Jinggoy files Senate bill that imposes jail time, P5-M fine vs cyber criminals

(INQUIRER) MANILA, Philippines — Days after a mess involving the unauthorized deductions from several GCash accounts, Senator Jinggoy Estrada proposed a law that would impose prison time and a fine up to P5 million to cyber criminals who target digital financial services.

Estrada filed Senate Bill No. 2171, or the proposed Bank Accounts, Electronic Wallets, and Other Financial Accounts Regulation Act, which would “fully equip and empower government agencies and financial regulators to enforce measures that will address the risks and cyber threats that financial consumers are exposed to.”

“Kung may kakayahan ang mga kinauukulan na matunton ang mga nasa likod ng mga hacking o unauthorized transactions, scamming at iba pang modus gamit ang internet o sa pamamagitan ng mobile banking, dapat may kaukulang parusa na pagkakakulong at mabigat na multa na kahaharapin sila,” Estrada said in a statement.

(If authorities have the capability to track down those behind hacking, unauthorized transactions, scamming, and other similar schemes using the internet or mobile banking, they must face corresponding penalties of imprisonment and a hefty fine.)

The proposed law, he said, will help the government ensure the security of their digital transactions and set up a safety net for them to eventually have returned stolen funds from their accounts.

“We need to provide financial consumers with efficient means to resolve their complaints, make it less cumbersome, transparent and allow quicker resolutions that will be more to their advantage,” Estrada said.

Among the listed offenses under the bill are acting as a money mule, performing any social engineering schemes, and aiding of willfully attempting the commission of the mentioned wrongdoings.

Under Estrada’s bill, the maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine between P1 million to P5 million will be meted out to any person who commits a large-scale offense, carries out the offense with a syndicate, or uses a mass mailer.

The proposed measure defines mass mailer as the service or software used to send electronic mail in mass or to 50 or more e-mail accounts.

A syndicate, meanwhile, is formed by “a group of three or more persons conspiring with one another.”

On the other hand, large-scale offenses are those committed against three or more people as individuals or as a group.

If the offenders victimize or target a senior citizen, they will likewise be slapped with the maximum punishment.

In Estrada’s proposal, acting as a money mule will warrant a punishment of imprisonment of six months and one day to six years or a fine of P100,000 to 200,000, while performing social engineering schemes will call for a penalty of jail time for six months and one day to 12 years or a fine between P200,000 to P500,000.

The filing of Estrada’s bill comes as Gcash – the digital payments app of Globe Telecom Inc. – remains in the shadow of a Monday fiasco that siphoned off millions of pesos from several users’ e-wallets through small withdrawals and transferred the funds to two recipient banks.

GCash later returned to users the money that was taken from their accounts.

But the GCash mess has thrusted into the spotlight security concerns in using the platform that is widely used in the country.