Disini v. Secretary of Justice (G.R. No. 203335; February 11, 2014)



FACTS: Petitioners assail the validity of several provision of the Republic Act (R.A.) 10175, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Petitioners claim that the means adopted by the cybercrime law for regulating undesirable cyberspace activities violate certain of their constitutional rights. The government of course asserts that the law merely seeks to reasonably put order into cyberspace activities, punish wrongdoings, and prevent hurtful attacks on the system.ISSUES:

Are the following provisions valid and constitutional?

a. Section 4(a)(1) on Illegal Access;

b. Section 4(a)(3) on Data Interference;
c. Section 4(a)(6) on Cyber-squatting;
d. Section 4(b)(3) on Identity Theft;
e. Section 4(c)(1) on Cybersex;
f. Section 4(c)(2) on Child Pornography;
g.Section 4(c)(3) on Unsolicited Commercial Communications;
h. Section 4(c)(4) on Libel;
i. Section 5 on Aiding or Abetting and Attempt in the Commission of Cybercrimes;
j. Section 6 on the Penalty of One Degree Higher;
k. Section 7 on the Prosecution under both the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and R.A. 10175;
l. Section 8 on Penalties;
m. Section 12 on Real-Time Collection of Traffic Data;
n. Section 13 on Preservation of Computer Data;
o. Section 14 on Disclosure of Computer Data;
p. Section 15 on Search, Seizure and Examination of Computer Data;
q. Section 17 on Destruction of Computer Data;
r. Section 19 on Restricting or Blocking Access to Computer Data;
s. Section 20 on Obstruction of Justice;
t. Section 24 on Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC); and
u. Section 26(a) on CICCs Powers and Functions.

Some petitioners also raise the constitutionality of related Articles 353, 354, 361, and 362 of the RPC on the crime of libel.


Section 4(a)(1) of the Cybercrime Law

Section 4(a)(1) provides:

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

(a) Offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems:

(1) Illegal Access. The access to the whole or any part of a computer system without right.

Petitioners contend that Section 4(a)(1) fails to meet the strict scrutiny standard required of laws that interfere with the fundamental rights of the people and should thus be struck down.

The Court finds nothing in Section 4(a)(1) that calls for the application of the strict scrutiny standard since no fundamental freedom, like speech, is involved in punishing what is essentially a condemnable act accessing the computer system of another without right. It is a universally condemned conduct.

Besides, a clients engagement of an ethical hacker requires an agreement between them as to the extent of the search, the methods to be used, and the systems to be tested. Since the ethical hacker does his job with prior permission from the client, such permission would insulate him from the coverage of Section 4(a)(1).

Hence, valid and constitutional.

Section 4(a)(3) of the Cybercrime Law

Section 4(a)(3) provides:

(3) Data Interference. The intentional or reckless alteration, damaging, deletion or deterioration of computer data, electronic document, or electronic data message, without right, including the introduction or transmission of viruses.

Petitioners claim that Section 4(a)(3) suffers from overbreadth in that, while it seeks to discourage data interference, it intrudes into the area of protected speech and expression, creating a chilling and deterrent effect on these guaranteed freedoms.

Under the overbreadth doctrine, a proper governmental purpose, constitutionally subject to state regulation, may not be achieved by means that unnecessarily sweep its subject broadly, thereby invading the area of protected freedoms.But Section 4(a)(3) does not encroach on these freedoms at all. It simply punishes what essentially is a form of vandalism,the act of willfully destroying without right the things that belong to others, in this case their computer data, electronic document, or electronic data message. Such act has no connection to guaranteed freedoms. There is no freedom to destroy other peoples computer systems and private documents.

Besides, the overbreadth challenge places on petitioners the heavy burden of proving that under no set of circumstances will Section 4(a)(3) be valid.Petitioner has failed to discharge this burden.

Hence, valid and constitutional.

