Wiretapping vs drugs, crime

December 02, 2018
Rodrigo R. Duterte

THE House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a proposed law authorizing wiretapping in cases involving illegal drug trafficking and other cases to boost President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s war on drugs and crime.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, who chairs the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, said all 216 members approved House Bill (HB) No. 8378 on third and final reading which amends for the purpose Republic Act No. 4200, entitled: “An Act To Prohibit And Penalize Wire Tapping And Other Related Violations Of The Privacy Of Communication, And For Other Purposes”.

Barbers said the bill seeks to expand the coverage of the Anti-Wiretapping Law to include communication involving other organized and syndicated crimes not previously covered in the law.

“This is a big boost to the anti-illegal drugs war of President Duterte and his campaign to arrest all forms of criminalities,” said Barbers.

Quezon City Rep. Winston “Winnie” Castelo, one of the authors of the consolidated measure, said “the right to privacy of Filipinos is also protected under the measure.”

“There must be a lawful order from the court before allowing wiretapping on some cases,” said Castelo, who chairs the House Committee on Metro Manila Development.

At the same time, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, also one of the authors, said the proposed amendments would now cover the wiretapping ban on the use of any electronic, mechanical, digital or analog phone system, or similar devices.

“The measure seeks to outlaw eavesdropping on private communications using modern electronic gadgets or devices and at the same time allows law enforcers to conduct wiretapping on some cases, but with the presence of permit from the court,” said Evardone, the chairman of the House Committee on Public Information.

The present law passed on June 19, 1965 only prohibits wiretapping through the use of dictaphones, dictagraphs, walkie-talkies, and tape recorders.

The committee report on HB No. 8378, which substituted eight related measures, was endorsed in the plenary by the Barbers panel.

The report includes drug offenses, coup d’etat or conspiracy and proposal to commit coup d’etat, piracy, robbery in band, highway robbery, graft and corrupt practices, syndicated illegal recruitment as well as money laundering.

“It’s time that we amend the Anti-Wiretapping Law to keep pace with the advances in communications and telecommunications to protect our privacy and define privileged communication,” said Barbers.

The bill also bans public telecommunication entities “to retain data for more than one year, except those records of voice and data which are the subject of a pending case.”

It imposes six months to six years imprisonment and “without the benefit of probation” on violators.

Aside from Barbers and Castelo, other authors are Reps. Michael Odylon Romero, Leopoldo Bataoil, Romeo Acop, Enrico Pineda, Cristal Bagatsing, Gary Alejano, Horacio Suansing Jr., Arnulfo Teves Jr., Rozzano Rufino Biazon, Joseph Stephen Paduano, Cesar Sarmiento, Edgar Mary Sarmiento, Pablo Ortega, Antonio Tinio, France Castro, Rodel Batocabe, Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin,  Reps. Scott Davies Lanete, Gus Tambunting, Raul Del Mar, Gwendolyn Garcia, Amado Espino Jr., Henry Oaminal and Emi Calixto-Rubiano.