Coverage of Anti-wiretapping Law expanded

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Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers.

The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill that seeks to expand the coverage of the Anti-Wiretapping Law to include communication involving other organized and syndicated crimes not previously covered in the law.

The committee report on House Bill No. 8378 was endorsed in the plenary by the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs chaired by Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers. The report includes drug offenses, coup d’etat or conspiracy and proposal to commit coup d’etat, piracy, robbery in band, highway robbery, graft and corrupt practices, syndicated illegal recruitment as well as money laundering.

HB 8378 substituted eight related bills which seek to amend Republic Act No. 4200 or An Act to Prohibit and Penalize Wiretapping and Other Related Violations of the Privacy of Communication.

“It’s time that we amend the Anti-Wiretapping Law to keep pace with the advances in communications and telecommunications to protect our privacy and define privileged communication,” Barbers said.

The approved amendments cover oral, wire, radio, digital or electronic private communications.

In the approved version, it would be unlawful to tap or secretly overhear, intercept, or record private communication with the use of any electronic, mechanical, digital or analog phone system, or similar devices.

Any person, whether he is a participant or not in the wiretapping act, is liable under the law if he possesses any record of the communication on tape or disc, or any other recording devices, or to replay the same for any person, or to communicate the content thereof either orally or in writing to any person.

However, the use of such recording or any copies thereof may be allowed as evidence in any civil, criminal investigation or trial of offenses covered. Any recording authorized by written order of the court shall not be admissible in evidence against any person who is a party to the recorded communication.

The court order allowing such recording may be extended or renewed for another 90 days from the date of its expiration provided that the application for extension is submitted by the original applicant or any team member named in the original copy in case of physical or mental disability of the original applicant.

Also, any person, police or law enforcement official to omit or exclude from the affidavit any item or a portion of the recording will be held liable under the law.

Public telecommunication entities and other similar enterprises engaged in the business of voice and data transmission are likewise prohibited from retaining data for more than one year, except those records of voice and data which are the subject of a pending case.

Punishment for violation of the anti-wiretapping law shall be extended from six months to not less than six years under the law to a maximum of six years imprisonment without probation under the approved committee report.

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