Bill protecting women, kids from online violence hurdles House

2023 May 22

MANILA – The House of Representatives on Monday approved on the third and final reading a bill seeking to protect women and children from all forms of electronic violence, including those who are involved in the manipulation of technology

House Bill 8009, or the Expanded Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act, was approved with an overwhelming 272 votes.

The measure states that electronic violence or ICT-related violence as “any act or omission involving the use or exploitation of data or any form of ICT which causes or is likely to cause mental, emotional, or psychological distress or suffering to the woman and/or her children.”

Electronic violence also include recording, reproduction, distribution, use, sharing or uploading of any photograph, video, or other forms of electronic and/or artistic presentation, “without authorization” that show or depict in any form or manner the private parts of a woman or those of her children’s; scenes with sexual content or portrayal of sexual conduct, and nudity.

The following also fall under the definition of electronic violence against women and their children:

— Harassing, intimidating, coercing, threatening, or vilifying the woman and/or her children through text messaging or other cyber, electronic, or multi-media means;

— Stalking, which includes the hacking of personal accounts on social networking sites and the use of location data from electronic devices;

— Fabrication of fake information or news through text messaging or other cyber, electronic, or multi-media means and

— Creating fake social media accounts using a different individual’s personal information with ill intent and/or show of malice, intrigue or other harm to the woman and/or her children’s reputation.

The measure imposes heavier penalties for acts causing and threatening electronic violence against a woman and/or her children.

Protection measures were expanded to include the immediate blocking, blacklisting, removal, or shutdown of any upload, program, or application that causes or tends to cause violence against a woman and/or her children.

Failure of an internet service provider to cooperate with law enforcement agencies shall constitute the crime of obstruction of justice.

In a statement, Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said the proposed measure addresses the need to update and strengthen our laws to shield Filipino women and children from criminally-minded individuals.

“This proposed law is our answer to rising cases of internet-enabled violence and abuse against women and children, who we should protect. I hope that the bill, when enacted, would stop these acts of wrongdoing,” he said.

More bills hurdle House

With an overwhelming 268 votes, the House approved on third and final reading HB 1171, or An Act Promoting Inclusive and Sustainable Economic Development Through the Institutionalization of “One Town, One Product” (OTOP) program.

This measure will serve as the government’s stimulus package for the promotion and development of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the countryside through the use of indigenous raw materials and the utilization of local skills and talents.

“With this proposed legislation, we also hope to assist rural communities in achieving competitive and innovation-driven local economies, and promote the convergence of initiatives on product development among local government units (LGUs), national government agencies (NGAs), and the private sector,” Romualdez said.

“Once passed into law, we will surely be able to revitalize our MSMEs and help them recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.

Strengthen IPOPHL

The House also voted 267-0-1 to approve HB 7600 or An Act Strengthening the Powers and Functions of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), amending for the purpose Republic Act 8293, otherwise known as the “Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines”

“With the proposed additional functions of the Intellectual Property Office and the new amendments to Republic Act No. 8293, we hope to respond to recent advances in technology since its last revision. We also hope that with this important legislation, we will be able to adopt some of the current best practices in the international community,” Romualdez said.

The bill defines counterfeit and pirated goods and authorizes the IPOPHL to gather intelligence information, and investigate violations of the IP Code and develop countermeasures to deter counterfeit or pirated goods or content.

If passed into law, the measure will also allow IPOPHL to visit establishments and businesses suspected to be in violation of RA 8293.

HB 7600 allowed copyright owners or the exclusive licensee of copyright to submit an application to the IPOPHL to order the disabling of access to any infringing online location identified in the application.

Voucher system

The House also voted 265 with four abstentions to approve HB 7922 or an Act Establishing Voucher System for Poor which seeks to establish a voucher system for poor students in tertiary education.

The bill also seeks to revise some provisions of the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) for students in public and private HEIs under RA 10931, or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA).

“We are confident that with this proposed legislation, we will be able to help poor but deserving students to continue and finish their tertiary education. The House of Representatives has always committed and will stay committed to passing bills that will best serve our youth,” Romualdez added.

Under HB 7922, the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Board will administer a portable voucher system that will allow beneficiaries to study in private HEIS and TVIs in cities and municipalities where there are existing state universities and colleges (SUCs), local universities and colleges (LUCs), and public TVIs.

UniFAST will also determine the eligibility of students under the voucher system, provided that students of private HEIs and TVIs who are TES grantees can no longer qualify for the voucher system.

House Bill 7939

HB 7939 or an Act Rationalizing the Disability Pension of Veterans, Amending for the Purpose RA 6948, otherwise known as “An Act Standardizing and Upgrading the Benefits for Military Veterans and their Dependents,” as amended also hurdled House.

“The pensions provided for in the present laws do not respond to the demands of the times and are insufficient to provide for the needs of our veterans or their dependents. They were enacted over 30 years ago, and the prevailing circumstances now are very much different from before,” Romualdez said.

“So, to recognize the sacrifices of our veterans, we have approved in the House a measure that rationalizes the rates of pensions for them and their dependents, according to what the present time calls for,” he added.

RA 6948 and RA 7696 were enacted in 1990 and 1994, respectively. HB 7939 seeks to increase the pensions mandated under these laws.

Section 5 of the bill states that: “A veteran who is disabled owing to sickness, disease, wounds or injuries sustained in the line of duty shall be given a monthly disability pension in accordance with the rates prescribed hereunder.” 

Jose Cielito Reganit, Zaldy Layola (PNA)