December 5, 2023

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda is proposing a measure that will regulate the operation of Internet shops and cafés in the city.
The forum with the Association of Baguio Internet Shop Operators during the city council’s Oct. 21, 2019 session prompted the councilor to craft an ordinance which, once approved, will contain the guidelines and penalties in the operation of computer shops and Internet shops and cafés.
The proposed ordinance will apply to any business establishment with multiple computer units offering for a fee for various services such as e-mailing, gaming, chatting, surfing, research and other services that require the use of computers and/or access to the Internet. Establishments offering a combination of services such as food, Internet, recreation, and other similar activities are also covered.
Under the proposal, a shop owner must secure permits from the Permits and Licensing Division.
The ordinance, once enacted, will regulate the hours of operation of the shops which are from 6:00 AM to 10:30 PM. An additional 30 minutes will be given as a “leeway for their closing up of their respective shops.”
The ordinance specifies that children seven years of age and below will be allowed entry only if they are accompanied by an adult and will be allowed to use a computer for academic/school purposes until 6:00 PM only; children eight to twelve years of age will be allowed entry until 7:00 PM only even if accompanied by an adult; minors aged 13 to 17 will be allowed entry until 9:00 PM only even if accompanied by an adult; Persons aged 18 and above will be allowed to stay in the shop until 10:30 PM.
The ordinance adds that minors will be prohibited in the shops during class hours unless accompanied by a teacher or unless a letter from the school head will be presented to the personnel in the shop “for verification and appropriate sanctions.”
The ordinance stipulates that individuals who refuse to show their ID’s indicating their date of birth will be prohibited from entering the shop.
All shop owners will be required to observe and maintain cleanliness and proper ventilation in their shops to ensure the health and safety of their clients. Cubicles must be half-closed only and not fully enclosed for better supervision or monitoring.
Furthermore, shop owners and personnel must allow authorities to inspect their respective establishments.
“In the event that an owner/operator of a computer/internet shop or internet café shall defraud the authorities by seemingly locking or closing their doors or gates but are operating under conditions not agreed upon, they shall automatically be sanctioned for the next higher offense,” the ordinance read.
The ordinance will also require shop owners to ensure that ID’s and class schedules of students are checked and used as basis for allowing/disallowing them to enter the premises; post a signage at the entrance of the premises bearing the text “ELEMENTARY AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE NOT ALLOWED DURING CLASS HOURS”; and display warning signage against access to pornographic and online gambling sites.
Owners and managers offering online tutorial services will be required to “secure Online tutorial Services as an additional line of business in the Business Permit”; allow customers to use computers between 6:00 AM and 1:00AM in the morning only; and provide separate rooms for clients who intend to use computers for tutorial.
The ordinance enumerates the following as prohibited acts:
Bringing liquor, drugs. Cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and other prohibited substances; performing actual sexual intercourse whether between same or opposite sex, bestiality, sadistic acts, masturbation and other similar activities in front of the computer’s webcam; Surfing web sites containing pornographic materials or those that advertise prostitution; producing and distributing images depicting the [aforementioned] prohibited acts; and online gambling.
The ordinance states that the management must be vigilant in looking after computer/internet users who are minors and must terminate the following acts being performed by them:
Sourcing, accessing, or accessing sites containing vulgar language, graphic sex and all other forms of lewd pictorial representation; and virtually chatting with people as it may lead to exploitation and experimentation with pedophiles and other sexual predators.
For the first offense, a minor caught within the premises of the computer/internet shop will be fined P1, 000.00 while the owner of the business will be given a warning. For the second offense, the minor will be fined P2, 000.00 while the owner of the business will have their business permit suspended for one month.  For the third offense, the minor will be fined P3, 000.00 while the owner of the business will have their license to operate revoked, will have their business closed, and will be fined P3, 000.00 as well.
An owner operating operation after the agreed time will be fined P3, 000.00 per offense and subject to the aforementioned penalties.
An owner operating a CCTV without the playback function will be fined P2, 000.00 per offense.
Anyone who will perform any of the acts mentioned will be fined P3, 000.00.
Minors who engage in the aforementioned additional prohibitions will be turned over to their parents. A report of violation will be furnished to the school principal for appropriate action.
The agencies/officials authorized to implement the ordinance will be the Business Permits and Licensing Division, Public Order and Safety Division, barangay officials including those appointed by the punong barangay, law enforcement agencies, and other government personnel in charge of safety and order.
The proposed ordinance was approved on first reading during the City Council’s Regular Session on January 13, 2020 and was referred to the Committee on Laws, Human Rights, and Justice for further review. – Jordan G. Habbiling