‘WIRETAPPING’ suspected drug lords and manufacturers in the country as well as convicted big-time criminals now serving time at the national penitentiary with the court’s permission would greatly help the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies thwart and solve major criminal activities in the country, officials told the Journal Group yesterday.
Under the proposed wiretapping law of 2019, it shall be unlawful for any police, law enforcement or military official or any custodian of the tapes, discs and recording and their excerpts and summaries, written notes or memoranda to copy in whatever form, to remove, delete, expunge, incinerate, shred or destroy in any manner the items gathered during the entire wiretapping procedure.
Violation of the proposed law carries the penalty of imprisonment ranging from not less than six years and one day to 12 years.
Any unauthorized or malicious interceptions and/or recordings is also an offense which carries the maximum penalty of 12 years in prison.
The use of smuggled cellphones inside the New Bilibid Prisons and other government lock-up facilities in the country is a major problem confronting authorities. When a 38-year- old Chinese national was rescued from his kidnappers on June 24, 2018, investigators discovered that the kidnapping was perpetrated by gunmen in Cabuyao City in Laguna who were acting on orders of a convicted kidnapper already serving time at the NBP.
Records showed that Huang Bo Yu, the manager of Gold Star Stainless Steel Trading, was seized by three of the kidnappers inside the steel company in Barangay Banlic, Cabuyao City.
The gunmen barged inside the store, took its earnings for the day worth P70,000 before grabbing the victim and forcing him into their Toyota Grandia which was last seen fleeing towards the direction of Sta. Rosa City. The kidnappers also used a silver Toyota Fortuner with plate no. TGQ-449 and two motorcycles without license plates.
An investigation conducted by the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group showed that the kidnappers immediately demanded a P15 million ransom from the victim’s family but later reduced the amount to P2.5 million. Following negotiations with a friend of the victim, a total ransom of P2.4 million was paid to the kidnappers.
Three days later, PNP-AKG agents rescued the victim unharmed inside the Canlubang Golf Club. Five suspects were arrested during the operation while eight others are still being hunted as of press time.
Thirteen persons were recommended for inquest proceedings at the Department of Justice including a convicted kidnapper serving time at the NBP after he was found to be the one who negotiated for the P15-million ransom demand for the victim’s release, officials said.
Former PNP-AKG director, now retired Brigadier General Glenn G. Dumlao identified the ‘brains’ behind the kidnapping as convicted kidnapper Tyrone dela Cruz alias ‘Phiecoy/Coy/Tyron.’ “We have identified Dela Cruz as the one who negotiated the ransom with the family of Huang Bo Yu after a raid of his cell led in the recovery of smuggled cellphones which showed the calls and texts he made with the family negotiator,” the official said.
At least four mobile phones with different SIM cards were recovered during the anti-kidnapping operations. Dumlao said that the arrest of Dela Cruz ‘proved that even though he is already at the national penitentiary, he managed to continue his kidnapping-for-ransom activities, leading his cohorts outside jail each time they kidnap a target.”
Dela Cruz was sentenced to life imprisonment for the kidnapping-for-ransom of spouses Jason and Elisa Huang. He is being held at the NBP’s Maximum Security Compound which was searched by the PNP-AKG with the help of then Bureau of Corrections director, now Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ M. dela Rosa.
Both the PNP headed by General Oscar D. Albayalde and the PDEA headed by Director General Aaron N. Aquino have called the ‘wiretapping’ method as an important tool in the difficult fight against powerful drug-trafficking organizations and expressed support to planned amendments to the anti-wiretapping act to boost their ongoing campaign against big-time drug traffickers specifically shabu manufacturers and smugglers.
PDEA and PNP officials said that thru authorized wiretapping, government prosecutors will have plenty of evidence against drug manufacturers, smugglers and traffickers since the recording of them arranging a major drug deal would help nail their conviction.
Though expensive and time-consuming, wiretap investigations are already practiced in other modern countries like the United States because they help investigators catch high-ranking targets and most importantly, the live recordings indeed pack a big punch in the courtroom that cannot be matched by regular testimonies from anti-narcotics agents and other witnesses.