PNP proposes ‘wiretapping’ to address terror threats

September 02, 2019

THE Philippine National Police has proposed to the 18th Congress the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2019 which will allow the justified wiretapping of suspected terrorist and other criminal groups to help thwart their activities, the Journal Group was told yesterday.

In pushing for an act amending certain provisions of Republic Act No. 9372 otherwise known as “An Act to Secure the State and Protect our People from Terrorism,’ the PNP leadership headed by General Oscar D. Albayalde underscored the need to allow wiretapping of terror and crime suspects in order to arrest their dangerous plots.

Under its proposed ‘Anti-Terrorism Act of 2019,’ the PNP wants authorized surveillance of suspects and interception and recording of communications for not more than 90 days.

The legislative agenda forwarded to the 18th Congress by the PNP Directorate for Plans headed by Major General Jonas B. Calleja justified wiretapping as part of the PNP’s effort to effectively address transnational crime and emerging forms of criminality, insurgency and serious threats to national security including terrorism.

It said the provisions of Republic Act 4200 or the Anti-Wiretapping Law and RA 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2002 to the contrary notwithstanding, a police or law enforcement official and the members of his team or military personnel may, upon a written order of the Court of Appeals or Regional Trial Court which has territorial jurisdiction over the area where the suspected persons or group of persons are located or operating, listen to intercept and record, with the use of any mode, form, kind or type of electronic or other surveillance equipment or intercepting and tracking devices, or with the use of any suitable ways and means for that purpose, any communication, message, conversation, discussion or spoken or written words between members of a judicially declared and outlawed terrorist organization.

As provided for in Section 23 of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2019,   between members of a designated person as defined in Section 3 (e) of RA No. 1016 otherwise known as the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012, or (c) {association, or group of persons or of any person charged with or suspected of any or any of the crimes of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism will be defined and penalized under the law.

However, the PNP emphasized that surveillance interception and recording of communications between lawyers and client, doctors and patients, journalists and their sources and confidential business correspondents shall not be authorized.

The legislative proposal also says that in case of an actual or reasonable belief of imminent terrorist attack, the Court of Appeals or the Regional Trial Court upon certification of the Anti-Terrorism Commission based on reasonable ground of suspicion on the part of the law enforcement or military personnel, shall have the power to compel telecom and Internet service providers to produce all customer information and identification records as well as call and text data records and other cellular or Internet metadata of any person suspected of involvement in terror attacks or imminent terror plots.

The measure says that law enforcers or the military needs to formally apply for a judicial authorization before doing the wiretaps. “The written order of the authorizing division of the Court of Appeals to locate, track down, tap, listen to, intercept, and record communications, messages, conversations, discussions, or spoken or written words of any person or group of persons suspected to be involved in terror activities shall only be granted by the authorizing division of the Court of Appeals or the Regional Trial Court upon an ex parte written application of officers who have been duly authorized in writing by the Anti-Terrorism Council.

It also says that the written order shall be deemed as classified information, thus access to the said documents and any information contained in said documents shall be limited to the applicants, duly authorized personnel of the Anti-Terrorism Commission, the hearing justices or judge, the clerk of court and duly-authorized personnel of the hearing or issuing court.

The proposal also says that the person being surveyed or whose communications, letters, papers, messages, conversations, discussions, spoken or written words and effected have been monitored listened to, bugged or recorded by law enforcement authorities has the right to be informed of the acts done by security forces in the premises or to challenge, if he or she intends to do so, the legality of the interference before the Court of Appeals which issued the written order.