Section 4(a)(6) of the Cybercrime Law

Section 4(a)(6) provides:

(6) Cyber-squatting. The acquisition of domain name over the internet in bad faith to profit, mislead, destroy the reputation, and deprive others from registering the same, if such a domain name is:

(i) Similar, identical, or confusingly similar to an existing trademark registered with the appropriate government agency at the time of the domain name registration;

(ii) Identical or in any way similar with the name of a person other than the registrant, in case of a personal name; and

(iii) Acquired without right or with intellectual property interests in it.

Petitioners claim that Section 4(a)(6) or cyber-squatting violates the equal protection clausein that, not being narrowly tailored, it will cause a user using his real name to suffer the same fate as those who use aliases or take the name of another in satire, parody, or any other literary device.

The law is reasonable in penalizing the offender for acquiring the domain name in bad faith to profit, mislead, destroy reputation, or deprive others who are not ill-motivated of the rightful opportunity of registering the same.

Hence, valid and constitutional.

Section 4(b)(3) of the Cybercrime Law

Section 4(b)(3) provides:

b) Computer-related Offenses:

x x x x

(3) Computer-related Identity Theft. The intentional acquisition, use, misuse, transfer, possession, alteration, or deletion of identifying information belonging to another, whether natural or juridical, without right: Provided: that if no damage has yet been caused, the penalty imposable shall be one (1) degree lower.

Petitioners claim that Section 4(b)(3) violates the constitutional rights to due process and to privacy and correspondence, and transgresses the freedom of the press.

In Morfe v. Mutuc,it ruled that the right to privacy exists independently of its identification with liberty; it is in itself fully deserving of constitutional protection.

Relevant to any discussion of the right to privacy is the concept known as the "Zones of Privacy."

Zones of privacy are recognized and protected in our laws. Within these zones, any form of intrusion is impermissible unless excused by law and in accordance with customary legal process. The meticulous regard we accord to these zones arises not only from our conviction that the right to privacy is a "constitutional right" and "the right most valued by civilized men," but also from our adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which mandates that, "no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy" and "everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks." In the Matter of the Petition for Issuance of Writ of Habeas Corpus of Sabio v. Senator Gordon, 535 Phil. 687, 714-715 (2006).

Two constitutional guarantees create these zones of privacy: (a) the right against unreasonable searchesand seizures, which is the basis of the right to be let alone, and (b) the right to privacy of communication and correspondence.In assessing the challenge that the State has impermissibly intruded into these zones of privacy, a court must determine whether a person has exhibited a reasonable expectation of privacy and, if so, whether that expectation has been violated by unreasonable government intrusion.

Petitioners simply fail to show how government effort to curb computer-related identity theft violates the right to privacy and correspondence as well as the right to due process of law.

Clearly, what this section regulates are specific actions: the acquisition, use, misuse or deletion of personal identifying data of another. There is no fundamental right to acquire anothers personal data.

Further, petitioners fear that Section 4(b)(3) violates the freedom of the press in that journalists would be hindered from accessing the unrestricted user account of a person in the news to secure information about him that could be published.

The Court held, the press, whether in quest of news reporting or social investigation, has nothing to fear since a special circumstance is present to negate intent to gain which is required by this Section.

Hence, valid and constitutional.

Section 4(c)(1) of the Cybercrime Law

Section 4(c)(1) provides:

(c) Content-related Offenses:

(1) Cybersex. The willful engagement, maintenance, control, or operation, directly or indirectly, of any lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system, for favor or consideration.

Petitioners claim that the above violates the freedom of expression clause.They express fear that private communications of sexual character between husband and wife or consenting adults, which are not regarded as crimes under the penal code, would now be regarded as crimes when done "for favor" in cyberspace. In common usage, the term "favor" includes "gracious kindness," "a special privilege or right granted or conceded," or "a token of love (as a ribbon) usually worn conspicuously."This meaning given to the term "favor" embraces socially tolerated trysts. The law as written would invite law enforcement agencies into the bedrooms of married couples or consenting individuals.

The Act actually seeks to punish cyber prostitution, white slave trade, and pornography for favor and consideration. This includes interactive prostitution and pornography, i.e., by webcam.

