OBTAINING a matrix mapping a network that is supposedly working to oust President Rodrigo Duterte from a foreign source did not violate Philippine privacy laws, Malacañang maintained Wednesday, May 1.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo insisted that it was "erroneous" to speculate that the information on the alleged destabilizatio plot against Duterte was taken through wiretapping or any similar device prohibited by laws.
"The President said the information on the ouster plot was received by him from a foreign source. It does not conclusively mean however that the information was originally obtained by the foreign country by an unlawful method that violates the privacy of an individual," he explained.
"The information may have been acquired by a Filipino citizen who shared the same to the foreign country which then transmitted to [Duterte] pursuant to the global policy of intelligence information sharing between countries," the Palace official added.
Panelo issued the remark after critics expressed concern over the release of a government matrix linking media groups to an alleged plot to unseat Duterte.
Duterte earlier claimed to have received intelligence information from an unidentified foreign source on the supposed links among a certain "Bikoy," news firms, and lawyers critical of his administration.
"Bikoy," whose identity remains unknown, is the man shown in a series of video clips on social media that tagged Duterte and his family in the illegal drugs trade.
Vice President Leni Robredo had sought an explanation from Duterte about the foreign source of his information on the supposed ouster plot against him, stressing that it was "illegal" to allow surveillance by a foreign government on Filipinos.
The Philippines has Republic Act 4200 or the Anti-Wiretapping Law, which prohibits and penalizes wiretapping and other violations of private communication.
Defending the matrix, Panelo said critics should consider "endless" possibilities with regard to the leaked ouster plot against the President.
"It (information) could have been personally heard or witnessed during a conversation between plotters in a place where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, which according to jurisprudence is not violative of our privacy laws," he said.
"It could also have been heard by one of their colleagues who does not agree on the ouster plan, who then shared the information to another, who in turn also relayed the information from whom [Duterte] received it. The possibilities are endless," he added.
Panelo also stressed that it was "totally unnecessary" for personalities named in the matrix to demand proof of their participation in the ouster plot.
He added that the matrix was disclosed to the public "for the ring leaders and their co-plotters to know that we know, to put them on notice that pursuing their plan by committing overt acts punishable by law will open themselves to criminal prosecution."
No case yet
"The matrix shows that there is an ouster plot. It is just a plot, a plan, an idea. The same is not actionable in court it being just a conspiracy. Conspiracy is not a crime unless the law specifically classifies a particular conspiracy to undertake a project or actualize a plan as a crime," Panelo said.
"Only when all the elements of any of these crimes have been committed will we file a case against the conspirators. Should their plans lead to overt acts punishable by law then criminal cases will also be filed against them. It is only when the cases are filed in court that proof will be submitted to substantiate the criminal charges," he added.
Under Article 8 of the Revised Penal Code, conspiracy and proposal to commit felony are punishable only in the cases in which the law specially provides a penalty therefor.
Panelo cited that conspiracies punishable under the Revised Penal Code are those conspiracies to commit treason, rebellion, insurrection, coup d'etat and sedition.
"Examples of proposals to commit a crime which need no overt acts but punishable under the Revised Penal Code are proposals to commit treason, coup d'etat and rebellion," he said.
Panelo also reiterated that the revelation on the ouster plot was pursuant to the people's "right to information."
"The people deserve to know that there are ouster plans against the leadership of their government. Article 3, Section 7 of the Constitution categorically provides that, 'the right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized,'" the Palace official said.
"It is therefore the constitutional duty of the Administration to report to our countrymen the presence of groups which are motivated to unseat their President whom they have given the mandate to govern," he added. (SunStar Philippines)