Law is a necessary part of our daily life. Whether we are aware of it or not, the fact is that there is a wide range of legal issues that we encounter in our daily life, not only in the traditional context of the real world but lately with regard to computer-related communications like the Internet.
Those in the private legal profession and those in the government involved in the prosecution of cases, as well as those who promulgate and enforce court decisions are now getting more concerned about the legal issues that are emerging due to the Internet and other computer-related activities. Hence the need for a dynamic legal framework for cyberspace activities.
The situation is complicated by the fast pace in which technologies in cyberspace activities change and become obsolete. The technologies are changing faster than the laws. This is why those in the legal profession have to move fast to discuss what new laws are needed to cope with the expected increase in legal issues arising from computer-related activities.
There are pending bills on electronic transactions both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. President Estrada has certified as a priority bill the pending Senate bill on e-commerce.
Senate Bill 1902, which is the consolidated version of bills introduced by Senators Magsaysay, Sotto, Flavier, and Ople is titled "An Act Providing for an Electronic Commerce Law and for Other Purposes."
The provisions of the Senate bill are patterned after those of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December, 1996;
The House Bill, which is a substitute bill for bills introduced by Representatives Verceles, Punzalan, Angping, and Golez is titled "An Act Providing for Protection of Electronic Commercial Transaction, Penalties for Unlawful Use Thereof, and for Other Purposes."
The salient provisions of the Senate bill are as follows:
Legal recognition of data messages, electronic writing, and electronic signatures, subject to the limitations mentioned in the bill. Under Section 5 of the Senate bill, data message is defined as "information generated, sent, received or stored by electronic, optical or similar means, including, but not limited to electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic mail, telegram, telex, or telecopy.
Validity and enforceability of contracts formed with the use of data messages.
Validity of the use of data messages instead of writing or using a paper document in actions involving contracts of Carriage of Goods.
Authorizing all departments, bureaus, offices, and agencies of the government to use data messages in their performance of governmental functions subject to the guidelines in the bill.
Under the provisions of Section 22 of the Senate bill, "the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) shall direct and supervise the promotion and development of electronic commerce in the country. This will be in consultation and coordination with the National Information Technology Council and National Computer Center, as well as the government offices and agencies and representatives of the private sector concerned."
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), together with the participating government and private entities shall promulgate the rules and regulations (IRR) within 60 days after the effectivity of the bill.
Under Section 23 of the bill, there are certain acts proposed to be penalized by fine and/or imprisonment. One of the acts proposed to be penalized is hacking. Section 5 (e) of the bill defines hacking as "acts including, but not limited to, any unauthorized access into or interference in a computer system/server or any access in order to corrupt, destroy, alter, or steal data messages using computers or other similar communication devices. …