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II. Surveillance policy

Communications surveillance

The Anti-wiretapping Law (Republic Act No. 4200, s. 1965)1 regulates communications surveillance in the Philippines. Section 3 of the act provides for the authorization by written order of the Court of  any peace office  to execute communications surveillance in cases involving the crimes of  treason, espionage, provoking war and disloyalty in case of war, piracy, mutiny in the high seas, rebellion, conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion, inciting to rebellion, sedition, conspiracy to commit sedition, inciting to sedition, kidnapping as defined by the Revised Penal Code, and violations of Commonwealth Act No. 616, punishing espionage and other offenses against national security.  A written order can be obtained upon the submission of a written application and the examination under oath of the applicant and witnesses sufficient to demonstrate:

  • That there are reasonable grounds to believe that any of the crimes enumerated in the application have been committed, are being committed or are about to be committed;
  • That there are reasonable grounds to believe that evidence will be obtained essential to the conviction of any person for, or to the solution or prevention of, such crimes; and
  • That there are no other means readily available for obtaining such evidence.

The written order must specify:

  • The identity of the person whose communications are to be intercepted;
  • The identity of the peace officer authorized to conduct the interception;
  • The offences committed or sought to be prevented; and
  • The period of authorization.

Authorization shall be effective for the period specified on the order, which shall not exceed 60 days.

All recordings made under court authorization shall, within 48 hours, be deposited with the court in a sealed envelope and accompanied by an affidavit of the peace officer stating the details of the interception. The envelope shall not be opened except upon order of the court, which shall not be granted except upon motion, with due notice and opportunity to be heard granted to the person whose communications have been interception. Communications obtained via interception and any information contained therein is inadmissible before judicial proceedings.

However, the Human Security Act (Republic Act No. 9372, s. 2007)2 provides a number of exemptions to the Anti-Wiretapping Law in cases of terrorism. In particular, Section 7 empowers police or law enforcement officials, upon a written order of the Court of Appeals, to listen to, intercept and record, with the use of any mode, form, kind or type of electronic or other surveillance equipment or intercepting and tracking devices, any communication, message, conversation, discussion, or spoken or written words between members of a judicially declared and outlawed terrorist organization, association, or group of persons or of any person charged with or suspected of the crime of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism. The application for a court order must establish (Section 8):

  • That there is probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the said crime of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism has been committed, is being committed or is about to be committed;
  • That there is probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that evidence, which essential to the conviction of any charged or suspected person for, or to the solution or prevention of, such crimes; and
  • That there are no other effective means readily available for obtaining such evidence.

Authorizations granted by the Court of Appeals shall not exceed a period of 30 days, and may be renewed for another non-extendible period of 30 days if authorized by the Anti-Terrorism Council. The court order and any related authorizations are declared as classified information, but the person being surveilled has the right to be informed of and challenge the acts done by the law enforcement authorities (Section 9). If no case is filed within the initial 30 day period, the law enforcement authority shall be immediately notify the subject of surveillance of the termination of interception, or will be liable to a penalty of ten to 12 years imprisonment (Section 10).

The provisions relating to the custody and use of information obtained through interception under the Human Security Act are broadly similar to those under the Anti-Wiretapping Law (see Sections 11-14). Just as under the Anti-Wiretapping Law, communications intercepted under the Human Security Act shall not be used in any judicial proceeding (Section 15).

Section 1 of the Anti-Wiretapping Law makes it unlawful for any person, not being authorized by all the parties to any private communication or spoken word, to tap any wire or cable, or by using any other device or arrangement, to secretly overhear, intercept, or record such communication or spoken word. It is also unlawful to knowingly possess, replay, replicate or furnish transcriptions of any such communications. Such acts are punishable by imprisonment for not less than six months or more than six years, and with the accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification from public office if the offender is a public official at the time of the commission of the offense (Section 2).

Political intelligence gathering

In the lead up to the 2004 election, the  Hello Garci  wiretapping scandal was uncovered in the Philippines. A recording was made by a covert team of intelligence officers (referred to as Project Lighthouse) that included Vidal Doble, Jr., and was headed up by Col. Paul Sumayo. Composed of agents from the Military Intelligence Group-21 of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces, the team had set out to wiretap key personalities from both the Arroyo administration and the political opposition because  everyone on MIG-21 knew there was cheating going on." The resulting cassette tape is thought to have contained uninterrupted phone conversations of key personalities   Arroyo and Garcillano   allegedly covering a variety of topics, including election manipulation. When Sumayo did not act on Doble s revelations in this regard, Doble decided to give the original tape to Army Colonel Dioscoro Reyes. The subsequent Congressional inquiries failed to resolve the allegations of election fraud raised by this tape because President Arroyo banned officials from testifying without permission from the Office of the President.


The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority operates CCTV throughout Manila. The Authority s No Physical Contact Policy3 involves the monitoring of traffic violations through digital cameras installed in key public highways. The data collected in this process are used to penalise drivers committing traffic violations.

In Davao City, the Davao City Public Safety Command Centre (PSCC) has allocated a budget to install more CCTV cameras in the city focusing on key checkpoints in Calinan, Toril, and Tibungco.4 The PSCC already has 17 CCTV cameras installed in 16 strategic areas in the city, covering entry and exit points and populated areas in the downtown areas, and traffic signalling for the entire city.

In Iligan City, there is an ordinance requiring all commercial and service establishments whether private or public to install CCTV cameras, video monitoring devices, and similar equipment within their premises and providing penalties for violation.5 The installation of CCTV and other monitoring devices is intended to serve as deterrents to the commission of crimes and provide assistance to law enforcement in the identification, apprehension, and prosecution of criminal suspects.6

Workplace surveillance

The Hospital CCTV Act of 20087 legalises the installation of CCTV in hospital premises, exits, entrance, and operating rooms to augment the security of patients, doctors, and other medical workers. According to Senator Miriam Santiago this law will address other issues such as baby-switching and medical scandals such as what happened in the 2008 "Cebu spray" scandal at Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Centre, when the doctors videotaped an operation and someone leaked the scandalous video to the Internet.