House passed bill expanding protection for women, children against cyber violence

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A bill to better protect women and children from online harassment and abuse was approved on Thursday by the House of Representatives at its third and final reading.

The lower chamber approved House Bill No. 5869 or the Expanded Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children (E-VAWC) Act. This bill is defined as abusive, exploitative, or otherwise damaging cyber behavior against women and their children and provides corresponding penalties for those acts. 

Recent social media and information technology developments have resulted in new forms of abuse, which are not protected by the existing 2004 Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act.

The bill aims to strengthen legal protection for women and children facing online cyber violence or harassment.

It specifically prohibits any use of photographs, videos, or other media records to commit violence against women and their children, especially when its purpose is pornographic, otherwise offensive, non-consensual or violent.

In addition to expanding the definition of violence against women and their children, the E-VAWC Act will also increase the penalties against violators. 

Violators face six to twelve years in prison and between P300,000 and P500,000 fine, from its previous penalties ranging from P100,000-P300,000 only. 

Apprehenders will also be required to undergo mandatory psychological and psychiatric therapy. Their compliance will also be reported to the court.

The measure would allow the Philippine Government to ban, blacklist, delete or shut down any programs or applications that promote violence against women and their children.

Law enforcement agencies will also be able to hold Internet service providers responsible for refusing to comply with those directives.

HB 5869 strengthened 4 similar measures filed by Representatives France Castro, Eufemia Cullamat, Arlene Brosas, and Joy Myra Tambunting.

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