Hontiveros liable for wiretapping? But law does not name photograph as wiretapping device, says lawyer

After Senator Risa Hontiveros revealed a zoomed in photo of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II’s text message to a certain ‘Cong Jing,” former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto “Jing” Paras said that Hontiveros was liable for wiretapping.
Rappler reported that Paras did not confirm or deny receiving Aguirre’s text message about expediting the cases against Hontiveros.

“I could not recall ever receiving one as I receive so many texts daily and I erase them at the end of the day. But the contents of the text is not the issue here, it is the act of Hontiveros violating the law on the anti-wiretapping,” Paras said in a text message to Rappler on September 12.

‘Cong Jing:’ Naturuan na ni Hontiveros ang testigo. Her questions are leading questions.

Aguirre: ‘Yun nga sinasabi ko dito. Very obvious. Kaya nga expedite natin ang cases niyo vs her.

“Is that photojournalist willing to stand and face a wire-tapping violation? He was secretly recording a private communication without being authorized, and used it by allowing Hontiveros to make use of it, then they can be liable of wiretapping,” said Paras.

He was referring to Section 1 of Republic Act No. 4200, the Anti-Wiretapping Law, which states that “it shall be unlawful for any person not being authorized by all the parties to any private communication or spoken word” to “record such communication or spoken word by using a device commonly known as a dictaphone or dictagraph or detectaphone or walkie-talkie or tape recorder, or however otherwise described.”

“She is the one undermining the justice system by using her position as Senator in violating the law RA 4200, the anti-wiretapping law,” Paras added.

But Rappler said in its report that their lawyer source said the anti-wiretapping law does not name photograph as a wiretapping device.

“Photography cannot be held to be covered by the law, under the principle of Expressio unius est exclusio alterius (or literally, Items not on the list are deemed excluded by the law),” said the lawyer.

“One can argue that there was no reasonable expectation of privacy in the context of the hearing, where what the DOJ secretary was doing could be easily seen by so many journalists present…There was no intent to tap – his mobile screen was merely inadvertently caught by someone’s camera lens. There was no intention to wire tap or intercept his messages. In other words, there was no intent to violate his right to privacy, assuming such right may be invoked under the circumstances of that public hearing,” the lawyer added.

While Hontiveros said she would not be surprised if the VACC will file a case against her, Paras said they have not decided to file a complaint against the senator.
“Wala pa naman, although she has already been violating her position as Senator,” he said.

The violation he was referring to was Hontiveros taking custody of the three witnesses, two of whom are minors, in Kian delos Santos’ case.

“(Hontiveros) committed obstruction of justice when she continued custody of witnesses to a murder despite being demanded to turn over these witnesses by the appropriate agency investigating and prosecuting the case,” Paras said.

Paras attempted to get custody of the three witnesses at the house of Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David. Hontiveros turned over the witnesses’ custody to Bishop David after the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs said that they won’t need the witnesses for Kian’s hearing. Paras and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) went to David’s house, taking the witnesses’ father with them who had just posted bail. They claimed that the father wanted to take the witnesses with him, although it ended with the father choosing to stay at the bishop’s house.

In the comments’ section of Rappler’s post about Paras accusing Hontiveros of violating the anti-wiretapping law, there were several netizens who shot back at Paras.

“How can Sen. Hontiveros be liable for anti-wiretapping when it was inadvertently taken by some photographer. Secondly, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy if you allow the media take photo in public place,” commented one netizen.


Another one blamed Aguirre’s large font for his text messages for him getting caught by the photographer’s lens.

“Did she intercept communication? No. Someone was just brilliant enough to enlarge his font size so big he might as well just have printed it in a darned tarpaulin!” she wrote.

It was an accidental photo, not a deliberate wiretapping effort, said one commenter.

Yet another commenter jokingly said that wiretapping is not possible because Aguirre’s smartphone is “wireless,” causing other commenters to call him a “genius” for being able to think of such line of reasoning.

At least Aguirre was busted, said a netizen.

‘May ‘wire tapping’ bang sinadya?’

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