PNP ready to assist NBI on ‘wiretapping’ probe

Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star
PNP ready to assist NBI on �wiretapping� probe
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla speaks on July 19, 2023.
STAR / Ernie Penaredondo

MANILA, Philippines —  The Philippine National Police (PNP) vowed to support the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in its probe on the alleged wiretapping activities of the Chinese embassy.

PNP information officer Col. Jean Fajardo said they are ready to give assistance in the NBI investigation, which was ordered by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla.

Remulla issued the order after the Chinese embassy released a transcript of an alleged conversation between its diplomat and former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command (Wescom) chief Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos.

The conversation, which supposedly occurred last Jan. 3, is about a “new model” for managing the dispute between the two sides on the Ayungin Shoal.

Chinese embassy officials, along with defense and security officials, would be invited by a Senate panel that would investigate, in aid of legislation, the alleged wiretapping against Carlos, which is considered a serious breach of existing international law for a foreign embassy.

In an interview, Sen. Francis Tolentino said the invitation was anchored on his Senate Resolution 1023, calling for the Senate committee on national defense chaired by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada to conduct inquiry.

Tolentino clarified that regardless of the outcome of the Senate investigation, the content would be extraneous from the NBI investigation. “We only want to know if there was wiretapping.”

He said that depending on the findings of the investigation, all embassy personnel, including non-diplomatic personnel, clerical staff, cooks and drivers who were given visas could have these canceled and they would be sent home.

“It can lead to a downsizing of the Chinese embassy in Metro Manila, it depends on what can be proven,” he said.

“They can be declared persona non grata, or they could be sent home. I would not preempt the Department of Foreign Affairs’ action, it can lead to the DFA calling for the reduction in the size of personnel of the embassy,” he added.

He said that downsizing an embassy would be a first. “The Chinese embassy has consulate offices in Cebu, Davao and surprisingly they have a consulate in Ilocos Norte,” he said.

Under Republic Act 4200 or the Anti-Wiretapping Act, it is unlawful for any person not authorized by the parties to any private communication or spoken word to record conversations.

The resolution noted that on May 6, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian spoke at a press conference and said China has repeatedly negotiated with the Philippines’ AFP WesCom to discuss a “new model” for the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and that the Philippine military has confirmed that it had been approved by the entire command chain, including the Philippines’ defense ministry and national security adviser.

“On May 7, China has likewise threatened to release the transcript and audio recording of an alleged phone conversation that happened on Jan. 3 between Chinese officials and Carlos wherein the latter allegedly agreed to a ‘new model’ in handling resupply missions to the BRP Sierra Madre,” the resolution added.

“On the same day, the DFA issued a statement emphasizing that only the Philippine President can approve or authorize agreements entered into by the Philippine government on matters pertaining to the WPS,” the resolution added. “In this respect, the DFA can confirm that no Cabinet-level official of the Marcos administration has agreed to any Chinese proposal pertaining to the Ayungin Shoal.”

The resolution added that AFP chief Romeo Brawner Jr., one of the high-ranking officers mentioned in the wiretapped conversation, vehemently denied agreeing to such a model.

The resolution noted China’s claim of an audio recording allegedly between Carlos and a Chinese diplomat does not merit significant concern as it appears to be a malign influence effort from the Chinese Communist Party.

“Transcripts can easily be fabricated and audio recordings can be manufactured by using deepfakes. These reports only aim to serve as a distraction from the China Coast Guard’s ongoing aggressive behavior in the WPS,” the resolution said.

Meanwhile, Bureau of Immigration (BI) spokesperson Dana Sandoval said they have not received any request for information on Chinese individuals who may be linked to the alleged wiretapping operations of the Chinese embassy.

“So far, it is not in our radar. (There is no) information about that or request for data of those involved in this case. But we are closely monitoring this and the BI database is ready to share information if they need details about specific individuals related to this case,” she said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum yesterday. - Cecille Suerte Felipe, Delon Porcalla, Evelyn Macairan

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