Can’t understand the jargon in the Cybercrime Law?

Reynaldo Santos Jr

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Rappler explains the petitions filed against the Cybercrime Law and some of the terms in the Supreme Court decision

First of 3 parts

Part 2: Making sense of online libel
Part 3: Cybersex, media, privacy, and the cybercrime law

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court ruled on February 18 to uphold the constitutionality of most provisions of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

The SC ruled that the controversial provision on online libel is constitutional, but is subject to one condition: only the original author, not those who simply receive or react to the post, can be penalized.

(READ: FULL TEXT: Cybercrime law constitutional – Supreme Court)

To help readers understand the Cybercrime Law and the Supreme Court ruling on its constitutionality, Rappler will publish a series of “explainers” to help non-lawyers understand key points.  

We start with this Q&A on the petitions filed, and the terminologies in the Supreme Court decision.

CHAINED NETIZEN. A protester demonstrates his interpretation of the effect of the Cybercrime Prevention Act. File photo by Hoang Vu

What is the aim of the cybercrime law?

The cybercrime law “aims to regulate access to and use of the cyberspace” and imposes penalties for violations enumerated under it.

In recognizing the wisdom of the law, the Supreme Court said: “The ill-motivated can use the cyberspace for committing theft by hacking..for illicit trafficking in sex or for exposing to pornography guileless children who have access to the internet.

How many petitions sought to invalidate the law?

Since President Benigno Aquino III signed the law, at least 15 petitions were sent to the Supreme Court to question the validity of the law.

How many provisions were questioned for their constitutionality?

A total of 21.

What issues were raised by the petitioners?

  • freedom of speech and expression
  • freedom of the press
  • creation of a “chilling and deterrent effect” on guaranteed freedoms
  • rights to due process
  • right to privacy and correspondence
  • legality of libel
  • vagueness and ambiguity of certain provisions

What provisions were struck down by the SC?

The Court declared unconstitutional the provisions that (1) penalize posting of spam messages, (2) authorize the collection and recording of traffic data in real-time, and (3) authorize the Department of Justice to restrict or block access to suspected computer data.

LEGALESE under the law

Petitioners claim that the provision on Illegal Access (under Cybercrime Offenses) fails to meet the strict scrutiny standard required of human rights laws. What does the phrase mean?

The SC says the strict scrutiny standard is “an American constitutional construct, useful in determining the constitutionality of laws that tend to target a class of things or persons.”

It is also used to “assess the validity of laws dealing with the regulation of speech, gender, or race as well as other fundamental rights.”

The law also identifies cyber-squatting as a cybercrime offense. What does the term mean?

Cyber-squatting is defined as the “acquisition of a domain name over the internet in bad faith to profit, mislead, destroy the reputation, and deprive others from registering the same.” Petitioners claim that this provision violates the equal protection clause, but is deemed baseless by the Court.

Petitioners claim that cyber-squatting violates the equal protection clause. What is this clause all about?

This clause refers to Article 3, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution, which states: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.”

Petitioners contend that the laws on libel should be considered unconstitutional, otherwise jurisprudence requiring actual malice could easily be overturned. What is “actual malice”?

The SC explained that there is “actual malice” when “an offender makes a defamatory statement with the knowledge that it is false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” Evidence must be sufficient to prove that the accused entertained serious doubts as to the truth of the statement he or she published. The Court also said that gross or extreme negligence is not sufficient to establish actual malice.

The Court voided the provision that penalizes aiding or abetting in committing the cybercrime law. How does SC define this term?

The SC explained that in current laws, “aiding or abetting” is an action that is essentially physical, and is susceptible to easy assessment as criminal in character. In cybercrime law, except for the original author of the assailed statement, likes and shares are just sentiments of readers and are not forms of “aiding or abetting.” The SC added that the term constitutes a broad sweep that generates a chilling effect on those who express themselves online.

What does this one degree higher actually mean?

Under the Revised Penal Code, libel carries a penalty of prision correccional in its minimum (6 months and 1 day) and medium periods (2 years, 4 months and 1 day to 4 years and 2 months). Under the cybercrime law, the penalty for online libel “carries a 2-fold increase in the maximum penalty – from 4 years and 2 months to 8 years,” Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno pointed out in her concurring and dissenting separate opinion.

Petitioners also attacked the provision on collecting traffic data. What does the term mean?

“Traffic data” refer only to the communication’s origin, destination, route, time, data, size, duration, or type of underlying service. They exclude content or identities.

The SC declared unconstitutional the section that penalizes posting of unsolicited commercial communications. What does the term mean?

These are simply “spam messages” like unexpected ads by mail. They seek to advertise, sell, or offer for sale products and services.

In discussing the issue of privacy, the SC mentioned decisional privacy and informational privacy. What’s the difference between the two?

Decisional privacy refers to “the right to independence in making certain important decisions,” while informational privacy refers to the interest in “avoiding disclosure of personal matters.”

The SC further explained that informational privacy, which petitioners want to protect, has 2 aspects: (1) the right not to have private information disclosed, and (2) the right to live freely without surveillance and intrusion.

The Court said it uses a two-fold test – a subjective and objective test – in determining entitlement to the right to privacy. What is the difference between these two tests?

In a subjective test, the person claiming the right to privacy “must have an actual or legitimate expectation of privacy over a certain matter.”

In an objective test, the person’s expectation of privacy “must be one that society is prepared to accept as objectively reasonable.”

The SC used the concept of zones of privacy in discussing the right to privacy. What does this term mean?

The Court described zones of privacy as a field where “any form of intrusion is impermissible unless excused by law and in accordance with customary legal process.”

The zones of privacy are created by two constitutional guarantees: (1) the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, and (2) the right to privacy of communication and correspondence. –

Do you have any questions regarding the provisions in the Cybercrime Law? Do you wish to clarify parts of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the law? Tweet your questions using the hashtag #cyberlaw to @rapplerdotcom, or email them to

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