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Matugas bats for NBI power to file contempt case to boost cybercrime fight

A Mindanao lawmaker has proposed a measure granting the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) the authority to file contempt charges in regional trial courts against individuals who fail to cooperate with their investigations.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Francisco Jose Matugas II, in House Bill 10358 noted this authority was granted by law to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“In order to effectively perform its functions, an investigative agency such as the NBI must not only have subpoena powers but must also have the power to file a contempt case in court to compel the cooperation of witnesses,” said Matugas in the explanatory note of the measure.

“Contempt powers are essential to ensure that testimonies and relevant documents related to the investigation are procured and produced,” he added.

HB 10358 seeks to amend the NBI Reorganization and Modernization Act (Republic Act 108671).

In a press conference last week, Matugas underscored the need to give the power the NBI needs to fulfill its mandate.

“Nakita po namin na doon sa pag-uusap with the NBI na may pagkukulang doon sa enforcement,” he said.

“Under the law, the NBI can get a court order to get the documents or to compel an institution to cooperate with them and normally it will take time… kapag hindi nag comply, they will just file obstruction of justice in the court which again will take time. So, yesterday we filed a bill similar to the bill I filed in the 17th Congress,” Matugas added.

With the additional authority, Matugas said it would be easier for the NBI to investigate cyber attacks.

“Mas mabilis po nilang ma-cocompel yung mga institutions, especially telcos or mga IT companies, to cooperate with them,” he added.

Matugas said he would also move to increase the budget for the Department of Information and Communication Technology’s (DICT) anti-cybercrime efforts next year.

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