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CYBERCRIME LAW: Case Summary and Outcome nonetheless entitled to protection.

It ruled that the prohibition on


transmitting unsolicited communications would deny a person the
right to read his emails, even unsolicited commercial ads
The Supreme Court of Philippines declared Sections 4(c)(3), 12,
addressed to him. Accordingly, the Court declared Section4(c)(3)
and 19 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 as
as unconstitutional.
unconstitutional. It held that Section 4(c)(3) violated the right to
freedom of expression by prohibiting the electronic transmission of
Section 12 of the Act authorizes the law enforcement without a
unsolicited commercial communications. It found Section 12 in
court warrant to collect or record traffic data in real-time
violation of the right to privacy because it lacked sufficient
associated with specified communications transmitted by means of
specificity and definiteness in collecting real-time computer data. It
a computer system. Traffic data under this Section includes the
struck down Section 19 of the Act for giving the government the
origin, destination, route, size, date, and duration of the
authority to restrict or block access to computer data without any
communication, but not its content nor the identity of users.
judicial warrant.

The Petitioners argued that such warrantless authority curtails their


Facts
civil liberties and set the stage for abuse of discretion by the
government. They also claimed that this provision violates the
The case arises out of consolidated petitions to the Supreme Court right to privacy and protection from the governments intrusion into
of the Philippines on the constitutionality of several provisions of online communications.
the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, Act No. 10175. According to the Court, since Section 12 may lead to disclosure of
private communications, it must survive the rational basis standard
of whether it is narrowly tailored towards serving a governments
The Petitioners argued that even though the Act is the compelling interest. The Court found that the government did have
governments platform in combating illegal cyberspace activities, a compelling interest in preventing cyber crimes by monitoring real-
21 separate sections of the Act violate their constitutional rights, time traffic data.
particularly the right to freedom of expression and access to As to whether Section 12 violated the right to privacy, the Court
inforamtion. first recognized that the right at stake concerned informational
privacy, defined as the right not to have private information
In February 2013, the Supreme Court extended the duration of a disclosed, and the right to live freely without surveillance and
temporary restraining order against the government to halt intrusion. In determining whether a communication is entitled to
enforcement of the Act until the adjudication of the issues. the right of privacy, the Court applied a two-part test: (1) Whether
the person claiming the right has a legitimate expectation of
privacy over the communication, and (2) whether his expectation of
Decision Overview privacy can be regarded as objectively reasonable in the society.

Justice Abad delivered the Courts opinion. The Court noted that internet users have subjective reasonable
expectation of privacy over their communications transmitted
The government of Philippines adopted the Cybercrime Prevention online. However, it did not find the expectation as objectively
Act of 2012 for the purpose of regulating access to and use of reasonable because traffic data sent through internet does not
cyberspace. Several sections of the law define relevant cyber disclose the actual names and addresses (residential or office) of
crimes and enable the government to track down and penalize the sender and the recipient, only their coded Internet Protocol (IP)
violators. addresses.

Among 21 challenged sections, the Court declared Sections 4(c) Even though the Court ruled that real-time traffic data under
(3), 12, and 19 of the Act as unconstitutional. Section 12 does not enjoy the objective reasonable expectation of
privacy, the existence of enough data may reveal the personal
information of its sender or recipient, against which the Section
Section 4(c)(3) prohibits the transmission of unsolicited commercial fails to provide sufficient safeguard. The Court viewed the law as
electronic communications, commonly known as spams, that seek virtually limitless, enabling law enforcement authorities to engage
to advertise, sell, or offer for sale of products and services unless in fishing expedition, choosing whatever specified communication
the recipient affirmatively consents, or when the purpose of the they want.
communication is for service or administrative announcements
from the sender to its existing users, or when the following
conditions are present: (aa) The commercial electronic Accordingly, the Court struck down Section 12 for lack of specificity
communication contains a simple, valid, and reliable way for the and definiteness as to ensure respect for the right to privacy.
recipient to reject receipt of further commercial electronic
messages (opt-out) from the same source; (bb) The commercial Section 19 authorizes the Department of Justice to restrict or block
electronic communication does not purposely disguise the source access to a computer data found to be in violation of the Act. The
of the electronic message; and (cc) The commercial electronic Petitioners argued that this section also violated the right to
communication does not purposely include misleading information freedom of expression, as well as the constitutional protection
in any part of the message in order to induce the recipients to read against unreasonable searches and seizures.
the message. The Court first recognized that computer data constitutes a
personal property, entitled to protection against unreasonable
The government argued that unsolicited commercial searches and seizures. Also, the Philippines Constitution requires
communications amount to both nuisance and trespass because the government to secure a valid judicial warrant when it seeks to
they tend to interfere with the enjoyment of using online services seize a personal property or to block a form of expression.
and that they enter the recipients domain without prior permission. Because Section 19 precluded any judicial intervention, the Court
The Court first noted that spams are a category of commercial found it unconstitutional.
speech, which does not receive the same level of protection as
other constitutionally guaranteed forms of expression ,but is