Senator Edgardo J. Angara underscored anew that the Data Privacy Act will not curtail the public’s right to information, especially on matters of public interest.
Angara, Chair of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, explained that while the measure seeks to protect the integrity and confidentiality of personal data, it will not punish journalists and media outfits for publishing stories based on “leaked” information.
Section 4 of the Data Privacy Act, embodied in the bicameral conference version, states exclusions to the scope of the measure, which include "Personal information processed for journalistic, artistic, literary or research purposes". Other exclusions cover information about civil servants and officials of government.
“Press freedom is provided clearly in our Constitution, but so is a person’s right to privacy,” said Angara. “What the Data Privacy Act does is simply extend the safeguards on privacy to the personal information transmitted and stored via the Internet and other ICT.”
Sponsored by the veteran legislator, the Data Privacy Act (SBN 2965) was certified as a priority measure by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) last year.
“But when it comes to matters of public interest like a government official’s assets and liabilities, laws like the Code of Conduct for Government Officials [RA 6713] already underpin the disclosure of certain personal information,” added the former UP President. “The same can be said about the law we are proposing.”
The Philippine Press Institute, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas 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.
“There is nothing of the sort in this bill. Therefore there is absolutely no reason to be alarmed,” stressed Angara. “Our main intention was to generate confidence in IT-BPO, e-governance and e-commerce in the country. Many other countries where these industries are flourishing have similar laws in place. In that way, this law is not unique and just puts us on a par with global standards.” (30)