By JIGGER JERUSALEM
VICE President Maria Leonor Robredo has reminded President Rodrigo Duterte that allowing foreign intelligence agencies to spy on Filipino civilians is not allowed under the law.
“It’s frightening, what the President said, that his source of information came from a foreign government that is spying on the Filipino people. First of all, it’s unlawful. Our laws don’t allow it,” Robredo said in Filipino, during her recent visit here.
Among the laws protecting the Filipinos from surveillance is RA 4200 or the Anti-Wiretapping Act, enacted in 1965.
She said this action would have an impact not only on the Filipinos’ privacy but on the country’s security as well.
“Does it mean that it (foreign intelligence) is being favored more than the Filipino citizens? If you are a public official, the protection of the interest of the Filipinos must be your utmost mission,” she said.
Robredo said allowing an intelligence entity from another country to do surveillance on the Philippines’ communications system is a “serious crime.”
The vice president was referring to an alleged move to oust Duterte shown in a diagram published in The Manila Times accusing some media organizations, journalists, lawyers and other personalities as the ones behind it.
Among those implicated were the Phil. Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), Vera Files, Rappler, and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).
The groups mentioned have since issued separate statements denying the accusation.
“It’s downright false. It’s hilarious. But what I find disturbing is, if this is the kind of intelligence report that the President gets and bases his actions and policies on, the country is in big trouble,” said Vera Files president Ellen Tordesillas in a statement following the publication of the so-called oust-Duterte matrix.
Robredo said it would be best if the government will first validate the veracity of the diagram as it is not the first time that Duterte has made public a matrix detailing the persons behind an alleged plot to destabilize his administration, and in one of those, even the vice president’s name was mentioned.
“I think the President must tell the truth. Did he really allow it to be done to our people?” she said, in reference to Duterte’s claim that a foreign-based intelligence agency has conducted the spying on the Filipinos.
For his part, Bayan Muna and NUPL chairperson Neri Colmenares questioned Duterte’s pronouncement.
“But who is this ‘foreign intelligence body’ that’s apparently conducting some surveillance on lawyers and journalists? Why is the president putting much more store into their foreign intelligence body than that of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) which denied there was such as Oust Duterte plot?” the lawmaker said.
If Duterte was indeed listening to and basing his actions on reports of this unidentified foreign intelligence body, Colmenares said, “then he is committing many violations.”
At most, he said, Duterte is acting “treasonous” in relying on reports that came from a foreign surveillance agency, especially if in following this, the President will end up suppressing dissenters.