Blog Lecture No. 9: Privacy of Communications

As a companion blog with my friend, the Sun Tsu guy, I will deliver this blog-lecture on this topic. Of course, this lecture can stand up of its own as much as his blog can.

Hold on to your hats, folks, wire-tappers and celfone users! Because this may legally extricate the central figure in Philippine current events today.

Section 3 of the Bill of Rights (Article III, 1987 Constitution) says:

Section 3. (1) The privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise as prescribed by law.

(2) Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.

What does this mean?

Without a court order and if not done in accordance with the above-stated provision, the Gloriagate tapes are inadmissible in any proceeding and for any purpose. Including impeachment proceedings as this provision did not make any distinction…

Well, well! This is a breath of fresh air for them…or bad news for others…

What is the exemption?

Republic Act No. 4200, our good friend, the Anti Wire Tapping Act. It says:

Sec. 3. Nothing contained in this Act, however, shall render it unlawful or punishable for any peace officer, who is authorized by a written order of the Court, to execute any of the acts declared to be unlawful in the two preceding sections in cases involving the crimes of treason, espionage, provoking war and disloyalty in case of war, piracy, mutiny in the high seas, rebellion, conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion, inciting to rebellion, sedition, conspiracy to commit sedition, inciting to sedition, kidnapping as defined by the Revised Penal Code, and violations of Commonwealth Act No. 616, punishing espionage and other offenses against national security: Provided, That such written order shall only be issued or granted upon written application and the examination under oath or affirmation of the applicant and the witnesses he may produce and a showing: (1) that there are reasonable grounds to believe that any of the crimes enumerated hereinabove has been committed or is being committed or is about to be committed: Provided, however, That in cases involving the offenses of rebellion, conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion, inciting to rebellion, sedition, conspiracy to commit sedition, and inciting to sedition, such authority shall be granted only upon prior proof that a rebellion or acts of sedition, as the case may be, have actually been or are being committed; (2) that there are reasonable grounds to believe that evidence will be obtained essential to the conviction of any person for, or to the solution of, or to the prevention of, any of such crimes; and (3) that there are no other means readily available for obtaining such evidence.

The order granted or issued shall specify: (1) the identity of the person or persons whose communications, conversations, discussions, or spoken words are to be overheard, intercepted, or recorded and, in the case of telegraphic or telephonic communications, the telegraph line or the telephone number involved and its location; (2) the identity of the peace officer authorized to overhear, intercept, or record the communications, conversations, discussions, or spoken words; (3) the offense or offenses committed or sought to be prevented; and (4) the period of the authorization. The authorization shall be effective for the period specified in the order which shall not exceed sixty (60) days from the date of issuance of the order, unless extended or renewed by the court upon being satisfied that such extension or renewal is in the public interest.

All recordings made under court authorization shall, within forty-eight hours after the expiration of the period fixed in the order, be deposited with the court in a sealed envelope or sealed package, and shall be accompanied by an affidavit of the peace officer granted such authority stating the number of recordings made, the dates and times covered by each recording, the number of tapes, discs, or records included in the deposit, and certifying that no duplicates or copies of the whole or any part thereof have been made, or if made, that all such duplicates or copies are included in the envelope or package deposited with the court. The envelope or package so deposited shall not be opened, or the recordings replayed, or used in evidence, or their contents revealed, except upon order of the court, which shall not be granted except upon motion, with due notice and opportunity to be heard to the person or persons whose conversation or communications have been recorded.

The court referred to in this section shall be understood to mean the Court of First Instance [Regional Trial Court] within whose territorial jurisdiction the acts for which authority is applied for are to be executed.

What are the crimes involved when privacy of communications can be violated?

They are:

1. Treason,
2. Espionage,
3. Provoking war and disloyalty in case of war,
4. Piracy,
5. Mutiny in the high seas,
6. Rebellion, conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion, inciting to rebellion,
7. Sedition, conspiracy to commit sedition, inciting to sedition,
8. Kidnapping, and
9. Other offenses against national security

How about Coup d’etat?

Since it is a crime against national security (Article 134-A of the Revised Penal Code), it is included.

How about election fraud?

Again, unfortunately (or fortunately?), it is not included.

I’m in a hurry and I can’t waste my time reading your blah-blag blog. Just give me the steps for law enforcement to obtain and use wiretaps are valid pieces of evidence.

They are:

1. Application with the RTC where the wiretap shall be made.

This should prove (a) commission or imiment commission of the above-stated crimes, (b) importance in obtaining wiretaps and (c) lack of any other readily available means.

2. Court Order to conduct the wire tap.

3. Deposit of wire tap materials to court that issued the order.

So what happens again if these are not followed?

Again, the evidence obtained shall not be admissible in any judicial, quasi-judicial, legislative or administrative hearing or investigation. (Section 4, RA 4200)

This includes impeachment cases.

So, have you seen the light?

(This is a rhetorical question, don’t answer it…)

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