Hontiveros not liable for wiretapping, Drilon says
From a legal point of view, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday said Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II does not have a case against Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
Drilon, former DOJ chief and Executive secretary, said Hontiveros cannot be prosecuted for violating the Anti-Wiretapping Law when she did not commit any violation or even infringed on the right to privacy of Aguirre.
If there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, there can be violation of privacy, he said in addressing Hontiveros’ claims on Aguirre being inadvertently photographed sending a text message indicating that he’s a supposed co-conspirator in the filing of cases against the lady senator.
“When there is no clear effort to limit visibility of the messages in a public space, then there is no reasonable expectation of privacy,” Drilon said, pointing out that it was in the Senate session hall, which is a public space and of which photographers are a regular fixture, where Aguirre’s photo was taken.
In the first place, Drilon said Hontiveros’ issue against Aguirre is covered by parliamentary immunity.
Under Article VI, Section 11 of the Constitution, it 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 level thereof.”
“Supreme Court cases and deliberations of the Constitutional Commission are unequivocal on this point. 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,” Drilon said.
Legislators, in debating upon the Anti-Wiretapping Law, intended to punish the interference of recording of private conversations which tend to be “dragnet” in character as to amount to surveillance.
“Since the photo was inadvertently taken, it cannot be considered as surveillance,” he said.
“It also bears saying that during the interpellations of the bill filed by Sen. 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.