Likewise, engaging in sexual acts privately through internet connection, perceived by some as a right, has to be balanced with the mandate of the State to eradicate white slavery and the exploitation of women.

Hence, valid and constitutional.

Section 4(c)(2) of the Cybercrime Law

Section 4(c)(2) provides:

(2) 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.

The above merely expands the scope of the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009(ACPA) to cover identical activities in cyberspace. In theory, nothing prevents the government from invoking the ACPA when prosecuting persons who commit child pornography using a computer system. Actually, ACPAs definition of child pornography already embraces the use of "electronic, mechanical, digital, optical, magnetic or any other means."

Of course, the law makes the penalty higher by one degree when the crime is committed in cyberspace. But no one can complain since the intensity or duration of penalty is a legislative prerogative and there is rational basis for such higher penalty.The potential for uncontrolled proliferation of a particular piece of child pornography when uploaded in the cyberspace is incalculable.

Hence, valid and constitutional.

Section 4(c)(3) of the Cybercrime Law

Section 4(c)(3) provides:

(3) Unsolicited Commercial Communications. The transmission of commercial electronic communication with the use of computer system which seeks to advertise, sell, or offer for sale products and 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 communication contains a simple, valid, and reliable way for the recipient to reject receipt of further commercial 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 communication does not purposely include misleading information in any part of the message in order to induce the recipients to read the message.

The above penalizes the transmission of unsolicited commercial communications, also known as "spam." The term "spam" surfaced in early internet chat rooms and interactive fantasy games. One who repeats the same sentence or comment was said to be making a "spam."

The Government, represented by the Solicitor General, points out that unsolicited commercial communications or spams are a nuisance that wastes the storage and network capacities of internet service providers, reduces the efficiency of commerce and technology, and interferes with the owners peaceful enjoyment of his property. Transmitting spams amounts to trespass to ones privacy since the person sending out spams enters the recipients domain without prior permission. The OSG contends that commercial speech enjoys less protection in law.

These have never been outlawed as nuisance since people might have interest in such ads. What matters is that the recipient has the option of not opening or reading these mail ads. That is true with spams. Their recipients always have the option to delete or not to read them.

To prohibit the transmission of unsolicited ads would deny a person the right to read his emails, even unsolicited commercial ads addressed to him. Unsolicited advertisements are legitimate forms of expression.

Hence, void for being unconstitutional.

Articles 353, 354, and 355 of the Penal Code and Section 4(c)(4) of the Cyber Crime Law

Petitioners dispute the constitutionality of both the penal code provisions on libel as well as Section 4(c)(4) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act on cyberlibel.

The RPC provisions on libel read:

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

Art. 354. Requirement for publicity. Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown, except in the following cases:

1. A private communication made by any person to another in the performance of any legal, moral or social duty; and

2. A fair and true report, made in good faith, without any comments or remarks, of any judicial, legislative or other official proceedings which are not of confidential nature, or of any statement, report or speech delivered in said proceedings, or of any other act performed by public officers in the exercise of their functions.

Art. 355. Libel means by writings or similar means. A libel committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means, shall be punished by prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from 200 to 6,000 pesos, or both, in addition to the civil action which may be brought by the offended party.

The libel provision of the cybercrime law, on the other hand, merely incorporates to form part of it the provisions of the RPC on libel. Thus Section 4(c)(4) reads:

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

x x x x

(c) Content-related Offenses:

x x x x

(4) Libel. The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.

Petitioners lament that libel provisions of the penal codeand, in effect, the libel provisions of the cybercrime law carry with them the requirement of "presumed malice" even when the latest jurisprudence already replaces it with the higher standard of "actual malice" as a basis for conviction.Petitioners argue that inferring "presumed malice" from the accuseds defamatory statement by virtue of Article 354 of the penal code infringes on his constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression.

Libel is not a constitutionally protected speech and that the government has an obligation to protect private individuals from defamation. Indeed, cyberlibel is actually not a new crime since Article 353, in relation to Article 355 of the penal code, already punishes it. In effect, Section 4(c)(4) above merely affirms that online defamation constitutes "similar means" for committing libel.

