Supreme Court Decision on the Cybercrime Act of 2012

This is a searchable text version of a Supreme Court press briefing, addressing the Court’s ruling on the Cybercrime Act of 2012, published 18 February 2014, and originally published by Philippine public news site

Press Briefing – 18 February 2014

The Supreme Court En Banc, today, acted on the following matters, among others, on its Agenda:

G.R. NO. 203335 (Jose Jesus M. Disini Jr., et al., petitioners, v. The Secretary Of Justice, et al., respondents) I G.R. NO. 203329 (Louis Biraogo, petitioner, v. National Bureau of Investigation, et al., Respondents) I G.R. NO. 203306 (Alab Ng Mamamahayag [ALAMl, petitioner, v. The Office Of The President, at al., respondents) I G.R. NO. 203359 (Senator Teofisto Dl. Guingona III, petitioner, v. The Executive Secretary, et al., respondents) I G.R. NO. 203378 (Alexander Adonis, et al., petitioners, v. The Executive Secretary, et al., respondents) I G.R. NO. 203391 (Hon. Raymond v. Palatino, Et Al., petitioners, V. Hon. Paquito N. Ochoa Jr., et al., respondents) I G.R. NO. 203407 (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato M. Reyes Jr., et al., petitioners, v. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, et al., respondents) I G.R. NO. 203440 (Melecio S. Sta. Maria, et al., petitioners, v. Hon. Paquito Ochoa Jr., et al., respondents) I G.R. NO. 203453 (National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP), et al., petitioners, v. The Executive Secretary, et al., respondents) I G.R. NO. 203454 (Paul Cornelius T. Castillo, et al., petitioners, v. The Honorable Secretary of Justice, et al., respondents) IG.R. NO. 203469 (Anthony Ian M. Cruz, et al., petitioners, v. His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III, et al., respondents) I G.R. NO. 203501 (Philippine Bar Association, Inc. (PBA), petitioner, v. His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III, et al., respondents) I G.R. NO. 203509 (Bayan Muna Representative Nery Colmenares Jr., petitioner, v. The Executive Secretary, et al., respondents) I G.R. NO. 203515 (National Press Club of the Philippines, Inc., petitioner, v. Office of the President, et al., respondents) I G.R. NO. 203518 (Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance, et al., petitioners, v. The Executive Secretary, et al., respondents) I

The Court PARTIALLY GRANTED the reliefs sought in the 15 consolidated petitions challenging the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 10175 (The Cybercrime Protection Act of 2012).

The Court, through Associate Justice Roberto A. Abad (Velasco and Perlas-Bernabe, JJ., no part), declared as UNCONSTITUTIONAL sections 4(c)(3)1, 12 and 193 of Republic Act No. 10175 (The Cybercrime Law) to be UNCONSTITUTIONAL. Section 4(c)(3) penalizes the posting of unsolicited commercial communications, section 12 authorizes the collection ‘or recording of traffic data in real-time while section 19 authorizes the Department of Justice to restrict or block access to suspected computer data.

The Court also ruled on the constitutionality of online libel when it further declared that section 4(c)(4), which penalizes online libel,4 is NOT UNCONSTITUTIONAL with respect to the original author of the post but UNCONSTITUTIONAL only where it penalizes those who simply receive the post or react to it.

It also declared that section 55, which penalizes anyone who aids or abets the commission of cybercrimes and anyone who attempts the. commission of cybercrimes, is NOT UNCONSTITUTIONAL in relation to the commission of the following cyber-offenses: (a) Illegal Access under §4(a)(1); (b) Illegal Interception under §4(a)(2); (c) Data Interference under §4(a)(3); (d) System Interference under §4(a)(4); (e) Misuse of Devices under §4(a)(5); (D Cyber squatting under §4(a)(6); (g) Computer-related fraud under §4(b)(1); (h) Computer-related identity theft under §4(b)(3); and (i) Cybersex under §4(c)(1), but UNCONSTITUTIONAL only in relation to the offenses punished by: [1] Child pornography under §4(c)(2); Unsolicited commercial communications under §4(c)(3);and online libel under §4(c)(4).

