Latest sex video scandal highlights need for cyber crime law

Posted at 05/29/09 1:27 AM

The sex video scandal of Dr. Hayden Kho and actress Katrina Halili has brought to the forefront the gaps in Philippine laws which should address issues of piracy as well as proliferation of explicit sex video content found on the Internet, a government official said Thursday.

Rosendo Meneses, executive director of the Optical Media Board (OMB), in the opening of the Senate hearing on the Kho-Halili sex video scandal said that the Optical Media Act enacted in 2003 served as a ground-breaking anti-piracy legislation in the region.

He said however that legislators need to catch up with the times and consider the Internet as a platform for sex video reproduction.

“The controversy has brought to the fore the gaps in the law,” he said.

Meneses pointed out that the present law falls short in determining the link between the proliferation of sexual videos in the Internet and in optical media such as digital video discs and video compact discs.

The enactment of the Optical Media Act has beefed up the country’s legal arsenal for the protection of intellectual property rights. It was also a factor in the removal of the Philippines from the US priority watch list for piracy in 2006.The Philippines is however still included in the US ordinary watch list, along with around 30 developing countries.

The Optical Media Act, however, is silent on Internet piracy. “The jurisdiction of OMB is limited to optical discs,” Meneses decried.

OMB chairman Edu Manzano reportedly described the Internet as the latest vehicle for material theft and duplication as people could easily download and copy the information into disks.

But under the present law, those who conduct home-based Internet piracy would not be put behind bars as penalties are limited to those who manufacture optical media for commercial purposes.

Pass cyber crime bill

The Philippine National Police, on the other hand, urged lawmakers to expedite the passage of the anti-cyber crime bill.

Director German Doria, Police Community Relations chief, said in Thursday’s Senate hearing that law enforcers are rendered powerless against the spread of obscene materials in the Internet because of the lack of legislation.

“We do not yet have a law to penalize cyber-crime,” he said.

Two years ago, the spread of sex videos in a Web site called boybastos.com pushed Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara to introduce House Bill No.190, which sought to define and sanction cyber crimes.

Mark Verzo, the operator of boybastos.com went scot-free because the bill was still being deliberated.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile authored a similar bill in April this year. Senate Bill 3177, which when passed would be known as Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2009. Enrile’s bill seeks to punish perpetrators of cyber crimes with prision correcional (imprisonment from 6 months to 6 years) or a fine of P100,000-P500,000.

Angara’s bill, on the other hand, proposes that guilty parties be locked up for 6-12 years and fined P200,000-P800,000.

Preventing campus porn

Sen. Manuel Villar earlier had also filed Senate Bill 752, which seeks to prohibit the spread of indecent materials through computers. Violators would be slapped with the penalty of prision mayor and fined P6,000-P12,000.

Another proposed legislation, Senate Bill 751, aims to restrict access to adult themed-sites in schools. If passed, libraries in both private and public educational institutions would be mandated to install software programs which would bar access to Web sites that promote violence and pornography.

Villar also placed on the table the proposal to create a Student Internet Protection Task Force which would keep Internet café operators on a tight leash.

“The Internet has become a very powerful medium for learning and information, unfortunately, obscene and violent can also be accessed online. We should regulate Internet access or usage inside classrooms or even outside in public Internet shops, which students frequent,” the senator said in a statement.