Published September 13, 2017, 10:00 PM

Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday said Senator Risa Hontiveros cannot be prosecuted under the anti-wiretapping law for coming out with a screen shot photo of Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II’s text message that showed of an alleged plot to oust her.

 Drilon, a former justice secretary, said that as far as he is concerned Hontiveros did not violate any provision of Republic Act No. 4200 or the Anti-Wiretapping Law, nor did she infringe on the right to privacy when she delivered a privilege speech last Monday.

 Both Drilon and Hontiveros are members of the Senate minority bloc which reiterated their support for Hontiveros’ call for Aguirre to resign.

“There was no interference or wiretapping as contemplated under RA 4200 or the Anti-Wiretapping Law,” Drilon stressed in a statement.

 “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.

 “Since the photo was inadvertently taken, it cannot be considered as surveillance,” he added.

 Drilon, likewise, recalled 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 regular fixture.

 He also pointed out that Hontiveros’ speech is covered by parliamentary immunity under Article VI, Sec. 11 of the Constitution, which states in part “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.”

Courtesy of Manila Bulletin