Bill for cell phone tapping vs 4 crimes now in Senate plenary
MANILA — A bill expanding exemptions to the Anti-Wiretapping Law has reached the Senate plenary, a measure largely supported by lawmakers who back moves to boost law enforcement capabilities against drugs, robbery, money laundering and other crimes.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, brought to the Senate floor on Wednesday afternoon a bill consolidating four similar measures seeking to amend the antiquated law penalizing wiretapping of private communication.
In his sponsorship speech, Lacson cited the imperative of amending the Anti-Wiretapping Law of 1965 to enable law enforcers to intercept communication of suspects tagged in a wider spectrum of crimes.
“I think it is a must that our law enforcement agencies and the military are able to prevent and detect crimes by being able to intercept communications, conversations, discussions, data, information, messages in whatever form, kind or nature, spoken or written words through the use of electronic, mechanical or other equipment or device or technology now known or may hereafter be known to science,” Lacson said.
“These days, kidnappers no longer use landlines to negotiate ransom with relatives of their victims or in talking to each other…. They use text messaging. They use cell phones not only because that is our our technology today, but they are probably aware that their communication is not likely to be intercepted by law enforcement agents. Landlines, Mr. President, are already a thing of the past,” he said.
Senate Bill No. 1210, or the proposed Expanded Anti-Wiretapping Act of 2016, allows authorities to eavesdrop on suspects involved in five more crimes: coup d’état, conspiracy and proposal to commit coup d’état; robbery in band as defined and penalized by Articles 294, 295, 296, 299 and 302 of the Revised Penal Code; brigandage or highway robbery; violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002; and violations of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001.
Currently, the law only grants exemptions to the wiretapping ban in “cases involving the crimes of treason, espionage, provoking war and disloyalty in case of war, piracy, mutiny in the high seas, rebellion, conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion, inciting to rebellion, sedition, conspiracy to commit sedition, inciting to sedition, kidnapping as defined by the Revised Penal Code, and violations of Commonwealth Act No. 616, punishing espionage and other offenses against national security.”
“Though inclusion of additional crimes may appear to open wider gates towards the curtailment of the right to privacy, I encourage our distinguished colleagues to view the said amendment rather as a vital tool in enhancing crime prevention and suppression,” Lacson said.
Under the proposed law, wiretapping may only be allowed if granted authorization by a regional trial court, and only there is proven reasonable ground that the subject of the wiretap may be involved in the exempt crimes, if evidence to be gathered by wiretapping is is crucial, and if “there are no other effective means readily available for obtaining such evidence,” Lacson said. SFM/rga
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