PH acquisition of spy gadgets worries opposition
MANILA, Philippines – The defense department is acquiring spy gadgets to combat terrorism but the opposition is worried the government will use it against them.
The Department of National Defense (DND) on Thursday, April 10, confirmed the purchase of Radio Frequency Test Equipment (RFTE) "intended for counterterrorism and monitoring the activities of those who intend to wreak havoc and sow terror in our communities."
United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary-general Toby Tiangco said this bothers them. "At first it seemed like part of the AFP’s intelligence upgrading, but what bothered us is that will be used to spy on civilians particularly critics of the administration,” Tiangco said.
RFTE is a surveillance equipment worth P135 million (about $3M). The contract was signed in February.
Tiangco cited Republic Act 4200 or the Anti-Wiretapping Law which prohibits the unauthorized recording of private communications "but with a limited and narrowly drawn exception for law enforcers who must first secure a court order, and if the cases only involve crimes against national security."
DND gave assurances the military will not intrude into the privacy of citizens. "The acquisition project falls within the ambit of the Human Security Act of 2007 or the Act To Secure The State And Protect Our People From Terrorism," DND added.
Military intelligence chief Major General Eduardo Año also told Rappler: "We don't have that equipment in our inventory right now. But if ever we will have those kind of equipment, we will not be involved in politics. ISAFP is a professional intel organization and our main job is to gather intelligence against threats to national security and terrorist groups only."
The Philippines is not new to wiretapping controversy.
A wiretapped conversation between former president Gloria Arroyo and then elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano during the 2004 presidential elections turned into a scandal in 2005. It sparked calls for Arroyo's resignation since it reinforced allegations she cheated her way to victory.
Arroyo survived the protests and was able to finish her 9-year term in 2010.
The major opposition alliance UNA is expected to have Vice President Jejomar Binay as its standard bearer in the 2016 presidential race. The administration's prospective presidential bet is Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II of the ruling Liberal Party. – Rappler.com