Senators agree to amend anti-wiretapping law to snag drug syndicates

MANILA — Senators agreed Thursday to make amendments to the current anti-wiretapping law to make it easier for law enforcers to catch suspected drug syndicates red-handed.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, during the second Senate committee hearing on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, explained that probable cause is all the evidence needed for a judge or court to allow wiretapping.

Senator Leila de Lima however said she is keen on increasing the present threshold to be in between probable cause and proof beyond reasonable doubt.

She explained that if probable cause would be the only evidence necessary after preliminary investigation, it would give investigators and prosecutors an excuse to be lazy.

“If there is no higher threshold than probable cause, the best remedy is that both law enforcers and prosecutors should really take earnest efforts in doing buildup of cases when these cases are filed in the court,” de Lima said.

She said she wants to refile her Criminal Investigation Bill where both law enforcers and prosecutors would be required to raise efforts in doing case buildup.

“If the prosecutor is already present during case buildup, there will be a higher chance of success,” de Lima said.

She meanwhile called on fellow legislators to strike a healthy balance between empowering law enforcers to wiretap and ensuring that there is no intrusion into private affairs.

President Rodrigo Duterte has recently claimed that he holds alleged wiretapped conversations between de Lima and her driver Ronnie Dayan that reveal her alleged illegal drug-related activities inside the New Bilibid Prison.

De Lima has repeatedly maintained her innocence, noting that she never coddled or even benefitted from drugs.

Asked by committee chair, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, if the Philippine National Police (PNP) has the capability to wiretap electronic communication, PNP Chief Dir. Gen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said they do not.

Senators Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao noted that telecommunication companies or telcos are best capable of wiretapping.

Pacquiao also shared that government officials he spoke to abroad told him that they make sure that their technology is more advanced than that of private companies but in the Philippines, he said, it is the other way around.

The boxer-senator also suggested to invite telco heads to the next hearing. Azer Parrocha/PNA/