Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Monday, October 03, 2005

Filipino hacker's conviction hailed

By Erwin Lemuel Oliva

A SENATOR, the head of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), and representatives of the local Internet community have rejoiced over the recent conviction of Filipino hacker JJ Maria Giner.

"I welcome this news because it proves that the E-commerce law works in curbing cybercrime in the country and this sends a strong signal that violations of e-commerce law will not go unpunished," Senator Manuel Roxas
told INQ7.net.

Roxas said this case would make businesses more confident in engaging in e-commerce, which is already considered a key factor in the success of various ventures.

"Among those who may benefit from this development is the mushrooming outsourcing industry, for this is a clear indication that the country's laws are working with their protection in mind and that of their clients," the lawmaker added.

CICT Chairman Virgilio Peña was also elated by the news of a local hacker being convicted by a local court.

"It demonstrates our ability to enforce the E-Commerce Law from detection and apprehension of the criminal all the way to litigation and eventual conviction. In other words we have tested the full cycle of the justice system as it applies to a violation of a provision in the e-commerce law. It is truly a landmark case," Peña said.

Peña commended the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, particularly Police Superintendent Gilbert Sosa’s Anti-Transnational Crime Division for its excellent work.

"They have proven that our law enforcement agencies have the capability to track down cybercriminals and apprehend them. More important, they were able to gather the evidence required to prosecute the violator all the way to conviction," Peña said.

The CICT chief stressed that the news will have a positive effect on the ICT industry, particularly in our growing e-services sector where cybercrime is a major issue.

"It will increase the confidence of potential investors to outsource to the Philippines. It negates the perception created by the ‘love bug’ virus incident, which was widely circulated around the globe," he added.

Roxas, for his part, stressed that Filipino cybercriminals will
eventually pay for their crimes.

"I am confident that after this, our lawmakers would take very concrete steps to expand the law as cybercriminals are becoming more creative. As long as government and businesses make it their strict policy to protect their websites and treat various cybercrimes as a serious breach of law, then with their help, the country will have the means to fight against this growing menace," the lawmaker said.

Paul Hubbard, chief executive officer of Philippine-based YES IT Corp., said Giner’s conviction is excellent news, as the company has also cases pending involving credit card fraud.

"Precedents such as this can only help our cause. One of our cases is due for pre-trial on the 19th October 2005," Hubbard revealed.

Similar to the Peña and Roxas’ sentiments, he said that businesses looking to move operations to the Philippines or set up new ones will now take note that the Philippines has the necessary laws in place, with dedicated enforcement agencies, backed up by a judicial system that can convict people who conduct their crimes over the Internet.

He believes this conviction will improve business confidence in e-commerce and the business process outsourcing sectors.

Hubbard said Philippine e-commerce websites deal and collect a lot of data specifically for the purpose of detecting fraudulent transactions and hacking attempts.

"These businesses will now have the confidence to submit their cases to the judicial system knowing that the e-commerce act has been proven. The fraudsters and hackers that operate in the Philippines will now be looking over their shoulder," Hubbard said.

Mary Anne Tolentino, president of Philippine Internet Commerce Society (PICS), added that the organization’s lobbying in the past for the swift passage of the e-commerce law has finally borne fruit with this conviction.

Giner pleaded guilty last week at the Metropolitan Trial Court in Manila to hacking government websites, including the government portal "gov.ph." This is the first Philippine hacking case to have ended in a conviction. Judge Rosalyn Mislos-Loja sentenced him to one to two years of imprisonment and to pay a fine of 100,000 pesos.

The court, however, decided to grant Giner probation during last Wednesday's arraignment, as the court felt he was a promising young man with plans of going to law school.

Giner’s probation will last two to three years, government prosecutor Geronimo Sy told INQ7.net. Giner however will still pay a fine meted by the court, 30 days after the sentence was handed down, the prosecutor added.

"After Giner finishes the two- to four-year probation period, he would have served his sentence," Sy said.
The granting of the probation will allow Giner to skip jail time but he will still be required to report to a probationary officer on a regular basis.

Senator Roxas said that while this is comparatively new to the Philippines, the indictment is a very good precedent, one that could give rise to an all-out legal campaign against cybercriminals.

"The probation charge may seem like a slap on the wrist to some, but we are just learning about the nature of cybercrimes," he said.