But the Courts acquiescence goes only insofar as the cybercrime law penalizes the author of the libelous statement or article. Cyberlibel brings with it certain intricacies, unheard of when the penal code provisions on libel were enacted. The culture associated with internet media is distinct from that of print.

The internet is characterized as encouraging a freewheeling, anything-goes writing style. In a sense, they are a world apart in terms of quickness of the readers reaction to defamatory statements posted in cyberspace, facilitated by one-click reply options offered by the networking site as well as by the speed with which such reactions are disseminated down the line to other internet users.

Hence, Section 4(c)(4) penalizing online libel is valid and constitutional with respect to the original author of the post; but void and unconstitutional with respect to others who simply receive the post and react to it.

Section 5 of the Cybercrime Law

Section 5 provides:

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 of Cybercrime. Any person who willfully attempts to commit any of the offenses enumerated in this Act shall be held liable.

Petitioners assail the constitutionality of Section 5 that renders criminally liable any person who willfully abets or aids in the commission or attempts to commit any of the offenses enumerated as cybercrimes. It suffers from overbreadth, creating a chilling and deterrent effect on protected expression.

The Solicitor General contends, however, that the current body of jurisprudence and laws on aiding and abetting sufficiently protects the freedom of expression of "netizens," the multitude that avail themselves of the services of the internet. He points out that existing laws and jurisprudence sufficiently delineate the meaning of "aiding or abetting" a crime as to protect the innocent. The Solicitor General argues that plain, ordinary, and common usage is at times sufficient to guide law enforcement agencies in enforcing the law.

Libel in the cyberspace can of course stain a persons image with just one click of the mouse. Scurrilous statements can spread and travel fast across the globe like bad news. Moreover, cyberlibel often goes hand in hand with cyberbullying that oppresses the victim, his relatives, and friends, evoking from mild to disastrous reactions. Still, a governmental purpose, which seeks to regulate the use of this cyberspace communication technology to protect a persons reputation and peace of mind, cannot adopt means that will unnecessarily and broadly sweep, invading the area of protected freedoms. Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965).

If such means are adopted, self-inhibition borne of fear of what sinister predicaments await internet users will suppress otherwise robust discussion of public issues. Democracy will be threatened and with it, all liberties. Penal laws should provide reasonably clear guidelines for law enforcement officials and triers of facts to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. (Adonis) G.R. No. 203378The terms "aiding or abetting" constitute broad sweep that generates chilling effect on those who express themselves through cyberspace posts, comments, and other messages.

Hence, Section 5 of the cybercrime law that punishes "aiding or abetting" libel on the cyberspace is a nullity.

As already stated, the cyberspace is an incomparable, pervasive medium of communication. It is inevitable that any government threat of punishment regarding certain uses of the medium creates a chilling effect on the constitutionally-protected freedom of expression of the great masses that use it. In this case, the particularly complex web of interaction on social media websites would give law enforcers such latitude that they could arbitrarily or selectively enforce the law.

Section 5 with respect to Section 4(c)(4) is unconstitutional. Its vagueness raises apprehension on the part of internet users because of its obvious chilling effect on the freedom of expression, especially since the crime of aiding or abetting ensnares all the actors in the cyberspace front in a fuzzy way.In the absence of legislation tracing the interaction of netizens and their level of responsibility such as in other countries, Section 5, in relation to Section 4(c)(4) on Libel, Section 4(c)(3) on Unsolicited Commercial Communications, and Section 4(c)(2) on Child Pornography, cannot stand scrutiny.

But the crime of aiding or abetting the commission of cybercrimes under Section 5 should be permitted to apply to Section 4(a)(1) on Illegal Access, Section 4(a)(2) on Illegal Interception, Section 4(a)(3) on Data Interference, Section 4(a)(4) on System Interference, Section 4(a)(5) on Misuse of Devices, Section 4(a)(6) on Cyber-squatting, Section 4(b)(1) on Computer-related Forgery, Section 4(b)(2) on Computer-related Fraud, Section 4(b)(3) on Computer-related Identity Theft, and Section 4(c)(1) on Cybersex. None of these offenses borders on the exercise of the freedom of expression.

