Media groups hit, Angara defends data-privacy bill

Senator Angara explains the data-privacy protection bill at the Kapihan sa Senado. JOSEPH VIDAL, PRIB PHOTO means BUSINESS

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Edgardo Angara assured the media sector there will be no sanctions against journalists who divulge confidential information under the Data Privacy Protection Act, but industry groups remain wary.

“There will be no sanction against any member of the media who leaked confidential information. The rights of media to give information to the public are absolutely protected under the Data Privacy Protection Act,” Angara said at the weekly sa Kapihan sa Senado.

“The journalist is absolutely protected under the law. The right of a journalist to write about information is protected; he or she has no liability under the law, but only the provider of the information,” Angara added.

However, he said under the proposed measure which is designed not only to protect individual privacy on information, but also strengthen our business processing industry (BPO), the penal provision only applies to the one who was given the duty to keep or hold the information.

“Who will be punished? The one who has the obligation to keep, or hold the information from somebody. Like a lawyer to his client--- the lawyer cannot give information about his client,” he said.

In another example, he said when a private individual is hospitalized and that person’s medical records were made public without his consent, “in this case, the hospital or the records custodian will be sanctioned, not the journalist who wrote about it.” 

PPI, EJAP weigh in against bill

The Philippine Press Institute has protested that Section 30 of the Data Privacy Act, presently under bicameral review, extends liability to reporters, writers, presidents, publishers, managers and editor-in-chiefs involved in the unauthorized publishing of sensitive personal information.

The Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines (EJAP) also issued a statement saying it “is strongly against any law or measure that Congress may consider passing that will stifle press freedom.

“Section 30 of SB 2965 that directly targets and penalizes media is obviously a dangerous tool that can be used to harass media and suppress its guaranteed freedom,” said EJAP.

“While the good Sen. Edgardo Angara has assured that this provision will be rectified in the Bicameral Conference Committee, we will remain vigilant and opposed to SB 2965 until this provision has been deleted,” said the group.

EJAP concluded: “As recent events have shown, information, just like the truth, can set us free. No measure should restrict our freedom to know.”

Angara stressed that the main objective of the bill is to promote confidence in the country’s booming Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing (IT-BPO) industry and its growing e-government initiatives by mandating public and private institution to safeguard the integrity, security and confidentiality of personal information collected throughout their operations.

“The law wanted to protect not only trust and confidence being extended to us by foreign companies who choose us to be the processor of information of their clients, but also to protect our interest in the internet when we give information to a service provider,” he added.

The measure, under Committee Report No. 56 on Senate Bill 2965, also aims to protect individual information in information and communications systems in the government, and to increase the security of sensitive date maintained by the government.

President Benigno Aquino III certified the Data Privacy Act as priority measure of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).

The Data Privacy Act provides for the creation of a National Privacy Commission tasked to implement the provisions of the bill and to ensure that regulations in the country adhere to international data privacy standard such as that of the European Union and the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC).