On 03 July 2018, the Supreme Court promulgated the new Rule on Cybercrime Warrants (A.M. No. 17-11-03-SC). The new set of rules was issued after the passage of the Cybercrime Prevention Act (Republic Act No. 10175). It provides for special procedures to implement various specific remedies under the said law. The new rule became effective on 15 August 2018.

The Rule provides for general rules on the venue of criminal actions for cybercrime offenses and for applications for warrants. It also provides specific rules for: (1) preservation of computer data; (2) disclosure of computer data; (3) interception of computer data; (4) search, seizure, and examination of computer data; (5) custody of computer data; and, (6) destruction of computer data, all in connection with the enforcement of the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

The new rules do not replace or supersede the existing Rules on Criminal Procedure. It provides that the new rules only “supplements the existing Rules of Criminal Procedure, which provisions shall continue to govern the preliminary investigation and all stages of prosecution of criminal actions involving violations” of the Cybercrime Prevention Act. Considering that the current Rules on Criminal Procedure were issued in 2000, the Rule on Cybercrime Warrants takes advantage of procedural innovations since then, such as the designation of cybercrime courts (that have the special authority to act on applications and issue cybercrime warrants) and the use of judicial affidavits in supporting applications for cybercrime warrants.

Given that cybercrimes may have actors located in and have an impact on various jurisdictions, the Rule on Cybercrime Warrants also provides for its extraterritorial enforcement. Warrants that will be served outside the Philippines shall be coursed through the Department of Justice – Office of Cybercrime, in line with relevant international instruments and/or agreements on the matter.

The Rule on Cybercrime Warrants also includes forms for four (4) types of warrants: (a) warrants to disclose computer data; (b) warrants to intercept computer data; (d) warrants to search, seize, and examine computer data; and warrants to examine computer data.

Mr. Rodel A. Cruz, CMT Senior Partner and Head of Litigation Department, previously argued before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of various provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act. This led to a Supreme Court (En Banc) decision declaring some of its provisions as void for being unconstitutional. The CMT Telecommunications & ICT as well as the Gaming practice groups of CMT have extensive experience on e-commerce and the defense and prosecution of cybercrimes.

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