For the past few weeks, a very hot issue about a disputed territory known as the Scarborough Shoal is consistently seen in the headlines which later on led to an alarming case where the foreign nationals who were claiming to be from China defaced a Philippine website specifically the website of the University of the Philippines.
(Photo retrieved on May 4, 2012 from the website http://mytelevision-series.blogspot.com/2012/04/chinese-hackers-deface-philippine.html)
As stated in a news article from Yahoo! News, “A screenshot of the defaced website showed a map with Chinese script that highlighted islands in the South China Sea that are claimed by the Philippines and China.” (Retrieved from http://news.yahoo.com/chinese-hackers-deface-philippine-website-132340683.html)
The caption written in the map as shown in the photo is “We come from China! Huangyan Island is Ours”. Huangyan Island in this case pertains to the Scarborough Shoal as it is the Chinese name of the disputed territory. This is where vessels from China and from Philippines are stationed to assert their claim over the area and neither of the two shows any implications of giving way to the other country.
The act done by the foreign nationals is obviously qualified as HACKING. Under Section 33-a of Republic Act No. 8792 or the “Electronic Commerce Act of 2000”, hacking is defined as:
“(a) Hacking or crackling with refers to unauthorized access into or interference in a computer system/server or information and communication system; or any access in order to corrupt, alter, steal, or destroy using a computer or other similar information and communication devices, without the knowledge and consent of the owner of the computer or information and communications system, including the introduction of computer viruses and the like, resulting in the corruption, destruction, alteration, theft or loss of electronic data messages or electronic documents…”(R.A. No. 8792)
Moreover, under our law, hacking is punishable by a “minimum fine of One Hundred Thousand pesos (P 100,000.00) and a maximum commensurate to the damage incurred and a mandatory imprisonment of six (6) months to three (3) years” (R.A. No. 8792). That is the case if it was committed by a Filipino or citizen of the country since the law has territorial jurisdiction and jurisdiction over the person. Therefore, they can be liable and punished under our law. The problem now is what if hacking was committed by a foreign citizen? How will you make them liable? OR can they be liable? Obviously, Philippines cannot make the foreign citizens liable since our country does not have jurisdiction over the person of the accused. Only nationals in the Philippines will be bound by the law on hacking since the concept of territorial jurisdiction will apply. This is the first thing that the foreign citizens can question if Philippines would want to make them liable. Besides, we do not have any treaty with China regarding this matter (cyber attack/hacking) and therefore, we cannot just sue their nationals right away just because they are suspected of hacking our website. Another point is that the line “We come from China” does not automatically mean that they are Chinese nationals. How sure are we? Do we have sufficient evidence to prove that they are guilty? Anyone can do it and pretend that they are from China.
If only we have better and stronger laws that will apply not only within our territorial jurisdiction and nationals but even to nationals of other country wherein they can be held liable as long as it involves our country, hackers can be punished and be given what is just. But then again, identifying who really the hackers will be a difficult task. Moreover, a more defined treaty or convention where most (if not all) of the states are signatories will be a good step towards a better fight against there cyber attacks. Again, to reiterate my stand, I believe that the foreign citizens cannot be held liable under the Philippine Law.
Lately, there were issues regarding employers accessing the social networks of their potential employees which have been continuously receiving a lot of negative comments. Can companies/institutions/employers use internet search tools and access to social media accounts in determining the most suitable candidate?
First and foremost, I sincerely believe that in this kind of scenario, the right to privacy of these people will be violated. What is “Right to Privacy”? As discussed by the Supreme Court in the case of Social Justice Society vs. Dangerous Drugs Board and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (GR No. 157870), “the essence of privacy is the right to be left alone. In context, the right to privacy means the right to be free from unwarranted exploitation of one’s person or from intrusion into one’s private activities in such a way as to cause humiliation to a person’s ordinary sensibilities”. Moreover, I believe that there is no just and valid reason to access the person’s social media accounts in this case simply because it is not connected with the nature of employment of that particular person. Secondly, such access can never define if the person is qualified or not, neither will those posts make him/her less of a person. Besides, that is part of his/her personal life and it is very different from professionalism. If this scenario will be practiced in most of the companies in this country, then there’s a big chance that a person’s freedom of expression will be abridged simply because of the fear that when s/he post something, it may be the reason why s/he will not qualify in a certain position. Furthermore, there will be discrimination in this case because there can be an instance where an employer will not hire a person simply because of the posts that s/he made. Isn’t it discrimination?
In my opinion, access to social media accounts can be justified if public interest or national security requires it. But accessing it for employment purposes? I guess that’s a No-No. We shall always remember that there are constitutional rights of a person that must be taken into consideration and these are supreme rights protected by the Constitution. Right to privacy is not a joke. We all know that there are no laws that should prevail over the Constitution unless it is for public interest. Hence, access to social model accounts in determining the most suitable candidate might lead to a violation of a person’s right to privacy.