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Philippine Law Not Applicable in 'Love Bug' Case, Official Rules

May 18, 2000|From Associated Press

MANILA — A senior official of the Philippine Department of Justice has ruled that a law investigators hoped to use against suspects in the "love bug" computer virus case does not apply to computer crimes.

The decision severely handicaps the investigators, who have struggled to find a legal basis on which to charge any suspects.

The Philippines has no laws specifically addressing high-tech computer crimes such as the "ILoveYou" virus, which earlier this month crippled e-mail systems worldwide.

After an extensive legal search, investigators settled on a 1998 law regulating fraudulent use of "access devices," such as credit cards, account numbers and passwords to obtain money, goods or services. The law carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

The "Love Bug" virus attempted to pilfer passwords from infected computers and send them to e-mail addresses in the Philippines.

But Chief State Counsel Elmer T. Bautista, in a memorandum to the secretary of justice, said suspects in the case could not be charged under the law.

"Nowhere in the law is 'computer hacking' . . . and the effects thereof dealt with," Bautista said in the memorandum.

"The intention of a computer hacker . . . is not to defraud but to destroy files," and so computer hacking "cannot be considered covered" by that law, he said.

The National Bureau of Investigation said it would not question Bautista's decision.

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