FAQ on the NPC Rules of Procedure

Who may file a complaint?

1. The person claiming to be the subject of the privacy breach/violation;
2. His or her authorized representative; or
3. the National Privacy Commission (NPC), on its own initiative
(Sec. 3, NPC Rules)
 
Can someone not personally affected, and likewise not an authorized representative, file a complaint?

No. However, he or she may opt for either of the following:
1. Request for an advisory opinion; or
2. Inform the NPC on the data privacy concern
(Sec. 3, NPC Rules)
 
Will filing a complaint or requesting an advisory opinion require the payment of fees?
 
Yes. Otherwise, it will not be entertained. (Sec. 5, NPC Rules)
 
Is the rule on filing fees absolute?
 
No. The following instances are the exceptions to the rule on filing fees:
1. The complainant is the government, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned and controlled corporations (excluding, however, GOCCS incorporated under the Corporation Code);
2. The complainant is an indigent or pauper litigant under the Rules of Court, i.e. one who has no money or property sufficient and available for food, shelter, and basic necessities for himself and his family (Sec. 21, Rule 3, Rules of Court); or one whose gross income and that of his immediate family do not exceed an amount double the monthly minimum wage of an employee (Sec. 19, Rule 141, Rules of Court) and do not own real property with fair market value exceeding PhP 300,000.00.
3. NPC waives the requirement for good cause shown.
 
Where should the complaint be filed?
 
The complaint can be filed with any office of the NPC (Sec. 7, NPC Rules). Note that the Rules are permissive as to which office the same can be filed and does not limit the filing of the same to the
office located in the same locality/region as that of the residence of the complainant. Note, also, that while “any office” is mentioned, at present, the NPC has only one existing office, located in Quezon City. Nonetheless, electronic filing is allowed via e-mail to complaints@privacy.gov.ph, with a copy furnished to all other parties to the complaint (Sec. 8, NPC Rules).
 
What shall be the form and contents of the complaint?
 
It shall be in writing, verified and under oath, or contained in a sworn affidavit. The Efficient Use of Paper Rule must be complied with. In addition, the following shall be included:
 
* a brief narration of the material facts;
* supporting documents (original or certified true copy) and testimonial evidence;
* specific violation of the Data Privacy Act or related issuances;
* particular acts or omissions amounting to the alleged data privacy violations; and
* any and all correspondence with the respondent on the matter complained of, including a statement of the action taken by the latter to address
the matter, if any. 
(Sec. 10, NPC Rules)
 
What will happen next upon filing the complaint?
 
The case will be assigned by the NPC to an investigating officer for evaluation. Said officer will then recommend any of the following:
1. outright dismissal,
2. referral to the respondent for comment,
3. further monitoring,
4. that the complaint be treated as a request for an advisory opinion, or
5. indorsement to the proper government agency.
(Sec. 11, NPC Rules)
 
If the allegations are deemed to be sufficient, the investigating officer shall issue an Order to Confer for Discovery within 10 days from receipt of said Order. Whatever is agreed upon during such conference shall then be reduced into a Discovery Conference Report to be submitted to the NPC within five days from conclusion of the conference. (Sec. 13, NPC Rules)
 
Thereafter, the respondent/s will be directed, via an Order, to submit a Comment to the Complaint within 10 days from receipt of said Order. (Sec. 15, NPC Rules)
 
If the investigating officer deems it necessary, he or she may then require the complainant to file a Reply within 10 days, and the respondent, a Rejoinder, also within 10 days. (Sec. 15, NPC Rules)
 
The investigating officer will then proceed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the alleged privacy violation (Sec. 16, NPC Rules) and, thereafter, submit a fact-finding report, with corresponding recommendations, to the Office of the Commissioner (Sec. 18, NPC Rules).
 
The NPC will review the evidence presented, together with the fact-finding report. It may either:
1. promulgate a Decision; or
2. order the conduct of a clarificatory hearing.
 
The Decision may include enforcement orders. (Sec. 21 & 22, NPC Rules)
 
Is the Decision of the NPC appealable?
 
Yes. The party adversely affected may file an appeal within 15 days from receipt of a copy of the Decision. Otherwise, the same will become final and executory. (Sec. 30, NPC Rules)

Alienation of Aliens

SEC-OGC Opinion No. 16-29 cites Section 2 of the Anti-Dummy Law in clarifying that management positions – such as that of a President or Vice President – may not be held by aliens. Likewise, SEC-OGC Opinion No. 16-02 cites the same provision of law in saying that an alien national cannot act as President/Chairman of the Board.
 
