Lacson tags ISAFP in wiretapping of Cory house
- Jess Diaz () - May 5, 2007 - 12:00am
Opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson accused the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) yesterday of tapping the home phone of former President Corazon Aquino.

"I just got information from my mole in ISAFP. It’s them," Lacson, who was Philippine National Police (PNP) chief during the Estrada administration, told reporters.

Military intelligence officers have denied that their agency was the culprit, saying the electronic surveillance was so crude it could not have been their work.

Malacañang also denied it was behind the tapping of Mrs. Aquino’s phone in her house on Times Street in Quezon City.

Lacson said aside from the information he received from his source, he based his conclusion on the kind of wiretapping equipment discovered at a phone junction box near the former president’s residence.

"These are the old equipment we turned over to ISAFP. I am surprised that up to now, they are using them. But when we were using the equipment, we were covered by court orders. We used them only in KFR (kidnap-for-ransom) cases," he said.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) personnel discovered the wiretapping device connected to Aquino’s phone line Wednesday afternoon.

According to a PLDT report sent to Aquino, the device consisted of a "tape recorder and a black adaptor box." The firm is conducting "further investigation regarding this incident."

Lacson said the gadget is "voice-activated." He said when the PNP was using the device, the "black box" could be purchased at communication equipment stores along Raon Street in downtown Manila.

He urged PLDT to constantly check its junction boxes.

Lacson also said it is "possible" that those behind the wiretapping "received help from PLDT personnel" to locate which among the hundreds of cables Mrs. Aquino was using.

Asked what could be the military intelligence agents’ motive in the wiretapping, Lacson said it could be to embarrass the government or "to remind the public about ‘Hello, Garci.’"

He also said it is possible that the agents had a deal with the administration Team Unity senatorial ticket to wiretap Aquino, "or they did it on their own and sell the tapes to TU."

As for his ISAFP source, Lacson said the informant worked with him during his stint as head of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF).

"You remember during that time, we coordinated with ISAFP. They had personnel detailed with us. Doble was one of them. He was assigned with PAOCTF," he said.

Lacson was referring to T/Sgt. Vidal Doble, the ISAFP agent accused of wiretapping President Arroyo and then elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano in the runup to the May 2004 presidential election. The wiretapping led to the "Hello, Garci" scandal that haunts Mrs. Arroyo to this day.

Genuine Opposition spokesman Adel Tamano said that with this wiretapping incident, "the administration’s harassment and persecution of allies and senior leadership of the (GO) have reached new levels of shamelessness."
Aquino ‘set up’
At Malacañang, officials expressed strong suspicions that Aquino was "set up" and the wiretapping incident used to deepen the rift between her and President Arroyo and have the opposition gain much-needed political mileage.

"Given that the bugging device was so big and crude, it was screaming to be found. What is more plausible: That the government really wants to eavesdrop on President Cory or that it was set up to make the administration look bad while gaining sympathy for the opposition?" Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Gabriel Claudio said.

He told the opposition not to get "excited" about the incident.

"The fact is we don’t know the facts. We don’t know who has done this and whether it was an authentic wiretap or a dummy to create a convenient political controversy," Claudio said.

He added that the proper course of action is to let the authorities investigate the incident thoroughly "so that the culprits can be identified and punished, irrespective of their motive."

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the incident was likely an attempt to further widen the gap between Mrs. Arroyo and Aquino, who in July 2005 asked the President to step down.

While Lacson said ISAFP was behind the tapping of Aquino’s phone, two administration congressmen cautioned the public against rushing into judgment and blaming the government.

Reps. Douglas Cagas of Davao del Sur and Benasing Macarambon of Lanao del Sur said the Arroyo administration would get nothing out of bugging Aquino, but the opposition stands to benefit from this unlawful act.

"It was done to embarrass the administration and to gain media mileage for the opposition prior to the May 14 elections," the two said in a joint statement.

They stopped short of saying Aquino bugged herself to promote the candidacy of her son, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, a senatorial candidate of the Genuine Opposition.

"We’re not saying the Aquinos did it. It could be blamed on the government. The administration will be the scapegoat again as the usual suspect in this case," Cagas and Macarambon said.

Aquino did not want to blame anyone for the tap on her phone, but her son said the government is the "usual suspect."

Re-electionist Sen. Ralph Recto, who is running under the Team Unity banner, said in a statement that "we may not be able to find the real culprits if we only focus on the usual suspects."

"At a time when a how-to manual in making a nuclear bomb can be downloaded from the Internet, it is unfair to point to the military as not only the usual suspect but the only one," he said.

Recto based his doubts on one question: "For all the billions we give to the military yearly, is this the only thing they are capable of: an easy-to-detect, crude gadget that looks like a high school science experiment?" – with Ed Amoroso, Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla, Aurea Calica, Christina Mendez

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