Government cracks down on hackers-A A +A
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
MANILA -- On the first day of implementation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to go after the "misfits and the wicked in society" who defaced various government websites.
De Lima said she has issued orders for the NBI, one of the law enforcement agencies tasked to track down violators of the cybercrime law, to investigate the hackers and "hacktivists" and bring the perpetrators to justice.
"Yes, I have such an order to NBI," she said in a text message.
In a statement, she warned hackers to observe the rule of law, saying there is a clear line between legitimate expressions of dissent and acceptable forms of protests versus the commission of illegal acts.
"We see massive cyberfraud, state-sponsored terrorism, telecommunications hacking, credit card scams and consumer schemes that the state is mandated to investigate and prosecute. There is no doubt that cybercrime is a global crime that requires immediate and adequate response," she said.
"Disagreeing with certain sections of the law or questioning the legislative intent is no excuse to commit crimes – defacing websites whether government or not, disrupting essential operations and services, and causing damage to scarce resources," she added.
De Lima said Section 4(a) of the controversial law punishes acts against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems. These include illegal access, illegal interception, data interference, system interference, misuse of devices and cyber-squatting.
She added that there are existing laws such as Republic Act 8792 of the e-Commerce Law, which penalizes hacking under Section 33(a).
Earlier, de Lima said she will create an office on cybercrime, composed of more than 100 prosecutors who shall implement the law.
A multi-sectoral forum will be held on October 9 to explain to various stakeholders the features of the law, which are specifically designed to go after criminals, including hackers.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice, together with the Department of Interior and Local Government and Department of Science and Technology, has yet to form a panel that will craft the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) needed before the law is enforced.
Groups like "Anonymous Philippines" have attacked the websites of the Senate, House and the Malacanang gazette, while the Department of Budget and Management had disowned sending Microsoft Word email attachments containing a Trojan virus, apparently in connection with the massive protest on the alleged curtailment of freedom of expression under the law Republic Act 10175 or the anti-cybercrime law.
De Lima, who under the cybercrime law will have the power to take down the website of violators and offenders, told reporters in a chance interview that she sees nothing wrong with any of the questioned provisions of the law, including the libel clause.
This was a departure from her previous pronouncement that she had questioned this provision in the position paper that she had submitted to, but which was apparently ignored by, Malacañang.
"Based on my reading of the law, I haven't seen yet any unconstitutional provision," she told reporters, adding they will carefully craft the law's IRR.
De Lima also said that she saw nothing objectionable in the grant of take-down powers to DOJ under Section 19 of RA 10175 because all operations will be preceded by an investigation process. She also assured that she will not abuse this power or use it arbitrarily.
The DOJ chief said that the law's IRR intends to harmonize the conflicting and vague provisions in the law, including the secretary's supposed "take-down" powers.
The IRR will set the limits to the powers and authority provided for in the law, she added.
"We will determine how the IRR can be used in terms of clarifying, harmonizing those objectionable portions," de Lima said.
As the government prepared to implement the cybercrime law, the eighth and ninth petitions assailing RA 10175 were filed at the Supreme Court.
The first group that filed a petition Wednesday was the Ateneo Human Rights Center, led by University College of Law Dean Sedfrey Candelaria and lawyer Melencio Sta. Maria, who claimed that the law is a threat to free-wheeling discussion and stifles the "most democratic medium ever created by humankind."
Petitioners noted that the various petitions filed at the High Court will herald the entry of the judiciary into the realm of cyber communication that is perpetually active, global and free.
Citing the 2011 Southeast Asia Digital Consumer Report, the group said that about 33 percent of Filipinos have accessed the Internet within the twelve-month period, translating to about 31 million users, and multi-millions more in other parts of the world, regardless of race, religion, culture and background, knowingly or not, who will be affected by the assailed law and, eventually, by the decision of the Supreme Court.
"If the sanctity of our fundamental freedoms will be curtailed, the petitioners only seek that it be properly undertaken strictly pursuant to and within the limitations of the Bill of Rights enshrined in the people’s Constitution, which RA 10175 patently disregards," the petition stated.
"It will stifle not only speech, but thought, altering not only words but action. At every turn and at every moment online, Filipinos will have a spectre of subsequent punishment hanging over them, effectively acting as prior restraint," they added.
The ninth petition, filed partly as an online document by a group of journalists such as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Philippine Press Institute, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and some 250 individuals, raised similar grounds of violation of the freedom of expression and of speech in their suit.
Aside from seeking the issuance of a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court, the journalists also asked the High Court to direct respondent Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management not to release the amount of P50 million, which was supposed to cover the implementation of the statute, until such time that the Court orders otherwise.
Petitioners also asked the Court to hold the case for oral arguments to allow the parties to more fully articulate their respective positions before the magistrates. (JCV/Sunnex)