Creation of cybercrime courts sought

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Monday, March 3, 2014

A SUPREME Court (SC) justice is calling on colleagues to create special courts to handle cases involving violations of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, whose most parts were recently declared constitutional.

Section 21 of Republic Act 10175 provides that only "specially trained judges" of the Regional Trial Courts can hear and decide cases related to Internet-driven crimes.

To qualify for the spot, judges must be computer literate, "at the very least," so that they will have better appreciation of the pieces of evidence presented and testimonies heard, Associate Justice Arturo Brion said.

"From the point of law, basic knowledge must be there to grasp how cybercrimes may be proven before us during trial and what constitutes the evidentiary threshold that would allow us to determine, beyond reasonable doubt, that the person accused really did commit a cybercrime," he said in a concurring and dissenting opinion.

Brion agreed with the Office of the Solicitor General's observation that time is so important in resolving cases as technological speed makes the commission of the crimes and destruction of evidence faster and easier.

He said the current process of issuing search warrants might not be effective to track down criminals and obtain evidence of their crimes.

"Search warrants for instance, might be issued too late to seize evidence of the commission of a cybercrime, or may not properly describe what should be seized, among others," Brion said.

As remedy, Brion proposed that these cybercrime courts should have their own rules of procedure that are responsive to the technical requirements of cybercrime prosecution and adjudication.

Considered cybercrime offenses under the law are child pornography, identity theft, phishing, cyber squatting, cyber prostitution, illegal access, illegal interception, data and system interference, financial fraud and online libel, which penalizes the author of the post.

The government has yet to implement the law since the decision is still subject to appeal.

Earlier, some petitioners such as Kabataan party-list said they are set to question various portions of the decision, including the portions on online libel, the one degree higher penalty provision and the provisions on search, seizure and destruction of computer data, among others. (Sunnex)

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