Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said as terrorism is considered a serious threat to national security, he sees the need for law enforcers to have more time to determine if the subject individual is involved in terrorist activities.
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DOJ chief backs longer wiretapping period
Evelyn Macairan, Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - August 19, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday expressed support for the proposed extension of the wiretapping period to 90 days, as part of amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007, saying this would boost counterterrorism efforts.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said as terrorism is considered a serious threat to national security, he sees the need for law enforcers to have more time to determine if the subject individual is involved in terrorist activities.

“Terrorism is a serious threat to security and public safety, so if our security experts recommend that a longer period for permissible wiretapping is necessary I will support it,” Guevarra said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said the Cabinet cluster on security would recommend amendments to Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007, among which is to broaden the wiretapping powers of the government’s enforcement agencies.

Lorenzana explained that under the present setup, enforcement personnel are only given an initial period 30 days, with a 30 day extension period, to engage in wiretapping.

The Human Security Act allows wiretapping, with the consent of the Court of Appeals (CA), only for terror suspects, and expressly prohibits it in the case of lawyer-client communication, between doctor and patient, and between journalists and their sources.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said he supports the DND secretary’s proposal.

“Why? Terrorism is not just like ordinary crime. You have to look for cells, infrastructure, communication. With an amended HSA, it will be easier to counter terrorism,” Año had said.

However, Guevarra said he does not see the need to create special courts dedicated to handling terrorism cases as there are existing regular courts that could try such cases.

“As to the creation of a special court to handle terrorism cases, I believe that our regular trial courts, some of which have been designated to especially handle heinous crimes, are capable of trying terrorism cases, wherever they may be filed,” he added.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, on the other hand, warned against such proposals, saying these measures are counterproductive and will likely stunt the growth of struggling economies like the Philippines.

“Removing the human rights safeguards in the Human Security Act like the liberalization of wire-tapping will open the floodgates to inordinate abuses,” Lagman said, branding such legislation as repressive and regressive.

The human rights advocate instead called for a rights-based approach to legislation and policymaking.

COUNTERTERRORISM DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE HUMAN SECURITY ACT OF 2007 WIRETAPPING
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