The Court also ruled that section 7,6 on prosecution under the Revised Penal Code as well as RA 10175, is UNCONSTITUTIONAL as far as it authorizes the prosecution of an offender under both section 4(c)(4) (online libel) and Article 3537 of the Revised Penal Code (libel), and also where it pertains to section §4(c)(2)8 (child pornography) for being in violation of the prohibition against double jeopardy.9



1 SEC. 4. Cybercrime Offenses. – The following acts constitute the offense of cybercrime punishable under this Act:


(c) Content-related Offenses:


(3) Unsolicited Commercial Communications. – The transrllissioll of cOlllmercial electronic witll the use of computer system which seek to advertise, sell, or offer for sale products and communication services are prohibited unless:

(i) There is prior affirmative consent from the recipient; or

(ii) The primary intent of the communication is for service and/or’ administrative announcements from the sender to its existing users, subscribers or customers; or

(iii) The following conditions are present:

(aa) The commercial electronic comlllunication contains a simple, valid, and reliable way for the recipient to reject. receipt of furtller comlllercial electronic messages (opt-out) from the same source;

(bb) The commercial electronic communication does not purposely disguise the source of the electronic message; and

(cc) The commercial electronic comlllunication does not purposely include misleading information in any part of the message in order to induce the recipients to read the message.

2 SEC. 12. Real-Time Collection of Traffic Data. ~ Law enforcement authorities, with due cause, shall be authorized to collect or record by technical or electronic means traffic data in real-time (associated with specified communications transmitted by means of a computer system.

Traffic data refer only to the comlllunication’s origin, destination, route, time, date, size, duration, or type of underlying service, but not content, nor identities.

Ali other data to be collected or seized or disclosed will require a court warrant.

Service providers are required to cooperate and assist law enforcement authorities in the collection or recording of the above-stated information.

The court warrant required under this section shall only be issued or granted upon written application and the examination under oath or affirmation of the applicant and the witnesses he may produce and the showing: (I) that there are reasonable grounds to believe that any of the crimes enumerated hereinabove has been committed, or is being committed, or is about to be committed: (2) that there are reasonable grounds to believe that evidence that will be obtained is essential to the conviction of any person for, or to the solution of, or to the prevention of, any such crimes; and (3) that there are no other means readily available for obtaining such evidence.

3 SEC. 19. Restricting or Blocking Access to Computer Data. – When a computer data is prima facie found to be in violation of the provisions of this Act, the 001 shall issue all order to restrict or block access to such computer data.

4 SEC. 4. Cybercrime Offenses. Th~ following acts constitule the offense of cybcrcrime punishable under this Act:

(4) Libel. – The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.

5 SEC. 5. Other Offenses. – The following acts shall also constitute an offense:

(a) Aiding or Abetting in the Commission of Cybercrime. – Any person who willfully abets or aids in the commission of any of the offenses enumerated in this Act shall be held liable.

(b) Attempt in the Commission ofCybercrime. – Any person who willfully attempts to commit any of tile offenses enumerated in this Act shall be held liable.

6 SECTION 7.Liability Under Other Laws. – A prosecution undcr this Act shall be without prejudice to any liability for violation of any provision of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, or special laws.

7 ARTICLE 353. Definition of Libel. – A libel is a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circulllstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.

8 Child Pornography. – The unlawful or prohibited acts defined and punishable by Republic Act No. 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, committed through a computer system: Provided, That the penalty to be imposed shall be (1) one degree higher than that provided for in Republic Act No. 9775.

9 On this matter, the Court noted that online libel is admittedly not a new crime but one already punished under Art. 353; section 4(c)(4) merely establishes the use of a computer as another “means of publication.” For this reason, charging the offender under both laws would he a violation of the guarantee against double jeopardy under Article III, section 21 of the 1987 Constitution.

Bad Law Rears It’s Ugly Head – Incidents

Tracking uses and abuses of RA 10175

Saturday, 20 October 2012 – An Aparri Regional Trial Court Judge, Hon. Conrado Tabaco, issued an arrest warrant for Esperlita Garcia, President of the Gonzaga Alliance for Environmental Protection and Preservation, despite the Supreme Court temporary restraining order issued sometime 9 October 2012.  This warrant was issued on the basis of a libel complaint by Gonzaga Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr., over a Facebook posting that has subsequently been deleted from the FB account.  Ms. Garcia was subsequently released on PhP 10,000 bail after being detained overnight Thursday, 18 October 2012. Continue reading “Bad Law Rears It’s Ugly Head – Incidents”