Laying the Foundation of Digital Law in the Philippines

Australia Awards alumnus Arvin Razon inspires conversations among future lawyers on the socio-economic rights of Filipinos in the digital age

The increasing number of cases related to data privacy and data protection, including rampant dissemination of fake news and commitment of cybercrimes, is driving Filipinos to learn more about advance communication technologies as we navigate the Digital Age.

For Australia Awards alumnus and lawyer Arvin Razon, navigating this age means having meaningful discussions on advancing and protecting the socio-economic rights of Filipinos in the digital environment. Arvin found the perfect opportunity for this pursuit in his Australia Awards Scholarships re-entry action plan (REAP).

“Technology and innovation are always there, but there doesn’t seem to be enough discourse on it – both in the legal community and academe, where an understanding of what these technologies mean on the various aspects of our lives can take place. I wanted to do my part in helping bridge that gap,” he said.

Integrating Technology Law in the Educational System

Before his Australia Awards journey, Arvin was an associate in SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan, one of the largest law firms in the Philippines, and a part-time lecturer at the Commercial Law Department of De La Salle University’s (DLSU) College of Business. Inspired by his background and experiences, Arvin wanted his REAP to expand research for technology law and teaching it as an undergraduate course. His goal was to encourage interest on digital law among students through academic discourse and research.

While the REAP was meant to be implemented upon the scholar’s return to the Philippines, Arvin started implementing his REAP even while he was still in Australia. While pursuing a Master of Laws at the University of Melbourne, Arvin wrote five articles on digital law for his REAP, which were published and recognised in local and international publications.

“Because I focused on technology law for my postgrad, having published papers and presented conferences on the matter, I was able to deep dive into the field and understand its nuances,” he said.

Upon his return to the Philippines in 2019, Arvin worked on completing his REAP right away. He applied his learnings in Australia in designing the course Digital Law (DIGILAW), which he now teaches as an elective course in DLSU.

Tackling the Digital Future

The effect of the course on DLSU’s students was just as Arvin had hoped. Their personal reflections and discussions after taking up DIGILAW have led to meaningful conversations among some of the country’s future lawyers. Cedrick Malabanan, a DLSU student who took up the course, shared: “I was able to see how the continuous development of technology poses inevitable problems on outdated laws and jurisprudence in the country. This realisation, along with key lessons on mass media, blockchain and other technological terms that are governed by outdated laws, were an eye-opener for me as a future lawyer.”

He added: “DIGILAW gave me the idea that technology, although beneficial to every person, poses a lot of concerns on security and legality precisely because of the way our laws tackle these problems. With Atty. Razon’s expertise on the subject and the Socratic method paired with newer ways of learning such as asynchronous sessions and action research, I was able to enjoy my time with DIGILAW while learning important lessons that would help in grasping the current situation of technology in our country.”

Aimee Jane Kho, another DIGILAW student, said the course allowed her to appreciate how technological advancements have been affecting laws and almost every aspect of people’s lives. “The course made me aware of how I should protect my data, what I post online and many other questions I would not have wondered about. It made me conscious on how I should deal with technology in the era of the internet of things,” she said.

The students of the course are required to apply the lessons they learned through a capstone project – either a research undertaking or a business proposal that has technology law implications. Arvin’s research was also recognised during the DLSU College of Business Virtual Research Summit 2020.

Taking Things a Step Further

Arvin also plans to launch a book on technology and its impact in various fields of law. With meaningful discussions starting among the country’s future lawyers and a growing pool of research in this pioneering field, Arvin’s new pursuit is poised to help more Filipinos navigate the uncertain yet inevitable future of the digital age.