Section 6 of the Cybercrime Law

Section 6 provides:

Sec. 6. All crimes defined and penalized by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and special laws, if committed by, through and with the use of information and communications technologies shall be covered by the relevant provisions of this Act: Provided, That the penalty to be imposed shall be one (1) degree higher than that provided for by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and special laws, as the case may be.

Section 6 merely makes commission of existing crimes through the internet a qualifying circumstance. As the Solicitor General points out, there exists a substantial distinction between crimes committed through the use of information and communications technology and similar crimes committed using other means. In using the technology in question, the offender often evades identification and is able to reach far more victims or cause greater harm. The distinction, therefore, creates a basis for higher penalties for cybercrimes.

Hence, valid and constitutional.

Section 7 of the Cybercrime Law

Section 7 provides:

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

Online libel is different. There should be no question that if the published material on print, said to be libelous, is again posted online or vice versa, that identical material cannot be the subject of two separate libels. The two offenses, one a violation of Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code and the other a violation of Section 4(c)(4) of R.A. 10175 involve essentially the same elements and are in fact one and the same offense. Indeed, the OSG itself claims that online libel under Section 4(c)(4) is not a new crime but is one already punished under Article 353. Section 4(c)(4) merely establishes the computer system as another means of publication. Charging the offender under both laws would be a blatant violation of the proscription against double jeopardy.

The Court RESOLVES to LEAVE THE DETERMINATION of the correct application of Section 7 that authorizes prosecution of the offender under both the Revised Penal Code and Republic Act 10175 to actual cases, WITH THE EXCEPTION of the crimes of:

1. Online libel as to which, charging the offender under both Section 4(c)(4) of Republic Act 10175 and Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code constitutes a violation of the proscription against double jeopardy; as well as

2. Child pornography committed online as to which, charging the offender under both Section 4(c)(2) of Republic Act 10175 and Republic Act 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009 also constitutes a violation of the same proscription, and, in respect to these, is void and unconstitutional.

Section 8 of the Cybercrime Law

Section 8 provides:

Sec. 8. Penalties. Any person found guilty of any of the punishable acts enumerated in Sections 4(a) and 4(b) of this Act shall be punished with imprisonment of prision mayor or a fine of at least Two hundred thousand pesos (PhP200,000.00) up to a maximum amount commensurate to the damage incurred or both.

Any person found guilty of the punishable act under Section 4(a)(5) shall be punished with imprisonment of prision mayor or a fine of not more than Five hundred thousand pesos (PhP500,000.00) or both.

If punishable acts in Section 4(a) are committed against critical infrastructure, the penalty of reclusion temporal or a fine of at least Five hundred thousand pesos (PhP500,000.00) up to maximum amount commensurate to the damage incurred or both, shall be imposed.

Any person found guilty of any of the punishable acts enumerated in Section 4(c)(1) of this Act shall be punished with imprisonment of prision mayor or a fine of at least Two hundred thousand pesos (PhP200,000.00) but not exceeding One million pesos (PhP1,000,000.00) or both.

Any person found guilty of any of the punishable acts enumerated in Section 4(c)(2) of this Act shall be punished with the penalties as enumerated in Republic Act No. 9775 or the "Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009:" Provided, That the penalty to be imposed shall be one (1) degree higher than that provided for in Republic Act No. 9775, if committed through a computer system.

Any person found guilty of any of the punishable acts enumerated in Section 4(c)(3) shall be punished with imprisonment of arresto mayor or a fine of at least Fifty thousand pesos (PhP50,000.00) but not exceeding Two hundred fifty thousand pesos (PhP250,000.00) or both.

Any person found guilty of any of the punishable acts enumerated in Section 5 shall be punished with imprisonment one (1) degree lower than that of the prescribed penalty for the offense or a fine of at least One hundred thousand pesos (PhP100,000.00) but not exceeding Five hundred thousand pesos (PhP500,000.00) or both.

