Transcript of briefing, 9/28: Palace spokesperson Abigail Valte @abi_valte on #cybercrimelaw

[Excerpt 1]

Q: Ma’am, just your reaction. Today, the Supreme Court received the fifth complaint against the Anti-Cybercrime Law. Just your reaction?

USEC. VALTE: Well, it’s good that these complaints are being taken to the proper forum because the Supreme Court is the proper forum for any challenges to any alleged unconstitutionalities to any particular ordinance, executive order, or, for that matter, a republic act.

Q: Hindi ba kayo nababahala na some sectors, ‘yung mga hackers, ay ginagamit naman nila ‘yung kanilang galing ika nga para mag-hack ng mga government websites para i-protesta ‘yung batas?

USEC. VALTE: Again, there are legitimate avenues for expressing dissent. We have always maintained that we listen to dissent provided that it is done in the proper forum. Huwag naman po sanang ilabas doon sa mga websites at huwag—meron naman po tayong tamang paraan para iparating kung ano po ‘yung hindi niyo nagugustuhan hindi lang ho ukol doon sa batas ngunit in everything that government does. There are legitimate avenues for redress.

Q: Ma’am, but does the government have enough logistics, resources, expertise and what have you to avert these attacks from the hackers?

USEC. VALTE: Well, I cannot make a judgment on the capabilities of all agencies. I am familiar with some and in light of—not this particular incident but we had an incident, I think two months ago, where the security of government websites was tightened in light of some of the denial of service attacks on some websites. As Secretary (Edwin) Lacierda has mentioned, the Official Gazette which we work with closely did take some extra precautions.

And, from what I understand, the IT guys in all the departments have been putting their heads together and have been keeping coordination and cooperation to a heightened level just to keep flagging each other that there may be this particular event or baka maging vulnerable kayo. So it’s coming together in the sense that the IT administrators in government have now kept closer touch with each other in order to prevent situations like this.

[Excerpt 2]

Q: Just a follow up on the cybercrime. Did we see that coming, I mean, these questions on the inclusion of the provision on libel and higher penalties? Did we see those coming?

USEC. VALTE: Did we see that coming? Personally, no, in the sense that when it was being discussed in the Lower House in the Senate and on the level of Bicam, wala naman pong—there <were> no questions, nobody was raising an objection.

Q: Did the President ask the Executive Secretary to explain why—parang it now appears there’s no review of the law before—

USEC. VALTE: There’s no what?

Q: There’s no review of the law before it was signed by the President?

USEC. VALTE: No, no. The Office of the Executive Secretary usually prepares the evaluation and then

submits the evaluation to the President and, on that basis, the President decides to sign it or to veto.

Q: So that the law was well-reviewed and it took all those issues or concerns in consideration?

USEC. VALTE: Well, you have to remember in this particular—in the way

that a bill becomes enacted into law, it is not only the Executive that is primarily responsible for this. In fact, if you look at the rules that we go by, the Executive is given 30 days after the bill is—the enrolled bill is transmitted to the Executive to sign the paper either to enact it or to veto or to have it—or enact it by inaction which is what we call. ‘Di ba kasi after 30 days nag-expire, hindi napirmahan, that becomes enacted into law. So I am not familiar with how long that bill was discussed in both chambers. But I would imagine, given the normal legislative experience that we have had, hindi naman po ‘yan tatlong buwan lang pinag-usapan, or apat na buwan lang pinag-usapan.

Q: Right now, even this was passed by both Senate and yet you have Senator (TG) Guingona leading the filing of a case questioning the legality of that provision.

USEC. VALTE: Well, perhaps from what I understand, Senator Guingona was the lone objection—was the lone person to object to when that particular bill was voted upon in the Senate. So I am not familiar with how the deliberations went, kung sino pa ’yung nag-register ng objections, on how it was crafted. But it would be useful for us to look into the deliberations because that’s on record naman e. Makikita niyo doon kung sino ‘yung nag-propose, kung sino ‘yung nag-object, how it was discussed, what the intent is. It’s all in the Senate deliberations as well as the deliberations in the House.

Q: But for now the Palace is standing by the legality of that provision?

USEC. VALTE: Yes. That will be challenged—it has already been challenged in the Supreme Court and we will just wait on how the Supreme Court disposes with this particular challenge. Five na yata. Tama ba si Bombo, lima na? Sorry, and for those asking while we announced, while it was signed by the President on September 12, the bill, the law was published on September 18 in

a newspaper of general circulation—in fact, several newspapers of general circulation. So by computation, in the effectivity clause of RA 10175, the law becomes effective on the 3rd. We count calendar days ha. Somebody kasi was asking me dapat daw October 9 or something like that and I said na, “No. We count calendar days.” Hindi po excluded ‘yung weekends.

