Cybercrime prevention calls for continuing international collaboration
NOTES FROM THE EU DELEGATION - Franz Jessen (The Philippine Star) - April 5, 2018 - 12:00am

A life without internet would seem impossible to many people. According to the latest figures, there are now over four billion internet users in the world. We use internet to communicate, to search for information, to be entertained, to shop. But the internet and new digital technologies are also used to commit crimes.

And the numbers are increasing. Statistics show that from January to December 2016, the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police received a total of 3,951 complaints for cybercrime and cyber-related offenses. This is 53.92 percent higher than the number of complaints received in 2015.

But cybercrime knows no borders. To fight it, we need international cooperation, and we need international agreements. I am therefore welcoming the efforts of the Philippines to join the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime. It is good news that on 19 February 2018, the Senate concurred with the accession following the signature of the Instrument of Accession for the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime by the President of the Philippines in December 2016. That will make the Philippines the 57 party to the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime.

Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on foreign affairs, in her sponsorship speech underlined the importance of the Budapest Convention to protect Philippine people from cybercrime. She stressed that the country was the number one haven for those committing child pornography. Senator Legarda cited a UNICEF report which mentioned that the Philippines had become a top global source of child pornography with around 80 percent of Filipino children at risk of online sexual abuse or bullying.

However, the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime is much more than a tool to fight child pornography. The convention provides the needed mechanisms for harmonised, common definitions in criminalising cybercrime offenses as well as for the necessary procedural measures to provide law enforcement with effective means to investigate cybercrimes. One of the main features of the convention is the establishment of central authorities which will enable state parties to ensure the provision of immediate assistance for investigation and prosecution of cybercrime and/or cyber-related cases, or for the collection of electronic evidence which may be situated anywhere in the world. In the Philippines, Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 already designated the Department of Justice, the Office of Cybercrime as the central authority in all matters related to international mutual assistance and extradition for cybercrime and cyber-related cases.

With the adoption of the EU Cybersecurity Strategy in 2013, the EU mainstreamed cyberspace issues into EU external relations and Common Foreign and Security Policy. The 28-bloc of member states of the European Union has worked with the Council of Europe with its 47 member states for a considerable number of years to address the fight against cybercrime at a global scale.

I had the privilege last month of addressing here in Manila a group of judges, magistrates and prosecutors of the ASEAN region in one of our training of trainers’ course on cybercrime and electronic evidence. The training was delivered by a mixed team of international experts and judicial authorities from the Philippines who shared knowledge and expertise with representatives from the judicial and prosecution services of the other ASEAN countries. Judges, magistrates, prosecutors and law enforcement agencies can fulfil their roles more effectively if adequate legislation is in place and if this is aligned with international standards.

Under the EU project called Global Action on Cybercrime (GLACY), the EU supports the Philippines as one of seven priority countries to prepare for the accession of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime. The seven countries are committed to take action on the basis of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime and are either parties, signatories or have been invited to accede to this treaty. GLACY priority countries may serve as hubs to share their experience with other countries of their respective regions.

GLACY was expanded in 2016 to GLACY+ with a larger budget, and is intended to extend this experience and aims to strengthen the capacities of states worldwide to apply legislation on cybercrime and electronic evidence and enhance their abilities for effective international cooperation, while ensuring compliance with international human rights standards and the rule of law.

Building capacities and capabilities of competent authorities such as judges, magistrates and prosecutors through the GLACY+ project is one of the steps to address cybercrime. But responsibility to curb cybercrime rests on all of us – we all, governments, societies, communities, need to be vigilant, and to strengthen the political will to take action against cybercrime.    

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(Franz Jessen is the Ambassador of the European Union.)

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