The matter of fixing penalties for the commission of crimes is as a rule a legislative prerogative. Here the legislature prescribed a measure of severe penalties for what it regards as deleterious cybercrimes. Judges and magistrates can only interpret and apply them and have no authority to modify or revise their range as determined by the legislative department.

The courts should not encroach on this prerogative of the lawmaking body.

Hence, valid and constitutional.

Section 12 of the Cybercrime Law

Section 12 provides:

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 communications origin, destination, route, time, date, size, duration, or type of underlying service, but not content, nor identities.

All 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: (1) 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.

Petitioners assail the grant to law enforcement agencies of the power to collect or record traffic data in real time as tending to curtail civil liberties or provide opportunities for official abuse. They claim that data showing where digital messages come from, what kind they are, and where they are destined need not be incriminating to their senders or recipients before they are to be protected. Petitioners invoke the right of every individual to privacy and to be protected from government snooping into the messages or information that they send to one another.

Undoubtedly, the State has a compelling interest in enacting the cybercrime law for there is a need to put order to the tremendous activities in cyberspace for public good. To do this, it is within the realm of reason that the government should be able to monitor traffic data to enhance its ability to combat all sorts of cybercrimes.

Informational privacy has two aspects: the right not to have private information disclosed, and the right to live freely without surveillance and intrusion.In determining whether or not a matter is entitled to the right to privacy, this Court has laid down a two-fold test. The first is a subjective test, where one claiming the right must have an actual or legitimate expectation of privacy over a certain matter. The second is an objective test, where his or her expectation of privacy must be one society is prepared to accept as objectively reasonable. 429 U.S. 589 (1977)

Since the validity of the cybercrime law is being challenged, not in relation to its application to a particular person or group, petitioners challenge to Section 12 applies to all information and communications technology (ICT) users, meaning the large segment of the population who use all sorts of electronic devices to communicate with one another. Consequently, the expectation of privacy is to be measured from the general publics point of view. Without reasonable expectation of privacy, the right to it would have no basis in fact.

In Whalen v. Roe, 429 U.S. 589 (1977)the United States Supreme Court classified privacy into two categories: decisional privacy and informational privacy. Decisional privacy involves the right to independence in making certain important decisions, while informational privacy refers to the interest in avoiding disclosure of personal matters. It is the latter rightthe right to informational privacythat those who oppose government collection or recording of traffic data in real-time seek to protect.

Section 12 does not permit law enforcement authorities to look into the contents of the messages and uncover the identities of the sender and the recipient.

Section 12, of course, limits the collection of traffic data to those "associated with specified communications." But this supposed limitation is no limitation at all since, evidently, it is the law enforcement agencies that would specify the target communications. The power is virtually limitless, enabling law enforcement authorities to engage in "fishing expedition," choosing whatever specified communication they want. This evidently threatens the right of individuals to privacy.

The Court must ensure that laws seeking to take advantage of these technologies be written with specificity and definiteness as to ensure respect for the rights that the Constitution guarantees.

Hence, void for being unconstitutional

Section 13 of the Cybercrime Law

Section 13 provides:

Sec. 13. Preservation of Computer Data. The integrity of traffic data and subscriber information relating to communication services provided by a service provider shall be preserved for a minimum period of six (6) months from the date of the transaction. Content data shall be similarly preserved for six (6) months from the date of receipt of the order from law enforcement authorities requiring its preservation.

Law enforcement authorities may order a one-time extension for another six (6) months: Provided, That once computer data preserved, transmitted or stored by a service provider is used as evidence in a case, the mere furnishing to such service provider of the transmittal document to the Office of the Prosecutor shall be deemed a notification to preserve the computer data until the termination of the case.

The service provider ordered to preserve computer data shall keep confidential the order and its compliance.

Petitioners in G.R. No. 203391 (Palatino v. Ochoa)claim that Section 13 constitutes an undue deprivation of the right to property. They liken the data preservation order that law enforcement authorities are to issue as a form of garnishment of personal property in civil forfeiture proceedings. Such order prevents internet users from accessing and disposing of traffic data that essentially belong to them.

