In­ter­cept­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions

Sun.Star Pampanga - - STORIES! -

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.