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House approves bill protecting women and children from electronic violence

A bill seeking to protect women and their children from electronic violence was approved by the Philippine House of Representatives on its third and final reading with a unanimous vote of 207 with no abstentions.

As reported, House Bill 8655 (HB 8655) seeks to shield women and their children from all forms of electronic violence and obviate any creative legal defence that may be used by violators of the law who manipulate technology to inflict violence.

The bill seeks to expand and amend Republic Act 9262, or the “Anti-Violence against Women and Their Children Act of 2004”.

Electronic or information communication technology (ICT)-related violence will be considered as a form of psychological violence as it involves acts or omissions that may be committed to cause mental or emotional suffering of the woman and children.

Examples of which include intimidation, harassment, stalking, damage to property, public ridicule or humiliation, verbal abuse, and marital infidelity.

Electronic or ICT-related violence, according to the Bill, is “any act or omission involving the use or exploitation of data or any form of ICT which causes or is likely to cause mental, emotional, or psychological distress or suffering to the woman and her children.”

It also refers to “any recording, reproduction, distribution, use, sharing, or uploading of any audio presentation and data, including sound clip of the same nature as those previously mentioned.”

The following are also categorised as electronic or ICT-related violence:

  • Harassing, intimidating, coercing, threatening, or vilifying a woman and her children through text messaging or other cyber, electronic, or multimedia means.
  • Stalking which includes the hacking of personal accounts on social networking sites and the use of location data from electronic devices.
  • Fabricating fake information/news through text messaging or other cyber, electronic, or multimedia means.
  • Creating fake social media accounts using a different individual’s personal information with ill intent and/or show malice, intrigue, or harm.

HB 8655 mandates that the maximum period of penalty shall be applied if the acts of violence are committed while the woman or child is pregnant or committed in the presence of her child.

In addition to imprisonment, the perpetrator shall be penalised with a fine of US$ 5663.25 to US$ 9438.75 (PHP 300,000 to PHP 500,000).

Perpetrators shall be mandated to undergo psychological counselling or psychiatric treatment and shall report compliance to the court.

It also mandates the immediate blocking, blacklisting, removal, or shutdown of any upload, program, or application that causes or tends to cause violence against the woman and her children.

Failure of the internet service providers to cooperate with law enforcement agencies constitutes crimes of obstruction of justice.

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