Congress has approved on third and final reading a bill authorizing wiretapping in cases involving illegal drug trafficking to back the Duterte administration’s war on drugs and other crimes.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, House committee on dangerous drugs chairperson, said all 216 members have already approved House Bill No. 8378 on third and final reading that would amend Republic Act No. 4200 or “An Act To Prohibit And Penalize Wire-Tapping And Other Related Violations Of The Privacy Of Communication, And For Other Purposes.”
The measure seeks to expand the coverage of the anti-wiretapping law to include communications involving other organized and syndicated crimes not previously covered in the prevailing law.
“This is a big boost to the anti-illegal drugs war of President [Rodrigo] Duterte and his campaign to arrest all forms of criminalities,” Barbers said.
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, a co-author, assured the public that their right to privacy would also be protected under the law.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, another co-author, said the proposed amendments would extend the coverage of the wiretapping ban to include any electronic, mechanical, digital or analogue phone system or other similar devices.
The present law passed on June 19, 1965 prohibits wiretapping only through the use of dictaphones, dictagraphs, walkie-talkies and tape recorders.
The committee report on HB No. 8378, which substituted eight related measures, was endorsed to the plenary by the Barbers panel.
Wiretapping will be allowed in cases involving drug offenses, coup d’etat or conspiracy and proposal to commit coup d’etat, piracy, robbery in band, highway robbery, graft and corrupt practices, syndicated illegal recruitment and money laundering.
“It’s time that we amend the anti-wiretapping law to keep pace with the advances in communications and telecommunications to protect our privacy and define privileged communication,” Barbers said.
The bill would also bar public telecommunication entities “to retain data for more than one year, except those records of voice and data which are the subject of a pending case.”