No doubt, the contents of materials sent or received through the internet belong to their authors or recipients and are to be considered private communications. But it is not clear that a service provider has an obligation to indefinitely keep a copy of the same as they pass its system for the benefit of users. By virtue of Section 13, however, the law now requires service providers to keep traffic data and subscriber information relating to communication services for at least six months from the date of the transaction and those relating to content data for at least six months from receipt of the order for their preservation.

At any rate, as the Solicitor General correctly points out, the data that service providers preserve on orders of law enforcement authorities are not made inaccessible to users by reason of the issuance of such orders. The process of preserving data will not unduly hamper the normal transmission or use of the same.

Hence, valid and constitutional

Section 14 of the Cybercrime Law

Section 14 provides:

Sec. 14. Disclosure of Computer Data. Law enforcement authorities, upon securing a court warrant, shall issue an order requiring any person or service provider to disclose or submit subscribers information, traffic data or relevant data in his/its possession or control within seventy-two (72) hours from receipt of the order in relation to a valid complaint officially docketed and assigned for investigation and the disclosure is necessary and relevant for the purpose of investigation.

The process envisioned in Section 14 is being likened to the issuance of a subpoena.

Besides, what Section 14 envisions is merely the enforcement of a duly issued court warrant, a function usually lodged in the hands of law enforcers to enable them to carry out their executive functions. The prescribed procedure for disclosure would not constitute an unlawful search or seizure nor would it violate the privacy of communications and correspondence. Disclosure can be made only after judicial intervention.

Hence, valid and constitutional.

Section 15 of the Cybercrime Law

Section 15 provides:

Sec. 15. Search, Seizure and Examination of Computer Data. Where a search and seizure warrant is properly issued, the law enforcement authorities shall likewise have the following powers and duties.

Within the time period specified in the warrant, to conduct interception, as defined in this Act, and:

(a) To secure a computer system or a computer data storage medium;

(b) To make and retain a copy of those computer data secured;

(c) To maintain the integrity of the relevant stored computer data;

(d) To conduct forensic analysis or examination of the computer data storage medium; and

(e) To render inaccessible or remove those computer data in the accessed computer or computer and communications network.

Pursuant thereof, the law enforcement authorities may order any person who has knowledge about the functioning of the computer system and the measures to protect and preserve the computer data therein to provide, as is reasonable, the necessary information, to enable the undertaking of the search, seizure and examination.

Law enforcement authorities may request for an extension of time to complete the examination of the computer data storage medium and to make a return thereon but in no case for a period longer than thirty (30) days from date of approval by the court.

Petitioners challenge Section 15 on the assumption that it will supplant established search and seizure procedures.

The exercise of these duties do not pose any threat on the rights of the person from whom they were taken. Section 15 does not appear to supersede existing search and seizure rules but merely supplements them.

Hence, valid and constitutional.

Section 17 of the Cybercrime Law

Section 17 provides:

Sec. 17. Destruction of Computer Data. Upon expiration of the periods as provided in Sections 13 and 15, service providers and law enforcement authorities, as the case may be, shall immediately and completely destroy the computer data subject of a preservation and examination.

Petitioners claim that such destruction of computer data subject of previous preservation or examination violates the users right against deprivation of property without due process of law. But, as already stated, it is unclear that the user has a demandable right to require the service provider to have that copy of the data saved indefinitely for him in its storage system. If he wanted them preserved, he should have saved them in his computer when he generated the data or received it. He could also request the service provider for a copy before it is deleted.

Hence, valid and constitutional.

Section 19 of the Cybercrime Law

Section 19 empowers the Department of Justice to restrict or block access to computer data:

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 DOJ shall issue an order to restrict or block access to such computer data.

Petitioners contest Section 19 in that it stifles freedom of expression and violates the right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Solicitor General concedes that this provision may be unconstitutional. But since laws enjoy a presumption of constitutionality, the Court must satisfy itself that Section 19 indeed violates the freedom and right mentioned.

