Press Release
September 13, 2017

Drilon: Sen. Hontiveros cannot be prosecuted under anti-wiretapping law

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, a former justice secretary, said that Senator Hontiveros cannot be prosecuted under the Anti Wiretapping Law.

"Senator Hontiveros did not violate any provision of the Anti-Wiretapping Law, nor did she infringe on the right to privacy when she delivered a privilege speech last Monday," Drilon said.

Aside from the fact that Hontiveros' speech is covered by parliamentary immunity, "there was no interference or wiretapping as contemplated under RA 4200 or the Anti Wiretapping Law," Drilon stressed.

"It is clear from the records of plenary debates on the Anti-Wiretapping Law that the sponsor and the legislators intended to punish the interference or recording of private conversations, which tend to be 'dragnet' in character as to amount to surveillance," Drilon said, adding: "Since the photo was inadvertently taken, it cannot be considered as surveillance."

"It also bears saying that during the interpellations of the bill filed by Senator Panfilo Lacson expanding the anti-wiretapping law, the author clarified that his bill intends to expand the law to prohibit taking screen shots or still pictures of communications, which only means that currently, the act of taking screen shots or still pictures is not considered wiretapping," Drilon stressed.

The former justice secretary also said that there can be no violation of privacy "if there is no reasonable expectation of privacy."

"When there is no clear effort to limit visibility of the messages in a public space, then there is no reasonable expectation of privacy," explained Drilon, noting that the Senate Session Hall is a public space, of which photographers are a regular fixture.

The minority leader also pointed out the fact that the speech of Sen. Hontiveros is covered by parliamentary immunity under Article VI, Sec. 11 of the Constitution, which states in part that "No Member shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in the Congress or in any committee thereof".

"Supreme Court cases and deliberations of the Constitutional Commission are unequivocal on this point," Drilon said. "The framers wanted to make sure that members of Congress can express their opinions, cast their votes without fear of previous restraint or subsequent punishment."

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