But, is an alien likewise prohibited from acting as the Chairman of the Board only and not holding another position concurrently? Based on SEC-OGC Opinion No. 07-07, it appears that chairmanship can be so vested. Thus: “for as long as the association is not engaged in nationalized activity, a non-Philippine national may serve as a member of its board of trustees or be the chairman of the board… On the other hand, if the association engages in partly nationalized activities, foreign nationals may sit in the board in proportion to their allowable membership therein. In the same vein, an alien national may assume the post of the Chairman of the board whose act shall be limited to that of a presiding officer during board meetings.” 

Latest rankings in!

The firm was recognized again in the 2017 ranking tables of the World Trademark Review (WTR), Legal500 and Chambers and Partners.

According to WTR, “(e)lite boutique Betita Cabilao Casuela Sarmiento wins praise from foreign counsel the world over: ‘All the partners are responsive, dedicated, reliable and prompt in their advice. Working with them, you feel as if you you’re their only client.’ The four-partner team has secured favourable results for household-name brands in a string of high-stakes cases, and prides itself on its uniquely personalised approach to both contentious and non-contentious matters. Managing partner Andre Philippe Betita is a regular in the Supreme Court, but also deftly handles filing and prosecution issues before IPOPHL; having helped to draft the country’s IP Code, he knows every line of the statute inside out. Pericles Jose Conrado Casuela is a go-to practitioner for licensing matters and IP-rich M&A negotiations.” Andre and Pericles are ranked as tier 2 recommended experts by WTR. The full publication can be viewed here.

The firm is ranked as a second-tier recommended firm by Legal 500, which describes the firm: “Betita Cabilao Casuela Sarmiento’s practice handles licensing, transactions, litigation and enforcement relating to trade marks. Name partners Andre Betita, Pericles Casuela, Joseph Sarmiento and John Paul Cabilao are active practitioners.” The full publication can be viewed here.

The firm’s Andre Betita is ranked in band 3 of the leading Intellectual Property lawyers in the Philippines in Chambers and Partners’ 2017 Asia-Pacific guide. The full publication can be viewed here.

The rankings complement the firm’s milestone achievement of building a portfolio of more than 2,000 trademarks filed and registered with the Philippine Intellectual Property Office within the fifth year from its founding in 2011.  To view the firm’s portfolio, visit http://www.wipo.int/branddb/ph/en/ and enter “Betita Casuela” in the “Names/Representative” search option.

Renewable Energy Companies Limited to 40% Foreign Equity

In SEC-OGC No. 16-29, the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) of the SEC considered renewable energy to be within the ambit of businesses involved in the “exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources”, among others, and thus subject to a 40% foreign equity limitation.  This limitation is in accordance with Article XII, Section 2 of the Constitution, which declares that “all forces of potential energy… and other natural resources are owned by the State” and allows the State to “enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens.”

A Patented Logo? No Such Thing.

Patents and trademarks are both intellectual properties, for sure, but the two cannot be interchanged. Interestingly, a recent article from a reputable local daily reported about a certain popular festival’s logo being patented with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). It warned individuals and entities from using said “patented logo” in their respective businesses to ride with the popularity of the merrymakings without the owners’ permission. It even went on citing Section 71 of the Intellectual Property Code (“the Code”), enumerating the rights of owners of patents.

True enough, Section 71 enumerates the rights of owners of patents, period. But a patented logo? There is no such thing. 

The IPO would not have registered the same as a patent if it applied for one. What the article should have referred to was a trademark – and not a patent – registration. Section 121.1 of the Code defines a “mark” as “any visible sign capable of distinguishing the goods (trademark) or services (service mark) of an enterprise.”

Meanwhile, Section 21 of the Code explicitly reserves patents for “any technical solution of a problem in any field of human activity which is new, involves an inventive step and is industrially applicable… It may be, or may relate to, a product, a process, or an improvement of any of the foregoing.”

The prominent festival’s logo is used for promoting the event or branding, and is in no way an invention per se. Simply put: branding indicia gets registered as a trademark, not as a patent. 

Data Privacy in the Time of Leaks and Hackers

#Comeleak became a trending topic early in 2016 when hackers exposed the data of over 55 million registered voters. The wealth of information leaked included crucial data that could enable identity theft – including full names, birthdays, addresses, height, weight, and passport details, among others.
 
