Leila de Lima yesterday complained that her phones are being wiretapped and wondered if it was in connection with her supposed involvement in the illegal drug trade.
At the Senate hearing on the proposal authorizing the wiretapping of communications of suspected drug pushers, De Lima said: “Sa akin, matagal nang na na-tap ang aking mga cellphone.”
“What legitimate purpose is being served? Kung ganun, terrorist po ba ako o dahil ‘yung sinasabi ng iba na coddler ako? ‘Yun ba ang purpose kung bakit ti-nap ang cellphones ko ngayon?” De Lima said.
In response, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said in jest: “I have also suspected that my cellphone is being tapped.”
De Lima, who laughed at the PNP’s chief reply, then asked who could be wiretapping their phones.
“Your honor the technology. We have no control over the technology. Meron daw mga foreigners na may technology na ganyan but wala tayong control sa ganyan. They can monitor our conversation from far away,” Dela Rosa replied.
De Lima had been tagged by President Duterte in the alleged illegal drug operations inside the New Bilibid Prisons, but the lady senator has denied the accusation, saying it was a form of harassment.
De Lima, former secretary of the Department of Justice, said that while she supports necessary amendments to the Anti-Wiretapping Act, there should be balance, especially to ensure that an individual’s right to privacy is respected.
“[Kapag] nakakalimutan natin respetuhin ang karapatan especially the rights of privacy, wala nang legitimate purpose kung hindi tama,” De Lima said.
The same concern was aired by Senator Panfilo Lacson on the measure filed by Senator Gringo Honasan.
“‘Yung privacy ng communication baka don tayo madale, gusto naming suportahan ito but you might intrude into the privacy of other parties,” Lacson said.
In his bill, Honasan said drug pushers, manufacturers, cultivators, importers and financiers can be pursued better if the authorities’ enforcement capabilities and investigative tools would be enhanced.
Honasan said the Anti-Wiretapping Act of 1965 should already be amended because it restricts the use of “judicially authorized interception of criminal communications and procedures.”
Asked whether they have the technical capability to intercept electronic communications, the PNP and DoJ officials present during the hearing answered in the negative.
“How I wish we have that capability,” dela Rosa said.
De Lima maintained her innocence amid the relentless attacks and tirades by some quarters desperately linking her to the illegal drug trade.
“I take deep offense about those accusations hurled by no less than the highest official of the land. These accusations about me being a drug coddler, or a coddler of drug convicts, or even being involved in drugs, are so outrageous. It’s an absolute lie,” De Lima said.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, De Lima denounced what she believed to be an orchestrated demolition job against her in an attempt to distract her from pursuing a Senate investigation into the spate of extrajudicial and vigilante killings.
“I was warned that if I proceeded with the Senate inquiry, they would destroy me. Even if this is not really good for me, this is certainly bad for the President because I know what the truth is, and the truth is on my side,” she told Amanpour.
The former justice secretary made it clear she supports the on-going anti-drug campaign, but but it must be with the least number of casualties.
She said that the scourge of killings could be prevented by fixing the criminal justice system.
“Yes, there are still a lot to fix in our criminal justice system. Let’s fix the law enforcement. Let’s make it more efficient. Let’s train more law enforcers in the proper manner. Let’s hire more prosecutors. Let’s train more prosecutors,” she said.
De Lima, who chairs the Committee on Justice and Human Rights probing the unabated spate of extrajudicial and vigilante killings, also said law and order in society is a long and arduous road that has no alternate routes.
Mindful of the magnitude of the drug menace in the country, De Lima also said no amount of negative propaganda against her will stop the Senate investigation into the spate of extrajudicial killings and summary executions done as part of the campaign against drugs.