will address the issues raised regarding the said law and assured that its IRR would not stifle basic rights such as freedom of speech.
"In addressing cyber security challenges, our legislators have finally passed a law after a difficult process spanning several Congresses; for us in the executive, we now need to ensure that the IRR will help balance perceived shortcomings while having an implementation framework that is both legally grounded and technically sound," said Casambre.
The CICC, which will officially meet in the first week of October, is also composed of the National Bureau of Investigation director as vice chairperson, the Philippine National Police chief, and the head of the Department of Justice Office of Cybercrime.
The body will also have one representative from the private sector and academe, who are yet to be determined. (Emmanuel Louis Bacani/Jill Beltran/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)