De Lima warns vs foreign-aided state surveillance

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed alarm over persistent reports of surveillance by state and foreign entities targeting individuals critical of the policies of the government, including Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

De Lima, a human rights and social justice champion, said it seems that the government has no qualms to resort to surveillance with the aid of foreign governments to freely spy on Filipinos, especially those who are critical of the administration.

“I am alarmed at persistent talks about state surveillance with the aid of foreign governments obviously meant to silence the administration’s critics. This government callously admitted it receives wiretapped communication from foreign countries,” she said.

Last month, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo admitted that the government has based its so-called “narco-list” from the wiretapped information from foreign governments monitoring drug syndicates operating in the country.

He named Israel, America, Russia and China among those foreign countries that supplied wiretapped communication of politicians suspected of being involved in the illegal drug trade either as financiers or protectors.

After earning public criticisms for such admission, considering that wiretapping is prohibited under Philippine laws, Panelo recanted his claim and reasoned out that he “used the wrong word” in his earlier claim.

Last March 19, a group of international lawyers who visited the country to investigate the continued spate of killings of lawyers had complained that they were being subjected to surveillance by state agents.

Recently, Justice Carpio who has been vocal against the PHL-China loan agreement for the construction of Chico River Irrigation Project claimed he has reasons to believe that his email communications and phone conversations are being monitored by China.

“A prominent Supreme Court associate justice who unfailingly asserts the country’s rights over the West Philippine Sea, Justice Carpio is allegedly subjected to illegal surveillance by China,” the former justice secretary pointed out.

“This should be enough to remind us all that our safety and rights to privacy, let alone freedom of opinion and expression, are already at risk under this administration,” she added.

Carpio was part of the Philippine delegation to The Hague when the Philippines pressed its claims against China in the South China Sea, locally referred to as the West Philippine Sea.

“Tuwing magkakaroon ng nakakabahalang isyu, lalo na kapag sangkot ang Tsina, ‘di talaga nauubusan ng joke ang administrasyong Duterte. Puro palusot ang alam!” said the lady Senator from Bicol.

According to De Lima, Mr. Duterte is betraying public trust by encouraging foreign states, if any, to spy on his own people. “The duty of the State is to protect its citizens and not to sell information to foreign entities,” she said.

She said she considers surveillance as “targeted state action by increasingly authoritarian regime that is meant to stifle dissent in the guise of fighting criminality.”

In September 2017, Duterte admitted he ordered the wiretapping of politicians allegedly involved in the drug trade, saying “they were all tapped.”

De Lima herself was not spared. In 2016, Duterte claimed to have received wiretapped conversation and automated teller machine records that allegedly revealed the Senator’s purported connections on illegal drugs, a claim that remains unproven to date. De Lima calls such a claim a pure invention. De Lima, the first critic of the administration’s war on drugs, remains detained at the PNP-Custodial Center in Cramp Crame, Quezon City due to bogus drug charges and manufactured evidence, borne out of Duterte’s personal vendetta against her.

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