Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo on Thursday said nobody on the list of narco-politicians had been wiretapped.
Panelo backtracked from his earlier pronouncement that foreign governments had provided information obtained through wiretaps on Filipino politicians allegedly involved in illegal drugs
, but said such intelligence would not be ignored.
“As far as I know, nobody has provided us with wiretapped information,” Panelo said in a mix of English and Filipino, adding that his remarks Tuesday about foreign sources were based on an “educated guess.”
Earlier, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino said the “narco-list” of politicians allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade had come from local, not foreign sources.
President Rodrigo Duterte has authorized Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to release the list of 82 politicians, which includes at least six congressmen.
Aquino said 64 of the politicians are seeking elective positions in the May 13 midterm polls.
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“There were originally 83 in the list but with the recent arrest of Mayor [Norodin] Salazar of Maguindanao, the list is now down to 82. If I am not mistaken, at least six or seven are congressmen,” Aquino said.
Panelo on Thursday said the government would not ignore information from foreign countries just because it was obtained through wiretapping, which is illegal in the Philippines.
“We do not allow wiretapping. What I’m saying is if in the course of cooperation with other countries we are given wiretapped information, why will we not use it?,” Panelo said in a press briefing.
“If it is a matter of national security, I don’t think that it’s bad to use these information as a lead,” Panelo said, adding that he understands that information obtained illegally is inadmissible as evidence in court.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines on Thursday said the government cannot use information obtained through wiretapping without authorization from the courts.
IBP president Abdiel Dan Fajardo said that without approval from a court, wiretapping is illegal and evidence obtained through such an act is inadmissible in any proceeding.
“The Constitution describes the right to privacy of communication as inviolable. Any evidence obtained in violation of the rule is inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding. The Bill of Rights limits government power,” Fajardo said.
This is the reason the government needs to secure authorization from a court of law if it decides to eavesdrop on private conversations.
But the Commission on Human Rights and critics maintained the release of the list would violate the right to due process of people on the list.
Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said the timing of the publication set by the DILG—at the start of the campaign period—would fuel “reckless mud-slinging, character assassinations and violence.”
“If we can withhold judgment against some candidates still facing plunder cases before the Sandiganbayan, Secretary Año can also respect and follow due process,” she added.
Malacañang on Thursday said that United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet may have been fed with wrong information about the Philippines’ continuing war on illegal drugs.
Bachelet earlier said the Philippines’ war on illegal drugs is not a good model for any other country to follow.
But Panelo said Bachelet was provided with wrong information when she claimed that up to 27,000 people may have been killed in the anti-illegal drugs campaign after President Duterte assumed office in June 2016.
READ: ‘Duterte has power over narco-list’
“The number is five times higher than the government’s tally of 5,176 deaths from July 1, 2016 to Jan. 31, 2019,” Panelo said.
Panelo said the problem with the UN official is that she relies on information coming from the critics and the detractors of the administration.
Duterte’s spokesman also said the government’s drive to stop illegal drugs is governed by “strict police protocols” and law enforcers adhere to the existing laws to protect the lives of every person, including criminals.
Panelo also criticized Bachelet for meddling in the domestic affairs of the country.
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