Not only does Section 19 preclude any judicial intervention, but it also disregards jurisprudential guidelines established to determine the validity of restrictions on speech. Restraints on free speech are generally evaluated on one of or a combination of three tests: the dangerous tendency doctrine, the balancing of interest test, and the clear and present danger rule. Section 19, however, merely requires that the data to be blocked be found prima facie in violation of any provision of the cybercrime law. Taking Section 6 into consideration, this can actually be made to apply in relation to any penal provision. It does not take into consideration any of the three tests mentioned above.

The Court is therefore compelled to strike down Section 19 for being violative of the constitutional guarantees to freedom of expression and against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Section 20 of the Cybercrime Law

Section 20 provides:

Sec. 20. Noncompliance. Failure to comply with the provisions of Chapter IV hereof specifically the orders from law enforcement authorities shall be punished as a violation of Presidential Decree No. 1829 with imprisonment of prision correctional in its maximum period or a fine of One hundred thousand pesos (Php100,000.00) or both, for each and every noncompliance with an order issued by law enforcement authorities.

Petitioners challenge Section 20, alleging that it is a bill of attainder. The argument is that the mere failure to comply constitutes a legislative finding of guilt, without regard to situations where non-compliance would be reasonable or valid.

But since the non-compliance would be punished as a violation of Presidential Decree (P.D.) 1829,PENALIZING OBSTRUCTION OF APPREHENSION AND PROSECUTION OF CRIMINAL OFFENDERS. Section 20 necessarily incorporates elements of the offense which are defined therein.

Thus, the act of non-compliance, for it to be punishable, must still be done "knowingly or willfully." There must still be a judicial determination of guilt, during which, as the Solicitor General assumes, defense and justifications for non-compliance may be raised. Thus, Section 20 is valid insofar as it applies to the provisions of Chapter IV which are not struck down by the Court.

Hence, valid and constitutional.

Sections 24 and 26(a) of the Cybercrime Law

Sections 24 and 26(a) provide:

Sec. 24. Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center. There is hereby created, within thirty (30) days from the effectivity of this Act, an inter-agency body to be known as the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC), under the administrative supervision of the Office of the President, for policy coordination among concerned agencies and for the formulation and enforcement of the national cybersecurity plan.

Sec. 26. Powers and Functions. The CICC shall have the following powers and functions:

(a) To formulate a national cybersecurity plan and extend immediate assistance of real time commission of cybercrime offenses through a computer emergency response team (CERT); x x x.

Petitioners mainly contend that Congress invalidly delegated its power when it gave the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) the power to formulate a national cybersecurity plan without any sufficient standards or parameters for it to follow.

In order to determine whether there is undue delegation of legislative power, the Court has adopted two tests: the completeness test and the sufficient standard test. Under the first test, the law must be complete in all its terms and conditions when it leaves the legislature such that when it reaches the delegate, the only thing he will have to do is to enforce it. The second test mandates adequate guidelines or limitations in the law to determine the boundaries of the delegates authority and prevent the delegation from running riot. Gerochi v. Department of Energy, 554 Phil. 563 (2007).

Here, the cybercrime law is complete in itself when it directed the CICC to formulate and implement a national cybersecurity plan. Also, contrary to the position of the petitioners, the law gave sufficient standards for the CICC to follow when it provided a definition of cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity refers to the collection of tools, policies, risk management approaches, actions, training, best practices, assurance and technologies that can be used to protect cyber environment and organization and users assets.This definition serves as the parameters within which CICC should work in formulating the cybersecurity plan.

Further, the formulation of the cybersecurity plan is consistent with the policy of the law to "prevent and combat such [cyber] offenses by facilitating their detection, investigation, and prosecution at both the domestic and international levels, and by providing arrangements for fast and reliable international cooperation." This policy is clearly adopted in the interest of law and order, which has been considered as sufficient standard.

Hence, Sections 24 and 26(a) are likewise valid and constitutional.