• Ombudsman backs changes in anti-wiretapping law

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    The Office of the Ombudsman supports an amendment to the anti-wiretapping law allowing wiretapping for purposes of investigation without violating constitutional rights.

    Republic Act (RA) 4200 prohibits and punishes wiretapping and related violations of communication privacy, except in certain cases and provided that there is a court order.

    “Of course, we also advocate legislative reforms in order to strengthen our resolve to choke impunity. We also get some results from Congress, while our proposed bills with respect to other matters are still pending consideration,” Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said in an anti-corruption forum earlier this month in Quezon City (Metro Manila).

    “We’re trying to see to it if we can modify the wiretapping law so that we can probably use wiretapping without violating constitutional rights. Among other things also, we want to see to it that our investigators should also be given immunity from false accusations in order to discourage them from doing what is expected of them,” she added.

    Under RA 4200, authorities are allowed—provided that they are authorized by a written court order–to wiretap in cases involving treason, espionage, sedition, rebellion and kidnapping, among others.

    There are proposals in Congress to expand this law in order to cover other cases as well.

    House Bill 5044 was earlier introduced by Pangasinan Sixth District Rep. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas to amend RA 6770 or the Ombudsman Act of 1989 in order to, among others, give the Ombudsman the power to “[e]mploy wiretapping as an investigative technique when the circumstances of a case so warrant.”

    For this purpose, the bill seeks to amend RA No. 4200 by including plunder cases, graft cases, cases of forfeiture of alleged ill-gotten wealth and other cases involving offenses allegedly committed by public officers “in the cases for which wiretapping may be allowed after an application for and grant of a judicial authority.”

    The proposed measure has been pending with the House Committee on Justice since September 2014.

    Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1210 or the proposed Expanded Anti-Wiretapping Act of 2016 aims to include cases of coup d’état, robbery in band and brigandage/highway robbery as well as cases involving alleged violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act and of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

    The bill, which was pending on second reading as of October, was filed by Senators Gregorio Honasan 2nd, Panfilo Lacson, Grace Poe, Juan Edgardo Angara and Vicente Sotto 3rd.

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