‘Wiretapping’ drug lords to boost govt’s anti-drug crackdown

Oscar D. Albayalde

AMID the controversy generated by Malacañang’s announcement that  a validated  ‘narco-list’ containing the names of 82 politicians involved in illegal drug trafficking and abuse would be released this week,  Philippine National Police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency officials have batted anew for tougher laws that will allow the ‘wiretapping’ of suspected drug lords and manufacturers in the country so that they can be clearly identified, jailed and prosecuted.

According to the PNP headed by Director General Oscar D. Albayalde and the PDEA chaired by Director General Aaron N. Aquino, wiretapping suspected ‘big fishes’ in the illegal drug industry would greatly help them in their effort to unmask and ensure the conviction of drug kingpins and their ilk in the country specifically those who are involved in the production, smuggling and large-scale trafficking of dangerous drugs as well as their protectors from the government.

The PNP and the PDEA have called the method as an important tool in the difficult fight against powerful drug-trafficking organizations and expressed support to planned amendments to the anti-wiretapping act to boost their ongoing campaign against big-time drug traffickers specifically shabu manufacturers and smugglers in the Philippines, many of them Chinese nationals.

Previously, PNP and PDEA officials said that thru authorized wiretapping, government prosecutors will have plenty of evidence against drug manufacturers, smugglers and traffickers since the recording of them arranging a major drug deal would help nail their conviction.

Aquino has revealed that 64 politicians on the ‘narco-list’ are running for different elective posts in the forthcoming May 13 elections. The suspects would be facing administrative and criminal charges which could lead to their suspension.

Officials have justified the looming release of the list saying Filipinos had the right to know who are on the ‘narco-list.’ “While we appreciate and understand the well-meaning individuals, saying that the release of the narco-list may violate the presumption of innocence, we’d like to tell them that the Constitution gives the people the right to know matters of public concerns especially those that concern their lives and welfare,” said Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo.

Panelo said the candidates included on the list have “waived” their right to be presumed innocent. “You give people a chance to defend themselves, which is why there is a constitutional presumption of innocence. But how can you demand that you are presumed innocent when you are involved in something criminal?” he pointed out.

However, legislators have reminded the Palace that any evidence, including wiretapped phone conversations, obtained without court order could not be presented in court since these would be considered “fruits of the poisonous tree.” 

Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año wants to publish the list to warn voters against choosing candidates in midterm elections who are protectors of drug traders. President Duterte himself had admitted to listening to recordings of intercepted phone conversations of alleged ‘narco-politicians.’

Veteran anti-narcotics agents have complained that they are encountering major problems in monitoring members of different Chinese, Taiwanese and West African drug syndicates using the country as a base for their illicit operations due to unavailability of a law that will allow them to wiretap identified drug lords and smugglers.

Last year, the House of Representatives approved on 3rd and final reading a bill that aims to authorize wiretapping in cases involving drug trafficking and other related cases. The measure sought to amend the 53-year-old Republic Act 4200 or the law that prohibits and penalizes “wiretapping and other related violations of the privacy of communication.”  

In House Bill 8378, wiretapping can be legal if sanctioned by the judiciary and if law enforcers see the need for it against suspects who are deemed to have violated the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs law, among others.