Bill bolsters cybercrime shield for women, kids

February 08, 2020

THE House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a measure that expands the protection for women and children from cyber abuse.

Solons voted unanimously in favor of House Bill 5869 or the Expanded Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children (E-VAWC) Act.

The measure defines abusive, exploitative, or otherwise damaging cyber behavior against women and their children and provides corresponding penalties for these acts.

Recent developments in social media and information technology have resulted in new circumstances of abuse which were not foreseen in the original Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act of 2004, the bill notes.

The measure seeks to strengthen the legal protection for women and their children who encounter cyber abuse or harassment online.

HB 5869 specifically prohibits the use of photos, videos, or other media recordings to perpetrate violence against women and their children, especially if their nature is sexual, otherwise suggestive, non-consensual or violent.

The measure also prohibits stalking and cyber stalking, hacking of personal accounts or electronic devices, fabrication of fake information or news through text message, and the creation of fake or impersonating social media accounts.

The E-VAWC Act not only expands the definition of violence against women and their children, but also increases the penalties for this. Violators stand to face jail time of 6-12 years, otherwise known as prision mayor, and a fine between P300,000 to P500,000. Previously, the fine faced by violators was only P100,000 to P300,000.

Violators would also be required to undergo mandatory psychological counseling and psychiatric treatment and report their compliance to the court.

Under the measure, the Philippine government will be empowered to block, blacklist, remove or shut down any programs or applications which foster violence against women and their children. Law enforcement agencies will also be able to hold internet service providers accountable for failing to cooperate with these orders.