InowHAVE often wondered why until the government has not filed charges against any one of those included in President Duterte’s list of narco-politicians. Presidential spokesperson and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo may have provided a clue when he said the list is based on phone conversations that some foreign governments wiretapped and shared with us.
Wiretapping is illegal, even criminal, and any evidence acquired through it is inadmissible in court for being what the lawyers pompously describe as the fruit of a poisonous tree. And because they have no independent evidence to pin down the suspects, our authorities have decided to shame them instead by publishing the so-called narcolist.
The purpose of the anti-wiretapping law is to protect the privacy of our citizens. Can you imagine if anyone can just eavesdrop on your conversations and get away with it? Well, the spy agencies of China, Russia, Israel and the United States will not only get away with their invasion of our privacy of communications, they might even get a huge thank you card from our government if Panelo can have his way.
While wiretapping is illegal in the Philippines, Panelo said that there is no law that prohibits “accepting intercepted information and that the Philippines should be grateful for the foreign help.” No law? Try profiting from the effects of the crime, sir.
We’re not naive. The sharing of intelligence information is standard practice among nations, especially on those matters that are a common concern. The drug menace is a global threat and other nations should be interested in what is happening in our streets as we should be in theirs. Certainly, many if not of most of the shared information were not acquired through legitimate means.
But this is the first time that I heard a government publicly extolling another government, in fact many governments, for spying on its citizens by tapping their phone calls and it is unsettling. If the government cannot, will not, safeguard our right to privacy, who will?
But why should we worry unless we are into the drug trade ourselves? That is completely missing the point which is that the government’s praise of the foreign wiretappers can be interpreted as a go signal to indiscriminate eavesdropping, an invitation to disregard the law that prescribes the process through which legitimate interception of information, as Panelo put it, can be had.
The drug problem is a very serious one and we are grateful to President Duterte for making the eradication of this social evil the cornerstone of his administration. He cannot win the war on his own. We have to support him.
But there are areas that should remain sacred and kept immune from the drug war’s overreach. The citizen’s right to be secure from any unwarranted and unnecessary invasion of his privacy is one of them.