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Narcs ask to be allowed to tap private phones

By: - Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 01:48 PM March 31, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency is seeking authority to tap into private telephone conversations to enable its agents to more effectively keep track of big-time drug traffickers.

PDEA Director General Jose S. Gutierrez Jr. on Saturday pushed for the inclusion of drug trafficking on the list of crimes that may warrant the issuance of a court order allowing a government agency to wiretap the telephones of certain individuals.

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“The present law does not include drug-related activities in the list of exemptions that will merit court order for authority to conduct wire-tapping as investigation tool,” he said, citing Section 3 of Republic Act 4200, the anti-wiretapping law.

Under that law, peace officers may secure a court order to wiretap persons suspected of committing or having committed crimes such as treason, espionage, provoking war and disloyalty in case of war, piracy, mutiny on the high seas, and rebellion.

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Gutierrez said his agency has already asked Congress to include drug activities on the list of exemptions to the anti-wiretapping law.

“We have already submitted the agency’s proposal for the inclusion of drug-related activities in the lawful acts listed in RA 4200,” he said.

In the statement, Gutierrez called for “appropriate and timely legislation  that will give more teeth to the anti-drug law and empower the agency to effectively execute its mandate to fight illegal drugs in the country.”

He noted that the latest International Narcotics Control Strategy Report  indicated that in order to enable the Philippine government to address drug trafficking in the country, additional investigative and judicial tools should be developed.

The report noted there is a need for judicially authorized interception of criminal communications, improved law enforcer-prosecutor coordination, and an efficient asset forfeiture process, he said.

Gutierrez also proposed the establishment of an “Office of the Special Prosecutor for Dangerous Drugs (OSPDD)” to serve as an independent and autonomous body that would concentrate on the prosecution of “big fishes” linked to the drug trade, including elected or appointed public officials and police or military officials.

“Considering the average time it takes to try a case, the anticipated creation of the OSPDD is expected to speed up the promulgation of cases against high-value targets. Deliberation in Congress is still on-going for the creation of the OSPDD,” he said.

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Gutierrez added that the international report on drugs indicated the asset forfeiture process as another area of concern.

Under Section 20 of Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, forfeiture proceedings are done only after the accused has been convicted of the crime.

Gutierrez said the PDEA has already sent Congress  a proposal recommending that the assets of drug personalities be forfeited in favor of the government even while the case is still being heard.

“We spend for storage and maintenance of the seized properties for the duration of the trial. Our resources are already limited as it is, so it is really a big burden on our part to shoulder storage and maintenance expense of the seized properties while under our custody,” Gutierrez said.

The international report also cited the need for adequate funding and manpower and to formalize the support system of other law enforcement units and military task forces to empower PDEA as the lead anti-drug agency,  he said.

“Indeed, there is a need to improve our laws to give more teeth to the anti-drug campaign. We have already relayed these concerns to Congress and efforts are already underway,” he said.

“We are confident that our lawmakers will accord these concerns with due priority to be able to effectively and efficiently win over the war against illegal drugs for the Filipino people,” Gutierrez said.

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TAGS: Drugs, Police, Police Bugging, Wire-tapping
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