Justice Chief Should Probe Wiretapping –
A professor of law at
the University of the Philippines said that Justice Secretary Raul
Gonzales should investigate the taped conversation allegedly involving
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and an official of the Commission on
Elections (Comelec). This, said Marvic Leonen in an interview with
Bulatlat, is because Gonzales himself had admitted that there
is such a conversation by saying that the contents of the tape were
obtained by wiretapping.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN
A professor of law at
the University of the Philippines
said that Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales should be investigating the
taped conversation allegedly involving President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
and an official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) –said to be
Virgilio Garcillano. This, said Marvic Leonen in an interview with
Bulatlat over the weekend, is because Gonzales himself had
admitted that there is such a conversation by saying that the contents of
the tape were obtained by wiretapping.
Ignacio Bunye had released June 6 two CDs containing audio files of what
he said was a taped conversation between the President and a political
leader of the administration Lakas-CMD in Mindanao, southern Philippines.
One of them, Bunye said, was a version purportedly altered by the
opposition to make it appear that Macapagal-Arroyo had cheated in the 2004
Both “original” and
“tampered” have portions in which a woman – said to be Macapagal-Arroyo –
was asking a man (“Gary” in the “original” version, “Garci” in what Bunye
called the tampered version) if she would still win by a million votes.
Macapagal-Arroyo won by a million votes over her closest rival, Fernando
Days later, lawyer
Alan Paguia, counsel for deposed President Joseph Estrada, would come out
with a longer tape, and after a few days he would be followed by National
Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agent Samuel Ong who claimed to possess the
“mother of all tapes.” Ong said his source was military intelligence agent
T/Sgt. Vidal Doble, who denied this.
dismissed the content of the tapes as obtained from wiretapping.
Law declares it unlawful for any person, “not
being authorized by all the parties to any private communication or spoken
word, to tap any wire or cable, or by using any other device or
arrangement, to secretly overhear, intercept, or record such communication
or spoken word by using a device commonly known as a dictaphone or
dictagraph or dectaphone or walkie-talkie or tape recorder, or however
In the case of the
Malacañang tape, the contents were allegedly obtained by tapping mobile
phone conversations. In an e-mail to Bulatlat, Dr. Giovanni Tapang,
a physics professor at UP, explained how cellphone tapping is done:
cellphones are just radio devices, radio signals emanating from your phone
can be received and recorded just like any other radio device. It is true
that signals from digital GSM phones are encrypted as the phone companies
say but these signals can still be decrypted off-line with a computer and
enough time. Essentially these are what the expensive equipment do.
”Of course the task of the wiretapper becomes easier if they have access
to the phone companies. Or to your phone.”
Admissible or not
Former Army Capt.
Rene Jarque, who used to head the military’s Psychological Operations
Department, declined to comment when asked whether the Intelligence
Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) indeed taps
But Jarque, who is
also a convenor of the broad Action against Corruption and Tyranny Now!
(ACT Now), chose to comment on the issue’s legal and political aspects. “Legally,
the wiretapped conversations are inadmissible as evidence (as in our
system, conviction can only happen if there is admissible testimony,
documentary or physical evidence),” he said, “but what happens now that it
is out and people are aware. You know the crime was committed but the
evidence precludes conviction.”
But according to
Leonen, who is also a convenor of the recently-launched Movement of
Concerned Citizens for Civil Liberties (MCCCL), it has yet to be proven
whether the contents of the tape were indeed obtained by wiretapping.
Sorsogon Rep. Francis Escudero, House Minority Leader, expressed a similar
view June 17 in an interview over GMA-7.
Leonen also said that
the issue goes beyond the Anti-Wiretapping Law. “Gonzales says there was
wiretapping,” he pointed out. “If there was no wiretapping, the
conversation would be fictitious. He is putting himself into a corner. If
he says there was wiretapping, it means there was communication between
whoever is the woman on the tape and the man.”
“Why doesn’t he
investigate the conversation?” asked Leonen, who also serves as legal
counsel of the University of the Philippines.
likewise, should order Gonzales to investigate the contents of the tape
and persuade both houses of Congress to do so, Leonen said. “Regardless of
legality, she is obliged to explain the issues related to allegations
against her because she is the president of the Republic of the
Philippines,” Leonen explained.
As regards Gonzales,
Leonen had this to say: “It is not right for the secretary of justice to
act as the president’s lawyer. The
secretary of justice is a public official, our lawyer that is supposed to
take care of the interest of the state. He is not Macapagal-Arroyo’s
Asked whether he
thought there was already a betrayal of public trust with the way
Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies have been handling the issue, Leonen said:
“I cannot say that yet, but as far as I’m concerned, my president
disappointed me. Her allies in Congress have disappointed me. There is no
serious investigation to find out the contents of the tape, if they are
authentic. The only group that can do that is government.”
Betrayal of public
trust is an impeachable offense under the 1987 Constitution. Bulatlat
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© 2004 Bulatlat
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