Senate bill allows courts to order telcos to help police in wiretapping

A new bill filed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson will amend and update the existing Anti-Wiretapping Law, allowing law enforcers to wiretap those involved in crimes like drugs, money-laundering and coups.

Image credit: Foundation for Economic Education

Under Lacson’s bill, the court may order telecommunication firms or Internet service providers to cooperate with law enforcement in wiretapping. Unjustifiable refusal may mean a fine of P1 to P3 million.

But Lacson said Senate Bill 22, which seeks to amend and update the 54-year-old Republic Act 4200, also contains provisions protecting people’s right to privacy.

“With the following exceptions, wiretapping, though limited in its applications, has been an effective tool by our law enforcement agencies against criminal elements who have wreaked havoc, instability and lack of equanimity in our country to the detriment of many of our peace-loving citizens. Unfortunately, there are still certain crimes that are not covered under the said exceptional cases, which put not only the lives and property of our people in paramount danger, but also pose a grave threat to our nation’s security,” he said.

“The peace-and-order situation in the country gives testament to this fact and thus, it is imperative for us to revisit RA 4200 in order to further enhance its effectiveness,” he added.

Lacson’s bill allows law enforcement or military officers authorized by the court to conduct wiretapping against:

  • Coup d’etat
  • Conspiracy and proposal to commit coup d’etat
  • Robbery in band
  • Brigandage/highway robbery
  • Violations of RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002
  • Violations of RA 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001

Under the present law, instances where wiretapping is allowed includes 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 and violations of Commonwealth Act No. 616, punishing espionage and other offenses against national security.

The Human Security Act of 2007 also included terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorism to the list, provided it is with a written order from the Court of Appeals.

Also, the bill decrees that the sale or importation of wiretapping equipment may be allowed only upon written authority from the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

Agencies such as the Philippine National Police, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, National Bureau of Investigation and the Armed Forces of the Philippines may procure such equipment through limited source bidding or direct contracting as provided under Republic Act 9184.

Violators face six to 12 years in jail and a fine of P1 to P5 million. If the violator is a public official, he/she is permanently disqualified from public office. If the violator is an alien, he/she shall be subject to deportation proceedings after serving his/her sentence.

Meanwhile, those who manufacture, assemble, sell, import or distribute wiretapping equipment without securing the needed permit may face three to six years in jail and a fine of P500,000 to P2 million. Their equipment will be automatically forfeited in favor of the government.

On the other hand, those who conceal, destroy or reveal the contents of wiretapped materials without written authority from the court may face jail of six to 12 years and a fine of P1 to P5 million.

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