MANILA - The House of Representatives on Thursday passed on third and final reading a bill protecting women and children against online harassment and abuse.
The chamber approved House Bill No. 5869 or the Expanded Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children (E-VAWC) Act, which 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 forms of abuse not covered by the original Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act of 2004.
The bill seeks to strengthen legal protection for women and their children who encounter cyber abuse or harassment online.
It 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 messages, and the creation of fake social media accounts.
The E-VAWC Act will not only expand the definition of violence against women and their children, but also raise the penalties.
Violators stand to face jail time of 6 to 12 years and a fine of between P300,000 and P500,000. Previously, the fine was between P100,000 and P300,000.
Violators will also be required to undergo mandatory psychological counseling and psychiatric treatment and report their compliance to court.
Under the measure, the Philippine government will be empowered to block, blacklist, remove or shut down any programs or applications that 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.
HB 5869 consolidated 4 similar measures filed by Representatives France Castro, Eufemia Cullamat, Arlene Brosas, and Joy Myra Tambunting.