Q: Would you say these cases are premature given that the law hasn’t taken effect?

USEC. VALTE: Well, that can still be challenged kasi because it’s been passed.

Q: Ma’am, sa dami ng mga kumukontra dito sa cyber libel na ito, hindi ba ‘yan napag-uusapan with the President, ano po ba ‘yung reaksyon niya?

USEC. VALTE: Well, as Secretary [Edwin] Lacierda said yesterday, you have to remember that not—freedom is never absolute. Even in the Constitution you see that. There are responsibilities that do accompany our freedoms, the freedoms that we do

possess. And from the emergence of technology as another platform—kasi dati TV, radyo, diyaryo lang tayo e. So ngayon you have a new platform for people to engage in and

it’s only fitting also that there should be regulation to some extent. Kasi siguro ‘yung i-parallel natin diyan ‘yung mga reporters nga, ‘yung mga journalists, they’re liable if they are not responsible, and you have platforms kasi. Iba-iba tayo ng pinanghahawakang platform and, because of the emergence of that, then there should also be responsibility that is attached to people who make use of that particular platform.

Continuation, Excerpt 2]

Q: So that the law was well-reviewed and it took all those issues or concerns in consideration?

USEC. VALTE: Well, you have to remember in this particular—in the way that a bill becomes enacted into law, it is not only the Executive that is primarily responsible for this. In fact, if you look at the rules that we go by, the Executive is given 30 days after the bill is—the enrolled bill is transmitted to the Executive to sign the paper either to enact it or to veto or to have it—or enact it by inaction which is what we call. ‘Di ba kasi after 30 days nag-expire, hindi napirmahan, that becomes enacted into law. So I am not familiar with how long that bill was discussed in both chambers. But I would imagine, given the normal legislative experience that we have had, hindi naman po ‘yan tatlong buwan lang pinag-usapan, or apat na buwan lang pinag-usapan.

Q: Right now, even this was passed by both Senate and yet you have Senator (TG) Guingona leading the filing of a case questioning the legality of that provision.

USEC. VALTE: Well, perhaps from what I understand, Senator Guingona was the lone objection—was the lone person to object to when that particular bill was voted upon in the Senate. So I am not familiar with how the deliberations went, kung sino pa ’yung nag-register ng objections, on how it was crafted. But it would be useful for us to look into the deliberations because that’s on record naman e. Makikita niyo doon kung sino ‘yung nag-propose, kung sino ‘yung nag-object, how it was discussed, what the intent is. It’s all in the Senate deliberations as well as the deliberations in the House.

Q: But for now the Palace is standing by the legality of that provision?

USEC. VALTE: Yes. That will be challenged—it has already been challenged in the Supreme Court and we will just wait on how the Supreme Court disposes with this particular challenge. Five na yata. Tama ba si Bombo, lima na? Sorry, and for those asking while we announced, while it was signed by the President on September 12, the bill, the law was published on September 18 in a newspaper of general circulation—in fact, several newspapers of general circulation. So by computation, in the effectivity clause of RA 10175, the law becomes effective on the 3rd. We count calendar days ha. Somebody kasi was asking me dapat daw October 9 or something like that and I said na, “No. We count calendar days.” Hindi po excluded ‘yung weekends.

Q: Would you say these cases are premature given that the law hasn’t taken effect?

USEC. VALTE: Well, that can still be challenged kasi because it’s been passed.

Q: Ma’am, sa dami ng mga kumukontra dito sa cyber libel na ito, hindi ba ‘yan napag-uusapan with the President, ano po ba ‘yung reaksyon niya?

USEC. VALTE: Well, as Secretary [Edwin] Lacierda said yesterday, you have to remember that not—freedom is never absolute. Even in the Constitution you see that. There are responsibilities that do accompany our freedoms, the freedoms that we do possess. And from the emergence of technology as another platform—kasi dati TV, radyo, diyaryo lang tayo e. So ngayon you have a new platform for people to engage in and it’s only fitting also that there should be regulation to some extent. Kasi siguro ‘yung i-parallel natin diyan ‘yung mga reporters nga, ‘yung mga journalists, they’re liable if they are not responsible, and you have platforms kasi. Iba-iba tayo ng pinanghahawakang platform and, because of the emergence of that, then there should also be responsibility that is attached to people who make use of that particular platform.

