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Senate eyes broader wiretapping law vs drugs

Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - February 2, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Anti-narcotics units will be allowed to conduct wiretapping on suspected drug syndicates under a proposal being tackled in the Senate to amend the anti-wiretapping law.

Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, said she would report out the proposal in the plenary today before Congress goes on recess for the long break for the election campaign.

Senate Bill 2139 seeks to amend certain sections of Republic Act 4200, also known as the anti-wiretapping law, which would allow anti-drug units like the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to conduct electronic surveillance on suspected drug lords and drug traffickers but with a court order.

Poe expressed optimism that the amendments to the anti-wiretapping law would give anti-drug units more teeth to go after big fish involved in the illegal drug trade.

However, the measure also provides safeguards against abuse by lawmen.

“We thank the senators for the proposal to exclude drug cases in the coverage of wire-tapping law, pursuant to Republic Act 4200. This is very relevant,” PDEA secretary general Arturo Cacdac said after being informed yesterday that the measure has been approved at the committee level.

Cacdac also informed the Senate yesterday that the drug menace has extended even into the ranks of government officials.

Cacdac revealed that 548 government officials involved in the illegal drug trade were arrested from 2011 to 2015.

Last year alone, PDEA arrested 32 law enforcers, 64 elected officials and 103 government employees or a total of 199 civil servants.

Cacdac said the increase could be attributed to the PDEA’s classification of “government officials involved in drug operations as high-value targets.”

Poe and Sen. Vicente Sotto III expressed alarm that creeping narcopolitics might reach the national level.

Poe and Sotto said it is not impossible that drug money will be used to bankroll the campaign of some candidates, without really identifying the recipients.

Sotto, former chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board, lamented how the drug problem persists despite government efforts to lick the problem.

“It is very alarming, it is indeed a national threat and I am wondering why the government has not given its full force to the problem of illegal drugs in the country,” he said.

Narcopolitics

Cacdac acknowledged before the Senate that drug syndicates have reached many facets of society and involved professionals.

The profile of arrested drug protectors and mules ranges from nurses to lawyers as well as local officials, Cacdac said.

When asked if he thinks that the drug problem has a nationwide structure, Cacdac said there is a loose structure of major drug groups with links to local cohorts.

“It’s a very sensitive matter. There is a structure but there is loose control. It’s not like the Philippine National Police or the Armed Forces of the Philippines which are structured,” he said.

And if narcopolitics can be equated to the number of arrests by anti-drug operatives, Cacdac noted how it had affected many in the local level.

“We have an increased number of arrested government officials last year, now at 191, compared to the previous year (where we recorded) 180 plus. The increase is attributed to PDEA’s move classifying them as high value targets,” he said.

Cacdac said the agency can only recognize narcopolitics based on the number of arrests of government officials on drug-related offenses.  – With Evelyn Macairan

ACIRC ANTI ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES ARTURO CACDAC CACDAC DRUG DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY DRUGS BOARD GOVERNMENT GRACE POE REPUBLIC ACT
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