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Opposition senators denounce breach of email accounts

Opposition lawmakers in the Senate are crying foul over the alleged hacking of their offices’ email accounts, which they suspect could be part of efforts to link them to a destabilization plot against the administration. File

MANILA, Philippines — Opposition lawmakers in the Senate are crying foul over the alleged hacking of their offices’ email accounts, which they suspect could be part of efforts to link them to a destabilization plot against the administration. 

In a statement, members of the Senate minority bloc aired their concern over several hacking incidents, citing the emails of the staff of Sens. Francis Pangilinan and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV.

They noted the nature of the breach was the same in all instances, which involved unauthorized users sending emails using the addresses of their staff and members of the Liberal Party (LP).

“We have reported previous incidents to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and we await updates on the matter. We seek the help of the Senate President and the Senate sergeant-at-arms to look into the matter and to secure the services of experts,” the statement read.

“These incidents seem to form part of a pattern to pin the political opposition for imaginary destabilization attempts. These are cause for concern as Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre spearheaded the creation of the Citizen National Guard, which says that dissent is destabilization,” it added.

The minority bloc emphasized there is no destabilization plot and that dissent, as expected from the political opposition, should not be considered as such.

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“Dissent is indispensable in a democracy. Constitutional democracy protects the small voice, including the minority and the individual citizen, vis-a-vis the many and especially the all-powerful state. Democracy ensures that the small voice is heard and not harassed to silence,” they said.

Apart from Aquino and Pangilinan, the minority bloc includes Sens. Risa Hontiveros, Antonio Trillanes IV, Leila de Lima and Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.

In a press briefing at the Senate yesterday, Aquino said a total of five hacking incidents were found involving the emails of two of his staff members and three from the office of Pangilinan.

The first incident involved an email sent on March 21 this year from a staff of Pangilinan, the subject of which was “The investigation on DDS,” which contained an attachment tagged “Results of the investigation.”

Aquino said no such email was written or sent by the staff member of Pangilinan.

In an apparent attempt to hide their tracks, Aquino pointed out a filter was created for the email account that would result in the automatic deletion of emails containing the words “The investigation on.”

A second email from a different staff of Pangilinan dated Sept. 7 pertained to a query on the website of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

Aquino said this could be an attempt to launch an attack on the website of the GSIS using the email accounts of the opposition.

Last Sept. 25, a staff member of Aquino also discovered an email in the draft folder of his email, the subject of which read: “Leaked Media Plan to Destroy PRRD.”

In the email, it was stated there was attached an alleged leaked LP media plan to destroy PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) from media sources.

It said the plan was jointly decided by Vice President Leni Robredo, former president Benigno Aquino III and other senior members of the LP.

Another email was sent from the email account of a different staff member of Aquino last Oct. 11, which contained an excel file attachment of the “list of expenses of last month’s office supplies.”

Upon further investigation into the hacking, Aquino noted a filter was also created on that particular email address for the subjects “Duterte Bank Account Details PRRD” and “office supplies.”

Aquino said this could mean that previous emails have been sent using that account containing that particular subject of Duterte’s bank accounts.

On the same date, a staff member of Pangilinan also found an email sent from his account about an alleged fake news article from PhilStar.com about Pangilinan suggesting the LP’s ambition to oust Duterte.

Aquino said no such article exists and the attached article could not be opened.

What was done to these email accounts could be a form of phishing, he said.

According to Aquino, he sought the assistance of the NBI, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of Information and Communications Technology to look into these incidents.

He said that the AFP was included so that they could look into the possibility of a destabilization plot.

What was done to their offices was a serious crime and they intend to go after the perpetrators, Aquino stressed.

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