Associate Justice Rowena San Pedro (top left) leads the interactive session with panellists, Justices Rainelda Montesa (top center) and Wilhelmina Wagan (top right), and (from left) Law Professor JJ Disini, Police Lt. Col. June Abrazado, and Police Maj. Robert Reyes, with Judge Eric Pablo as moderator.

The United States Embassy in the Philippines, through the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutor Development, Assistance, and Training (DoJ OPDAT), has partnered with the Supreme Court of the Philippines Subcommittee on Commercial Courts (SCC) and the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) to train 38 executive judges across the country against cybercrime on February 10-11.

The training briefed executive judges from the National Capital Judicial Region and Regions 1-12 on cybercrime and the effective implementation of the Philippines Rules on Cybercrime Warrants (RCW). Participating executive judges oversee special commercial courts designated as cybercrime courts.

Associate Tax Appeals Court Judge Maria Rowena Modesto-San Pedro noted that the pandemic has led many Filipinos to shift to online transactions. It has also led to an alarming rise in the number of cybercrimes, which she said judges should be prepared for.

“Fortunately, the Supreme Court, through PHILJA, with gracious support from the US DoJ OPDAT, continues to roll out cybercrime and RCW training workshops,” San Pedro said. “Not only do judges learn about concepts such as hash values, off-site search, forensic imaging, among others, but they also hone their skills hearing applications for cybercrime warrants while still being aware of the right to privacy.”

DoJ OPDAT Resident Legal Counsel Donald Calvert said the United States appreciates the continued opportunities to partner with PHILJA to build justice system capacity in the area of ​​cyber warrants and digital evidence.

“Despite the pandemic, this important workshop series has continued online with support from partners at the DoJ in the United States and the Supreme Court here in the Philippines,” Calvert said.

In addition to San Pedro, CSC members who discussed the Cybercrime Act and RCW provisions included Judge Wilhelmina Jorge Wagan, Attorney Ricardo Blancaflor, and Judge Apolinario Bruselas, Jr., former Associate Justice of the Court of Justice. Philippine Appeal and Executive Secretary of PHILJA Ma. Luisa Quijano-Padilla was also present with Ovie Carroll, Director of the US DoJ Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Lab, who spoke about digital evidence and international best practices for managing it.

In a culminating exercise, the judges considered and ruled on the applicability of the RCW in hypothetical cases.

The U.S. Embassy, ​​through OPDAT, works with Philippine partners to build capacity to fight cybercrime by training judges, prosecutors, investigators, and other government officials, and by developing cybercrime training videos. OPDAT also helped develop a new course on cybercrime for criminology schools nationwide, which has been approved by the Philippine Commission on Higher Education and is being implemented in criminology departments of colleges and universities around the country. country.