Roughly a year after, the National Privacy Commission (NPC) released a press statement singling out Chairman Andres Bautista of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) as the lone officio personally liable for the leak. The NPC posits that Bautista is liable under the Data Privacy Act of 2012 for failing to put data privacy policies in place. Specifically, NPC recommends the filing of criminal charges against Bautista based on Section 26, which provides for a penalty of imprisonment for one to three years and a fine ranging from Php500,000 to Php2,000,000.00 for accessing of personal information due to negligence, and a penalty of imprisonment for three to six years and a fine ranging from Php500,000 to Php4,000,000.00 for accessing sensitive personal information due to negligence.
 
COMELEC, for its part, issued a statement maintaining that data breach is not a new phenomenon, and that it has been following generally accepted standards and international best practices regarding technology-related activities. In his personal Facebook page, Bautista shared a December 2016 news article pertaining to Yahoo! data security issues, wherein the international tech-giant admitted that over one billion user accounts have been hacked. Indeed, “Comeleak” is just one of the many “leaks” surfacing in the political arena – with a number of otherwise privileged information/communication being exposed via “WikiLeaks”, among others.
 
At present, there is yet no landmark Supreme Court decision tackling the Data Privacy Act. To what extent can individuals be protected? What measures are expected to be taken? If even tech giants are vulnerable to hackers, is anyone really safe? Where do we draw the line in establishing liability? It would be interesting to monitor the jurisprudential development of data privacy laws as this case progresses.

Guidelines on Nationalized Industries

The Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutionality of SEC Memorandum Circular No. 8, Series of 2013. The salient points of said Memorandum Circular are as follows:


a. The covered corporations are those involved in areas of activities or enterprises specifically reserved, wholly or partly, to Philippine Nationals by the Constitution, the Foreign Investments Act, and other existing laws.


b. All covered corporations shall, at all times, observe the constitutional or statutory ownership requirement.


c. The required percentage of Filipino ownership must be met in both (a) the total number of outstanding shares of stock entitled to vote in the election of directors, and (b) the total number of outstanding shares of stock, whether or not entitled to vote in the election of directors.


d. Corporate Secretaries of covered corporations are directed to monitor and observe compliance thereto. The Corporate Secretary may not delegate this responsibility without an express authority from the Board of Directors or Trustees.


e. Failure to comply will be punished with the administrative sanctions provided in Section 14 of the Foreign Investments Act as amended, summarized below:


Juridical entity

Fine of ½ of 1% of the paid-in capital, but not more than Php5,000,000.00

President / officials responsible

Fine not exceeding Php200,000.00

Any person, firm, or juridical entity

Forfeiture of all benefits granted under the Foreign Investments Act as amended

Exceptions to the IPOPHL Increase in Fees

Increased official fees will take effect on 1 January 2017, subject to the following exceptions:
 
(1) All Statements of Account (SOAs) issued in 2016 based on the old rates may be paid within the period of validity of the SOA even if the actual payment is made in 2017, provided the SOA remains valid on the date of payment;
 
(2) Where an extension of time to pay was granted in 2016 and the new due date falls in 2017, such payment will be based on the old fee structure and any SOA to be issued pursuant to such extension will be based on the old rates;
 
(3) Payments that are due on days when IPOPHL is closed (from 24 December 2016 to 2 January 2017) will be accepted on 3-6 January 2017, and any SOA issued or to be issued will follow the old fee structure.

FDA Practice Update

The Firm welcomes the addition of Atty. Kathleen May O. Clareza as among its associates. Prior to joining BCCS Law, Atty. Clareza was a Special Investigator III of the Legal Department of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As part of the legal team of the FDA, her responsibilities included, among others, the enforcement of the rules and regulations of the said agency. Being a member of the legal team, likewise, exposed her to the different centers of FDA. Her previous stint with the FDA boosts the FDA practice of the Firm. The Firm’s FDA practice has been thriving in recent years and the intimate knowledge of Atty. Clareza of relevant FDA rules and regulations will be instrumental to the Firm’s FDA related advice and services. 

IPOPHL Fees Update

The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) has removed the entire section on discounts extended to online filings of applications in its new schedule of fees that will take effect on 1 January 2017. Informal inquiries with officers of the IPOPHL revealed that the section was purposely deleted as it is the intention of IPOPHL to no longer extend such discount. Thus, online filings of applications will be assessed the same application fee as manual filings made before the IPOPHL. 

Contact Us

Betita Cabilao Casuela Sarmiento
Suite 1104, Page One Building
1215 Acacia Avenue
Madrigal Business Park, Ayala Alabang
Muntinlupa City 1780
Metro Manila, Philippines

Tel No. +63 2 8555 1750
Email: info@bccslaw.com