House OKs bill including electronic devices under Anti-Wiretapping Law
MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives approved on 3rd and final reading a bill that would amend the 53-year-old Anti-Wiretapping Law to include the usage of electronic devices.
Lawmakers gave their nod to House Bill (HB) No. 8378 with a vote of 216-0-0 on Monday, November 26.
HB 8378 would amend Section 1 of Republic Act No. 4200 so that listening to or recording private communication using "any electronic, mechanical, digital or analog phone system, or similar devices" will be included in the list of prohibited acts.
The Anti-Wiretapping Law currently prohibits wiretapping using only dictaphones, dictagraphs, walkie-talkies, and tape recorders – making it unable to adapt to modern technology.
HB 8378 also seeks to impose stiffer penalties against those caught violating the Anti-Wiretapping Law. Violators stand to face jail time from 6 months to a maximum of 6 years without probation.
If the violator is a public official, he or she would also be perpetually disqualified from public office. If the offender is a foreigner, he or she would be deported after serving his or her sentence.
Meanwhile, the House bill also widens the scope of cases where wiretapping is allowed to be conducted by law enforcers with authorization from the court.
If passed into law, HB 8378 would allow law enforcement agencies to conduct wiretapping activities in cases involving the following:
- Proving war and disloyalty in case of war
- Mutiny in the high seas
- Conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion
- Inciting to rebellion
- Coup d'etat
- Conspiracy and proposal to commit coup d'etat
- Conspiracy to commit sedition
- Inciting to sedition
- Robbery in band
- Syndicated illegal recruitment
- Violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002
- Violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act
- Violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001
- Violation of Commonwealth Act No. 616 on espionage and other offenses against national security
Former Dangerous Drugs Board chief Benjamin Reyes previously said the Anti-Wiretapping Law in its current form makes it difficult for the government to go after drug lords, who likely make use of digital technology in their illegal operations.
Senator Grace Poe previously filed a bill seeking to exempt law enforcement agencies from the Anti-Wiretapping Law.
The Senate version of HB 8378 has already passed the committee level. – Rappler.com