By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
As the phenomenal case of online lending operators conducting public shaming campaigns versus their delinquent borrowers is no longer unique in the Philippines having reached ASEAN level, the Philippines National Privacy Commission (NPC) has sought for an authority to impose administrative fines on violators and a multi-pronged ASEAN approach.
National Privacy Commissioner Raymund E. Liboro said that Congressman Victor Yap has already filed a bill recently that would amend the Data Privacy Act of 2012. Foremost in the bill is the explicit power of NPC to mete out administrative fines of not more than ₱5 million.
Liboro explained that the power to mete out administrative fine is meant to teach companies accountability, compliance and ethics in handling personal data.
Calling it a “slap in the wrist,” Liboro said the administrative fine provides a middle ground because the current law only specifies imprisonment, which could not possibly result in jail terms as complainants may choose to settle out of court.
“With the administrative fine, we can now compel accountability when a company violates handling of personal data. Companies with no Data Privacy Officer are also liable of non-compliance,” he adds.
Liboro also believes this “carrot and stick” approach is easier to implement and more effective because it is preventive than the threat of imprisonment.
Liboro admitted that NPC had spent most of its time attending to over 2,000 complaints filed against online lending firms that conducted public shaming on their delinquent borrowers.
NPC had ordered the shutdown of 26 online lending firms apps in coordination with Google and the National Telecommunications Commission. NPC also filed charges against three most-complained lending firms Fynamics Lending, Inc., Unipeso Lending Company, and Fcash Global Lending, Inc. NPC already denied the motion of Unipeso and Fcash to dismiss the charges.
At the ASEAN level, Liboro said that Vietnam and Malaysia have confirmed at the recent ASEAN Privacy Forum that some of their online lending firms were also engaged in similar public shaming efforts to force delinquent borrowers to pay up.
“We don’t know yet how prevalent this has become but we have to tackle this from many fronts,” said Liboro.