One of the persons we interviewed for the Philippine Internet Review: Ten Years of Internet History (1994 - 2004) was Atty. JJ Disini of Disini & Disini Law Office.
JJ is a lawyer specializing in information technology matters. He represent mobile content providers, e-commerce companies engaged in e- banking, B2B marketplaces, on-line services, as well as, "traditional" IT companies such as systems integrators, ISPs, network providers. The website, http://www.disini.ph/, was established in 2000 at the same time he formed his law firm. One of his main goals in maintaining the site is to provide legal information for those interested in various areas of the law. He continuously updates the resources section of the site by including informative materials such as an Investment Primer and an Outsourcing Primer.
He was the principal drafter of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the E-Commerce Law – Republic Act 8792. He also wrote a position paper for the Philippine Internet Commerce Society, in support of Cebu-based CyberPromdi in 2000 to counter a proposed ordinance banning minors in Internet cafes.
Janette Toral (JT): Since the passage of the E-Commerce Law what's happening now in the legislative arena?
JJ: There have been various initiatives in Congress relating to e-commerce such as the cyber crime bill, the convergence bill, and of course, the bill creating the Department of ICT. However, there have been no new laws to date. I'm not entirely sure if this is a good thing or not. It seems to indicate that ICT isn't much of a priority in the national agenda. However, I do believe that certain initiatives are worth pursuing. In particular, I believe a data protection and privacy law would benefit various sectors of the IT industry including the outsourcing providers as well as the public in general (whose informational privacy can be secured through the law).
JT: What's next? Do you see tougher issues in the area of cryptography and intellectual property?
JJ: I think the challenge now in the policy arena revolves around formulating a strategy for addressing various issues. There appears to be no "game plan" emanating from our policy makers with a specific agenda and action items. I think the time for motherhood statements of support and development have passed. We need to initiate steps to implement specific programs to get the industry going and ensure the continued development of the ICT sector.
JT: Do you ever see the Internet being governed? Will it be through traditional courts or dispute resolution?
JJ: Internet governance is far too complex to have any ready answer. Overall, I do believe that the use of technology (probably through private contracting) remains the strongest source of regulation on the Internet. The best example is the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) of ICANN which effectively legislated protection to trademark owners against cybersquatting. In a mix of private contracting and technological control, UDRP has been an unqualified success. I think there are important lessons in that experience relating to Internet governance. Of course, a government can take an extreme position like China where ISPs are heavily regulated in order to block access to "offensive" sites. In the final analysis, the success of governmental control depends on many factors and an individual government's efforts may be thwarted by hackers and other liberally- minded citizens.
I don't believe the traditional courts can effectively handle multi- jurisdictional issues arising from the Net. Unless, of course, those courts are created by International agreements and some order is placed in terms of venue and jurisdiction. Still, I imagine those kinds of suits will be very expensive to litigate and very inconvenient to at least one of the parties.
JT: As work-at-home arrangements are becoming popular in the Philippines, do you find companies monitoring workers-at-home result to privacy violation?
JJ: I'm not aware if monitoring is that effective for people who tele-commute. I imagine that at best, the company can screen the person's email. Still, in the workplace, a vast majority of employers - at least in the US - monitor computer use to avoid unauthorized surfing and other factors that impact on productivity. In that respect, I believe the employer has a right to institute monitoring equipment. In the final analysis, computer resources are provided by the employer for business purposes only. As such, the employer has the right to monitor the use of those resources to ensure their proper utilization. If employees want privacy, then they should use their own computer resources -- at home, for example.
JT: Is it possible for Filipinos to elect a Philippine President from the comforts of their own home or work place (especially for OFWs)?
JJ: Theoretically, yes. The issue of course is authentication. But that's a common issue for all on-line transactions as well as current "off-line" election procedures in place.
JT: Do you think it's possible in the future that there will be a candidate in national politics that will represent the Internet community? Who do you think that will be?
I guess it's difficult to say or determine who comprises the Internet community. There are users and there are business people, government officials -- all having different interests that need to be protected. I think at most, we can have a candidate with an agenda that supports various interests within the Internet community. Perhaps, that would be enough.
Who would that be? Anybody who takes up the cudgels for promoting Internet use and commerce in the Philippines.
JT: A lot believe that the Internet changes everything about the law. Almost everyone can maximize the use of the Internet for both good and bad purpose. As a safety principle especially in legislation, what is commonly noted is that whatever is allowed in the real world should be allowed on the Internet and vice-versa. Do you think this principle will remain the rule of thumb in the next 10 years? How does this double-edged sword affect our rights and liberties?
JJ: It's not so much a rule of thumb as a stop-gap measure. The advent of the Internet and the pace at which adoption and usage has grown over the past years has far outpaced Congress. The making of laws is a deliberate and deliberative process that cannot possibly be done in Internet time. So, in the absence of any pronouncements from Congress, the courts have no choice but to apply existing laws to new situations -- with varying success. I believe this will continue but I also believe that the process is continually improving as the legal analysis improves and legal experts come to understand the peculiar issues the Internet brings to the law. On the whole, I wouldn't be too concerned about our rights and liberties. I don't think excessive regulation is in the offing and those of us online should be free from restrictions for years to come.