The Senate this week approved on final reading a bill calling for the modernization of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), with the proposed law also providing for the establishment of a Cyber Investigation and Assessment Center within the agency.
Authored by Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Senate Bill No. 2970 seeks to reorganize the country’s investigative body by strengthening its existing powers and functions and modernizing its investigative program through the acquisition of state-of-the-art intelligence equipment, making it attuned to the needs of the time.
The proposed Cyber Investigation and Assessment Center is intended to serve as the nerve center for data gathered on computer related crimes such as data piracy, cyber crime, cyber-bullying, threats and other related crimes or activities.
“The NBI has been criticized time and again for sloppy investigative work. This time, with the acquisition of more modern investigative equipment and facilities, our crime investigators will no longer have any reason why they cannot bring justice to the victims,” Escudero said.
Meanwhile, the Senate also passed on final reading a bill seeking to authorize the wiretapping, interception and recording of communications and surveillance of pushers, manufacturers, cultivators, importers and financiers of dangerous drugs.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 3341, said wiretapping people involved in the peddling and importation of dangerous drugs will help establish the flow of drugs and how they are managed from the source to the market.
“It will take more than the present methods to address the drug trade which has assumed global proportions and now poses a threat to national security. We need to upgrade our countermeasures against this global menace,” Honasan said.
Data from courts in the United States for the past 15 years show that nine out of every 10 wiretapping orders issued by the US courts involved narcotics.
Although the law recognizes wiretapping as invasion of privacy, he explained the proposed measure seeks to use legally authorized intercepted conversations as evidence in court, which involves the sale, manufacturing, importing and financing of illegal drugs.
Similar to a search warrant or a warrant of arrest, the existence of probable cause is required for the issuance of a wiretapping order.
The bill also seeks the designation of at least one special division of the Court of Appeals to handle all requests for wiretapping orders.
Under the proposed legislation, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director general, the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director shall approve all applications for wiretapping before such applications are filed ex-parte with the Court of Appeals.
The approved period for wiretapping and surveillance is limited to 30 days but can be extended for another 30 days.