The Republic Act No. 8792, or the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations is the country’s centerpiece legislation on electronic commerce. The E-Commerce Act was designed to make electronic contracting legally enforceable and was intended to settle legal doubts about whether electronic forms of contracting were lawful. It recognizes electronic documents as the legal equivalent of paper documents, and electronic signatures as the legal equivalent of handwritten signatures.
Also important are the Supreme Court of the Philippines’ Rules on Electronic Evidence (REE), and the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Science and Technology’s Joint Administrative Order No. 2 (JAO), which sets out a regulatory framework for digital signatures backed by certificates from recognized trusted service providers and the promotion of the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).
The E-Commerce Act defines an “electronic signature” as “any distinctive mark, characteristic and/or sound in electronic form, representing the identity of a person and attached to, or logically associated, with the electronic data message or electronic document or any methodology or procedures employed or adopted by a person and executed or adopted by such person with the intention of authenticating or approving an electronic data message or electronic document” (E-Commerce Act, Sec. 5(e)).
The REE defines a digital signature as “an electronic signature consisting of a transformation of an electronic document or an electronic data message using an asymmetric or public cryptosystem such that a person having the initial untransformed electronic document and the signer's public key can accurately determine: whether the transformation was created using the private key that corresponds to the signer's public key; and whether the initial electronic document had been altered after the transformation was made.” There is no official list of trusted third-party certification authorities. However, the Philippine government has an official PKI system, the Philippine National Public Key Infrastructure system.
Under the E-Commerce Act, only electronic signatures that satisfy the following conditions are valid:
In order to have the same presumption of enforceability and admissibility of a “wet” signature, electronic signatures must satisfy the above requirements. Accordingly, only an electronic document bearing a certificate-based digital signature verifiable through a trusted third party is recognized as the equivalent of a “wet” signature under Philippine law.
Failure to comply with the E-Commerce Act removes the presumption of enforceability and admissibility. However, electronic signatures that don’t comply with these requirements can still be used to prove the consent of an individual to the document which they signed electronically. An electronic or digital signature authenticated under the Supreme Court’s Rules on Electronic Evidence is admissible as the functional equivalent of the signature of a person on a written document.
Under the REE, an electronic or digital signature may be authenticated in any of the following ways:
When either an electronic or digital signature is authenticated under the REE, what are known as disputable presumptions arise. These are presumptions that are satisfactory for legal purposes until and unless they’re contradicted and overcome by other evidence. They are:
The courts are familiar with and take judicial notice of the laws governing electronic signatures.
Transacting with public sector entities
There are no special requirements or restrictions for using digital or electronic signatures with government entities in the Philippines. Government offices are bound to accept electronic signatures, or documents signed using electronic signatures.
Use cases that generally require a traditional signature
In the Philippines, there are several use cases that require a traditional “wet” signature. Although there are no laws expressly prohibiting the use of electronic signatures for any contract, if a notarized document is required by law or if the parties want a notarized document, that document may not be in electronic form.
The law requires that the following documents be notarized:
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