MANILA - The leakage of a private video of veteran musician Jim Paredes is just another reminder to the public about the danger of recording and storing compromising acts on digital devices.
The Philippines has an existing Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009 (Republic Act 9995) to prevent the publication, copying and distribution of similar materials that would damage the honor of a person on media platforms. However, violations to this law have been rapidly increasing on social media, where perpetrators could hide behind anonymity in using mobile phones and computers.
Based on data from the National Bureau of Investigation's (NBI) Cybercrime division, there were already 142 reported cases of violations of RA 9995 in the first three months of 2019, a figure already surpassing the total 94 cases filed in all of 2018.
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) recorded 106 cases in the first two months of the year: 49 in January and 57 in February.
Once the March 2019 data becomes available, the figure may also exceed last year's total of 120 cases.
According to the Department of Justice Office of Cybercrime, there were 162 cases filed before the National Prosecution Service for violation of RA 9995 as of January 2018.
Forty-eight of these are pending trial, 30 were dismissed, 13 are for resolution, 9 are for filing in court, and 37 are pending preliminary investigation.
“There’s really no definite period within which we can say that an RA 9995 case shall be investigated. The length of investigation is on a case-to-case basis. It all depends on the availability of evidence,” said DOJ Cybercrime division chief Charito Zamora.
According to PNP-ACG spokesperson Police Capt. Artemio Cinco Jr., most of the cases, such as when the perpetrator is asking for financial or sexual favor, are “workable” and often result in an entrapment operation that leads to an arrest.
An example of which is the successful apprehension of a man allegedly trying to extort money from cager Kiefer Ravena over a photo scandal.
“Most of the time, kapag ang case natin is RA 9995, workable naman,” he said. “Mabilis lang naman. Hindi naman siya ganon katagalan.”
(Most of the time, when our case involves RA 9995, that is workable. It is quick, it will not take long.)
It is, however, challenging for authorities when the suspect and the motive is unknown. The absence or the lack of evidence also weakens the chance of prosecution and conviction against the perpetrator.
“You have to prove. Circumstantial evidence plays a very important role,” said NBI Cybercrime division chief Victor Lorenzo.
“May mga talagang na-compromise na account. May mga nakikita kami diyan, walang intention to extort money or humiliate kasi hindi naman niya kakilala eh, nothing to gain, but he just wants to upload to make a name for himself.”
(There are really accounts that get compromised. We have seen cases where there was no intention to extort money or humiliate because they do not even know each other, nothing to gain, but he just wants to upload to make a name for himself.)
Zamora added: “Challenges mainly pertain to availability of electronic evidence as these are volatile and easily destructible. There’s also an existing challenge in requests for computer data from internet service providers, which shall be helpful in identifying persons behind IP addresses.”
Cinco explained it would take time to trace the uploader of the content in question because investigators still have to coordinate with domain administrators, which are mostly based abroad, to request information on an account via a court order.
SECURE DEVICE, ACCOUNT
Lorenzo and Cinco said the digital space is a dangerous place for privacy and users have to be cautious and skeptical.
“At that moment, when you shared those videos, you trust them. But sometimes, feelings change, relationships do change that’s why you also have to protect yourself,” Lorenzo said.
“Never use social media for your private conversation or any compromising act behind the camera. We are in the digital age, everything can be recorded in just one click,” Cinco added.
Zamora added it is important to keep personal content private by having a strong password and security settings on devices and online accounts.
“This is one instance when being paranoid is a good thing. Change the passwords of your social media and online accounts, and review the privacy and security setting of your accounts, as if someone’s always prying on you,” Zamora said.
“Remember, once the video is put there, you can no longer get rid of it, especially when it reaches a site where it is downloadable.”