DOJ chief backs longer wiretap period

MANILA � Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he welcomes the proposals to extend the wiretapping period to two months as among possible amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA).

"Terrorism is a serious threat to national security and public safety, so if our security experts recommend that a longer period for permissible wiretapping is necessary, I will support it," Guevarra told reporters over the weekend.

Guevarra echoed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana's earlier statement that extending the initial wiretapping period from the existing 30 days to 60 days would help the government in going after terrorists.

At present, under the said law, wiretapping may be done with the consent of the Court of Appeals exclusively for suspected terrorists.

However, the recording of privileged communication between journalists and their sources, lawyers and their clients and doctors and their patients shall not be allowed.

Guevarra, however, is not keen on plans to form special courts to exclusively handle terrorism 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, where ever they may be filed," Guevarra said.

Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed HSA, or Republic Act 9372, into law on March 6, 2007.

The law aims to provide legal muscle to the government's war on terrorism.

The law also aims to defeat the local cells of the local terror group Abu Sayyaf, the Southeast regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, and the main international terror organization al-Qaeda.

Under the law, the crime of terrorism includes piracy in general or mutiny in high seas; rebellion or insurrection; coup d'etat, including acts committed by private persons; murder; kidnapping and serious illegal detention; and, crimes involving destruction such as arson.

The crime of terrorism is punishable by 40 years of imprisonment without parole.

Calls for amendments to the law were made following the June 28 suicide bombing at the tactical command post of the 1st Brigade Combat Team in Barangay Kajatian, Indanan, Sulu.

Lorenzana earlier proposed to amend the detention period of suspected terrorists from the current three days to a period of 30 to 60 days to provide ample time for investigators and other law enforcers to gather evidence against the suspects.

In July, Puwersa ng Bayaning Atletang (PBA) party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles filed House Bill No. 2082, seeking to amend the HSA, to "make it rational, balanced, realistic and truly effective in the fight against terrorism."

If passed into law, Nograles said HB 2082 will provide a clearer definition of key concepts, including what terrorist acts are punishable; allow for a graduation of penalties based on an offender's participation; penalize inciting to commit terrorist acts; and define and penalize foreign terrorism and foreign terrorist.

The proposed measure also provides greater powers to the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), especially over telecommunications and internet service providers; and empowers the ATC to take measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

Related posts