Q: Ma’am, meron kasing report ‘yung isang independent rights watchdog, ‘yung Freedom House. It says, ‘yung internet use daw in the Philippines is among the freest in the world, and ‘yung score natin is 23 points, zero being the most free and 100 being the least free. And with this cyber crime law daw, there are fears na ‘yung ranking natin will go down.

USEC. VALTE: Well, that remains to be seen whether it will have an impact on that particular ranking or not. Kasi, if you think about it ha, even for… There is the libel provision that applies to everyone, actually. In the Revised Penal Code, everybody can be particularly liable for libel or for oral defamation or slander whichever the case maybe. But that particular responsibility has never stopped our press from being free. We just need to be cognizant of also the responsibilities that come with our freedom.

Q: In the ano, Ma’am, report there are concerns raised that the government daw is seeking to institute a filtering structure which could be potentially used for political and social censorship.

USEC. VALTE: That maybe a little paranoid.

Q: Ma’am, does the Palace intend to embark on an information campaign on this law to explain ’yung mga concerns ng mga tao like, for example, Senator Guingona was saying na ’pag nag-like ka daw sa Facebook ng something that might be considered as a libelous, ikaw din pwede nang ma-file-an because there’s a provision on abetting and aiding cyber crime? Also, ‘yung takedown clause ‘nung law parang—does the Palace intend to explain this fully to the public amid all these questions?

USEC. VALTE: The takedown clause it will have to be studied further because also, I mean, for myself I did take a cursory look at 10175. But, for all others, we suggest that the Senate deliberations would—and the deliberations in the House—kasi intent na ito e. This goes into the intent of the lawmakers on what they intended particular clauses of the law to cover. And interpretation na kasi ‘yan pagdating doon sa ‘pag ni-like mo ba, ni-retweet mo ba something that is construed as libelous does it fall under aiding or abetting? That is up to the courts to decide kung, ano, what will construe. If there is a doubt then the courts will have to be the ones to step in and to say—in that particular case ha. Halimbawa, nasampahan na, ‘yung korte naman ‘yung magde-desisyon hindi naman din ‘yung executive.

Q: Ma’am, ‘yung mag-i-study further ‘nung takedown clause, will that be the people involved in crafting the IRR?

USEC. VALTE: No, no, no. I meant when I said—that was for me. I needed to look at… I still need to look at the takedown clause. I have been seeing reports about it but I would like to see the particular clause and how it relates to the entire bill. ‘Yung sa… We can also raise that with the agencies that have been tasked to create the IRR namely the DOJ, the ICTO under DOST, and DILG ba—I’m not sure about the third. But, I’m quite sure about DOJ and DOST-ICTO.

[Excerpt 3]

Q: Ma’am, sabi po ni—on another issue. Sabi po ni Teofisto Guingona, ano, hiniling niya sa…?

USEC. VALTE: Which one?

Q: Hiniling niya sa Supreme Court na…?

USEC. VALTE: Vanz, which one?

Q: ‘Yung matanda, Ma’am.

USEC. VALTE: Ha?

Q: Ano…

USEC. VALTE: The former Vice President? [But Ms. Vanz was actually referring to the younger Guingona—Senator TG Guingona.]

Q: Yes. Teofisto Guingona is saying that—hiniling niya sa Supreme Court na magpalabas ng TRO laban sa cyber crime law kasi nais niyang ipawalang-bisa ang cyber crime law, Section 4, 6, 7 and 19, dahil sa pagiging unconstitutional. Kasi kanina, Ma’am, don’t you think this is—labag ito sa double jeopardy na nakasaad sa 1987 Constitution?

USEC. VALTE: Sandali, ano ‘yung labag sa double jeopardy?

Q: ‘Yung sa 1987 Constitution, regarding this ‘yung pagpaparusa sa media na sinasabi na 12 years daw ganoon ang nakasaad doon sa Section 4, 6, 7 and 19.

USEC. VALTE: OK, I understand. There are several provisions that are being contested by Senator TG Guingona. He says that, in his petition, I understand that he put there that you can be liable for a violation under the National Cybercrime Prevention Act which is ‘yung in normal everyday conversation we call online libel and under Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code. Ang sinasabi niya yata—and, Vanz, feel free to step in to correct me—is you can be liable for both kasi the other one is Revised Penal Code, the other one is Special Penal Law, which is the cybercrime. That will have to be decided by the Supreme Court.

Q: Ah OK, Ma’am. Kaya double jeopardy?

USEC. VALTE: No, no, no. Double jeopardy refers to being charged for the same crime and the same act, and you have already been… For example, na-arraign ka na for this particular crime, and then you are charged—it protects you kasi from being charged with the lesser offense of that same nature. That’s double jeopardy.

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