THE Palace has acquired a high-tech equipment worth $3.4 million from Germany to spy on its critics, the opposition United Nationalist Alliance said Wednesday.
The communications equipment, including wiretapping devices, are similar to those used by the United States in its counter-terrorism intelligence operations, said UNA secretary general and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco.
Tiangco reminded the administration that it is illegal to record all private communications unless law enforcers obtain a court order, and if the cases involve crimes against national security. Tiangco said some P135 million was released by the Department of Budget and Management to acquire the equipment, which is being used against the opposition.
“We received similar information sometime in November last year that high-tech communications equipment worth $3.4 million from Rohde & Schwarz of Germany have been silently acquired in 2012 with the blessings of the DBM,” Tiangco said.
“Malacanang did not deny the existence of the Special Allotment Release Order from the DBM,” he added.
“Even Presidential Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte justified the acquisition of the German-made spy equipment saying that there is a necessity for the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) to acquire it,” he said. Tiangco said he was not surprised by reports that Malacanang intended to secretly watch the moves of the opposition as it has also received similar information in November.
“At first it seemed like part of the AFP’s intelligence upgrading, but what bothered us is that it will be used to spy on civilians, particularly critics of the administration,” Tiangco said. Although the government has at its disposal intelligence units under the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Tiangco said what was alarming was the “keen interest” in the government’s critics. Tiangco said the plan to spy on opposition personalities and their families is a disturbing development that sends a chilling message to those who are not allied with the ruling Liberal Party and concerned citizens who merely exercise their democratic rights. “There are gray areas in Malacanang’s jumbled statements—and we cannot simply dismiss this with a blanket denial that they are not monitoring the opposition, which in itself raises more questions,” he said.
“They did not deny that the equipment has been delivered and has been set up. They did not deny the creation of a monitoring team. The ISAFP could probably be right in denying involvement because based on the information we got, the surveillance will be conducted by another intelligence agency,” Tiangco said.
“We can only assume that the purpose of spying and monitoring the opposition is political. Someone in Malacanang would want to engage in political espionage to gain some advantage. We are again being taken for a ride right in front of our noses,” Tiangco said. He recalled the Hello Garci scandal in which a conversation between then President Gloria Arroyo and an elections commissioner was illegally recorded and disseminated.
“It’s like we are back in those times, except now, even the children of the administration critics are being monitored,” Tiangco said.