Did Hon­tiveros vi­o­late wire-tap law?

Sun.Star Davao - - OPINION -

“Why is the jus­tice sec­re­tary in­vok­ing the Anti-Wire Tap­ping Law? Is he ad­mit­ting that the text con­ver­sa­tion is real?” -- Sen. Risa Hon­tiveros, Sept. 13, 2017

DID Sen­a­tor Ana There­sia Hon­tiveros tap the text mes­sag­ing be­tween Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Vi­tal­iano Aguirre II and a for­mer con­gress­man? Did she “se­cretly” peer over, “in­ter­cept” or “record” the text con­ver­sa­tion be­tween the two men?

She did not. An uniden­ti­fied video or still pho­tog­ra­pher did but the re­sult must not have been in­tended. Sec­re­tary Aguirre, a pub­lic fig­ure, was a key per­son­al­ity at the Sept. 5 Se­nate hear­ing on the P6.4-bil­lion shabu smug­gled through the Bureau of Cus­toms. He was fair tar­get for photos in a pub­lic set­ting and event.

No­body could’ve been eaves­drop­ping. Aguirre was prob­a­bly just be­ing reck­less. Adept at cov­er­ing his ears at the Corona im­peach­ment trial in 2012, he was clumsy in shield­ing his phone from pry­ing eyes. Pos­ses­sion, use But Sen­a­tor Risa did “know­ingly” keep the con­tent of the text mes­sage, which said Aguirre and the con­gress­man should speed up their moves against the sen­a­tor. Risa did “com­mu­ni­cate” the mes­sage and re­ply, know­ing that it was in­ter­cepted.

It’s not the kind en­vi­sioned by R.A. #4200. Not done by eaves­drop­ping de­vice, which records a con­ver­sa­tion with the con­sent of all par­ties. The wire-tap law law was passed on June 19, 1965, some 27 years be­fore peo­ple started us­ing text mes­sages (in 1992).

Yet, R.A. #4200 also spec­i­fies “pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” which may ap­ply to SMS ma­te­rial. Though in this case, it was most likely legally ob­tained and dis­closed by the sen­a­tor for a valid and law­ful rea­son. Did Risa breach con­fi­den­tial­ity within the mean­ing of the wire-tap law? Ap­par­ently not, though Aguirre might push the ques­tion in court.


But the is­sue at the mo­ment is whether the sen­a­tor was jus­ti­fied in us­ing con­fi­den­tial com­mu­ni­ca­tion to ex­pose what she saw as an aber­ra­tion of jus­tice: a DOJ sec­re­tary “plot­ting” with an ex-con­gress­man on how to take a sen­a­tor down. One in­con­gruity af­ter an­other. First, it was in­con­gru­ous that a DOJ chief would be work­ing with an an­ti­crime group leader on how to frus­trate the pros­e­cu­tion of abu­sive po­lice ac­cused of killing a crime sus­pect.

Sec­ond, it was in­con­gru­ous that the tan­dem would be talk­ing about fast­track­ing the reprisal against the sen­a­tor who could be pro­tect­ing wit­nesses to a mur­der against pos­si­ble tam­per­ing by the po­lice.


Awk­ward even if not sur­pris­ing from a jus­tice sec­re­tary who may have bun­gled a few times more than his high po­si­tion al­lows. And dis­turb­ing, when taken with other moves to sup­press dis­sent to the spate of killings of drug sus­pects in the coun­try.

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