In May 2019, six male students from the Philippine Science High School (PSHS), more commonly called Pisay, were not allowed to attend their graduation because they allegedly leaked nude photos of their classmates online. Though they weren’t allowed to march with their batch, the school’s Executive Director, Lilia Habacon, said that three of the six boys would still receive their diplomas while the other three will get certificates of completion. Habacon said, “They have to comply with additional requirements that are part of the sanctions given to them. We assure the public that the PSHS Board has exerted best efforts in arriving at this decision.”
Vice President Leni Robredo spoke out about the issue: “We should not be surprised that even in a community of our nation’s brightest young minds, the poor treatment of women, at the hands of those they trusted as friends, persists.”
Unfortunately, this is hardly the first instance of someone spreading nude photos online. It’s alarming how casual people have become about violating someone’s privacy and trust—even with strict laws in place. And there are ways to deal with this. We spoke to Atty. Hanna Bravo of Barrios & Bravo Law Offices about what you can do if you find photos of yourself online that you never meant for the world to see.
What’s the first thing you should do if someone leaks your nude photos online?
ICYDK, almost every police station has a desk there for the Anti-Cybercrime Division. Atty. Bravo shares, “They are there to help you. If you’re financially challenged, they can file a case for you and help you find a lawyer.” Though tempting, she urges victims not to turn to the Internet to air their grievances: “If you confront [or blast] someone online, in a way, it’s libelous because there’s no ‘proof.’ It’s just on social media.” When you find out that someone’s been spreading your nude photos online, the best thing to do is to preserve the evidence: “Usually, screenshots can’t stand alone. You have to show that you’ve had prior encounters with him—like photos or testimonies from common friends. There should be supporting documents. Kung wala talaga, the Anti-Cybercrime [officers] can help you.”
What can happen if you post screenshots of your private conversations with your abuser online?
Atty. Bravo makes it clear, “You’re opening yourself to the possibility of being sued if you post…Even if you have a screenshot, pagdating sa court, you have to prove that that’s really his number or that that’s really him contacting you. You have to testify. You have to sign an affidavit. It has to be notarized. It has to be under oath…kahit na halatang-halata na siya. It’s hard because he can always deny it.
If, for example, he has a prepaid number, the usual denial [that goes with that] is, ‘My phone got stolen.’ Sasabihin ng court, hindi mo na-prove; it’s the prosecution’s burden, not the defendant’s. Tapos, if he sues you back [for defamation], ikaw yung talo kasi [kita na] it’s your social account. Ikaw na ikaw yung gumawa. My advice is not to go to the net. Seek proper remedies.”
What you need to know: Republic Act No. 9995 Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009
Apart from ignorance and deeply rooted misogynistic values, another factor why people commit cybercrimes is the lack of knowledge of established laws. The Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act was established in 2009—yes, 10 years ago! And still, most people don’t know it exists. Under this law, it is prohibited for any person:
- To take a photo or video coverage of a person or group of persons performing sexual act or any similar activity to capture an image of the private area of a person/s such as the naked or undergarment clad genitals, public area, buttocks or female breast without the consent of the person/s involved and under circumstances in which the person/s has/have a reasonable expectation of privacy;
- To copy or reproduce, or to cause to be copied or reproduced, such as photo or video or recording of sexual act or any similar activity with or without consideration;
- To sell or distribute, or cause to be sold or distributed, such photo or video or recording of sexual act, whether it be the original copy or reproduction thereof; or
- To publish or broadcast, or cause to be published or broadcasted, whether in print or broadcast media, or show or exhibit the photo or video coverage or recordings of such sexual act or any similar activity through VCD/DVD, internet, cellular phones, and other similar means or device.
They also go as far as defining some of the terms to avoid confusion:
- “Broadcast” means to make public, by any means, a visual image with the intent that it be viewed by a person or persons.
- “Capture” with respect to an image, means to videotape, photograph, film, record by any means, or broadcast.
- “Female breast” means any portion of the female breast.
- “Photo or video voyeurism” means the act of taking photo or video coverage of a person or group of persons performing sexual act or any similar activity or of capturing an image of the private area of a person or persons without the latter’s consent, under circumstances in which such person/s has/have a reasonable expectation of privacy, or the act of selling, copying, reproducing, broadcasting, sharing, showing or exhibiting the photo or video coverage of recordings of such sexual act or similar activity through VCD/DVD, internet, cellular phones and similar means or device without the written consent of the person/s involved, notwithstanding that consent to record or take photo or video coverage of same was given by such person’s.
- “Private area of a person” means the naked or undergarment clad genitals, public area, buttocks or female breast of an individual.
What are the penalties for violating the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act?
The penalties involve imprisonment of three to seven years and a fine of not less than P100,000 but not more than P500,000, or in some instances, both.
Atty. Hanna Bravo is the co-founder of Barrios & Bravo Law Offices located at U-2 46 West Avenue, Quezon City.
Follow Vivien on Instagram.