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Better laws needed to address terrorism, drugs and corruption

  • Written by Alfred Dalizon
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 112

Crame files

I’M saying this in the wake of the ongoing massive crackdown against crime, drugs and corruption ordered by President Duterte and in the aftermath of the terror bombing in Davao City which claimed the lives of 14 innocent people and wounded 67 others.

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What the country needs now are appropriate, timely and tougher legislations from ‘hawks’ in the Senate and the House of Representatives which will help the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces go after enemies of the state without suppressing civil rights. To my mind, these should include regulations on the sale of SIM cards, the relaxation of the bank secrecy law and last but not the least, amendments to the anti-wiretapping law.

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First, the Davao City bombing again should prod Congress to speed up the passage of a law that will regulate the sale of SIM cards in the market. I think the idea was first made by then PNP chief General Ping Lacson in 1999. The idea is aimed at stopping every Tom, Dick and Harry from buying a SIM card in the market and using them in illegal activities like kidnapping, extortion and various frauds and worst, terrorism.

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This government has to be strict when it comes to the purchase of SIM cards—one of them obviously used in detonating the improvised explosive device fashioned out from a 60mm mortar last Friday night in Davao City. Since the late 90s, terrorists have been using cellphone-activated bombs to hit targets in the country.

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These terrorists, just like ordinary con artists, drug dealers, car thieves, extortionists, online sex predators, pranksters and other people involved in illegal activities can easily buy SIM cards for as little as P35 each or even lower in public markets and ‘tiyangges’ without registering their names and presenting genuine IDs and proof of billing just like in other modern countries. Thus, it is very difficult to track them down since no criminal in his right mind will use a post-paid phone to prey on innocent people since he knows he can easily be tracked down.

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There is also a need to relax the Bank Secrecy Law and to amend the anti-wiretapping law to help pin down criminals and terrorists who have amassed huge wealth as a result of their illicit activities.  As my friend, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Sid Lapeña had said, now is the time to review the country’s strict bank secrecy law to expedite investigations pertaining to money-laundering activities perpetrated by big-time drug syndicates and particularly drug lords serving time at the New Bilibid Prisons.

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I agree with the PDEA chief when he said that a substantial portion of laundered money comes from the production and trafficking of illegal drugs with dubious bank accounts and other state-regulated entities such as casinos becoming conduits for laundering drug money. I would also say that terrorists being financed by their foreign donors, kidnapping masterminds and ‘jueteng’ lords are also  ‘washing’ their proceeds to make it appear they were acquired through legitimate means.

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To stop money laundering activities of arrested high-value drug personalities and drug syndicates, Lapeña said their intensified financial investigation of drug cases have resulted in the freezing, if not forfeiture, of assets of some known drug lords including convicted Pasig shabu ‘tiyangge’ operator Amin Imam Boratong. As a standard operating procedure, the PDEA sends to the Anti-Money Laundering Council bank passbooks and transaction slips containing large amounts of money seized during anti-drug operations.

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The retired 3-star police general said their coordination with the AMLC from 2003-2015 has resulted in the freezing of around P475.6 million worth of pesos and other foreign currencies, motor vehicles and real estate properties.  In addition, the PDEA has pushed for amendments to Republic Act No. 4200, otherwise known as the “Act to Prohibit and Penalize Wire Tapping and Other Related Violations of the Privacy of Communication, and for Other Purposes”.

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Lapeña said that if approved, Senate Bill 48 authored by Sen. Lacson will allow wiretapping in cases involving violations of Republic Act 9165 or The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
   
“If approved, we can intercept and record criminal communications of suspected big-time drug lords and use it as evidence against them,” he said.

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“The liberalization of our bank secrecy law and eventual amendment of the anti-wiretapping law will give PDEA and other drug law enforcement agencies additional investigative and judicial tools to reach the structure and hierarchy of drug-trafficking organizations and finally bring them to justice,” the PDEA chief said.

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I also support Sen. Lacson’s proposal to restore the authority of the PNP to directly issue subpoenas to further bolster and speed up the investigative capabilities of the police force under the Duterte administration. Through Senate Bill No. 1052, the former PNP chief sought to amend the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Act of 1990, which placed the PNP under its purview but stripped the police of the power to subpoena individuals and documents in the course of criminal investigations.

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Lacson’s proposal seeks to revise Section 35 (b) (4) of the DILG law so that the director and deputy directors of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) “shall have the power to administer oath upon cases under investigation and to issue subpoena or subpoena duces tecum (documents).” “Under the present law, the CIU (criminal investigation unit) is mandated to undertake the monitoring, investigation and prosecution of all crimes involving economic sabotage, and other crimes of such magnitude and extent as to indicate their commission by highly-placed or professional criminal syndicates and organizations,” said Lacson.

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“Hence, it is somewhat contradicting that the primary investigative unit does not possess the power to issue administrative subpoenas for the conduct of their mandated duties,” he said.  The 1990 DILG law, however, repealed such authority. It’s true. I was told that the present CIDG leadership has no power to subpoena the local government officials, lawmakers and other civilian personalities named by President Duterte in his drug list. Unless these personalities personally go to Camp Crame for investigation, the CIDG cannot compel them to appear in their office, nor arrest them in the absence of a warrant.