Philippines okays Data Privacy Act

  • Manila okays data privacy act after revisions
  • Contentious provisions that threaten press freedom removed

Philippines okays Data Privacy ActA BICAMERAL committee has cleared the Data Privacy Act just before the Philippines Congress ended its formal session recently, but only after some contentious provisions were revised in the bill.

Earlier, media organizations protested the previous version of the bill, citing certain provisions that could be used to impose stiff penalties on journalists for “breaches of confidentiality.”

The Philippine Press Institute, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and other civil advocates had expressed alarm over the bill, claiming that its punitive provisions can be used to penalize journalists and their sources, with the effect of curtailing press freedom and endangering the public interest.

“No less than our Constitution upholds press freedom and the media’s function of responsible reporting,” Sen. Edgardo Angara, the bill’s main author, said in a statement.

“So the bicam committee quickly rectified any ambiguity in the bill that may be leveraged to put a muzzle on our journalists, producers or any of our media practitioners.”

Section 4 of the approved Data Privacy Act outlines exclusions to the scope of the measure, which include “Personal information processed for journalistic, artistic, literary, or research purposes.”

Section 5 of the measure provides further protection to the media by stating that no provision in the Data Privacy Act can be interpreted as to have amended or appealed Republic Act no. 53, which exempts publishers, editors or reporters of any publication from revealing their sources of information.

Angara, who is also chair of the Senate Committee on Science, Technology and Engineering (Comste), underscored that once signed into law, the measure will boost confidence in the country’s booming information technology and business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) industry and growing e-government initiatives.

“The bill makes it mandatory for all data collectors — whether public or private — to protect the security, integrity and confidentiality of all the personal information they collect. By doing this, we help usher in a truly knowledge-driven economy,” he said.

He said that once signed into law, the country’s data privacy standards will be on par with the global community as outlined by the European Union and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation.

“We refined the measure further so that it cannot be used to curtail the flow of information that may be of public interest, without infringing on every person’s right to privacy, which is also underpinned by our Constitution,” Angara said.

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