February 19, 2018

Privilege speech of Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros
19 February 2018

Mr. President, I rise on a point of personal and collective privilege.

Let me be quick and to the point. On February 13, 2018, I received a copy of a "Motion to Admit Supplemental Complaint Affidavit and to Implead Davidde Kyle P. Venturillo as one of the respondents" in connection with the Wiretapping case filed against me by Mr. Vitaliano Aguirre, incidentally the incumbent Secretary of Justice. The said Motion is an attempt of Mr. Aguirre to support his contention that I, supposedly in concert with a photographer who was working at my behest, deliberately and with premeditation, sought to capture the contents of his mobile phone in acts tantamount to a violation of Republic Act 4200, or the Anti Wiretapping Act.

We are respecting legal processes and responding to the charges filed against me by Mr. Aguirre, as well as the other charges filed by his cohorts. What deeply concerns me is the involvement of the Senate as an institution in this case filed by Mr. Aguirre against me in his personal capacity, and the willingness of the Office of the Senate President to abet a witchhunt not just against me, but against a 23-year-old consultant of my office, Kyle Venturillo.

Naka-attach po sa Motion na isinumite ni Ginoong Aguirre ang lahat ng correspondence niya sa Office of the Senate President, gamit ang letterhead ng Department of Justice, may bar code at control number ng Department of Justice, may mga pirma ni Ginoong Aguirre, at ang kanyang HEA na si Atty. Jolas Brutas. Sa mga sulat na ito, hinihingi po ni Ginoong Aguirre ang mga sumusunod:

October 5, 2017 - Request for footage of the entire hearing of the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs dated September 5, 2017, and list of all members of the media, photographers and staff present during the hearing;

October 9, 2017 - Request (coursed through Mr. Ronwald Munsayac, Chief Political Affairs Officer of the Office of Senate President) of CCTV footage of the entire 5th floor from 12:00 noon to 2:00 pm and the Senate ground floor, lobby and entrance from 6:00 am to 9:00 am, including the Senate elevators inside and outside;

October 19, 2017 - Request again coursed through Mr. Munsayac, for all event photos of the Senate media taken on the September 5 hearing;

January 30, 2018 - Request coursed through the Chief of Staff of the Office of the Senate President, Daniel Solomon requesting for confirmation as to whether or not Davidde Kyle Venturillo was or is connected to the Senate, and additionally requesting for copies of her personal data sheet, identification cards, pertinent personnel records and photographs.

To each of these requests, the Senate, through the leadership of the current Senate President, simply complied. Attached as Annex "C" is the affidavit of the Section Chief of the Integrated Electronics and Technical Section of the Office of the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate, attesting to the authenticity of 7 DVDs turned over to the Department of Justice covering the second floor, fifth floor and ground floor of the Senate premises on September 5, 2017, and the session hall during my privilege speech on September 11, 2017.

Attached likewise is the transmittal letter of the Senate Sergeant at Arms transmitting said CCTV tapes to Mr. Aguirre.

Finally, complying with the "request" for a copy of Ms. Venturillo's records, a memorandum with the letterhead of the Senate Sergeant at Arms was attached, confirming that Ms. Venturillo was issued a Senate security pass for 2017.

Nais kong i-manifest na ni minsan hindi ako sinabihan tungkol sa mga requests na nabanggit. Bilang myembro ng kapulungang ito, ni minsan hindi binigay sa akin ang kortesiya na sabihan na 'yung mga personnel records ng staff ko ay tinitingnan at pinapaalam sa iba.

Mr. President, at the outset, I had already warned about the inherent impropriety of the Secretary of Justice filing a case against me (or conniving with individuals to file cases against me), where investigation will be conducted by the prosecutor's office, which is under the supervision and control of the DOJ. I anticipated that the SOJ would use the weight and might of his office to influence prosecutors below him in the conduct of preliminary investigation. Sadly, I did not anticipate that the SOJ would also be using the weight and might of his office to influence an independent institution like the Philippine senate, and use it for a fishing expedition against those whom he perceives to be his enemies.

Mr. President, it would behoove this August chamber to remember that there was no judicial order to release the CCTV footage, the list of media personnel covering the hearing, or the personnel records of Ms. Venturillo. There was no subpoena. The Senate was under no legal compulsion to release the documents requested. The letters were but personal letters from Mr. Aguirre who is, for all intents and purposes pertinent to his request, merely a party-litigant to a case and not acting in his capacity as the Secretary of Justice. Samakatwid po, we have a party-litigant who happens to be the SOJ using his office - not just its might and weight, but also its resources - to support his personal agenda, and the Senate allowed it to happen. Sabagay, kung ordinaryong mamamayan ka, mahirap tanggihan pag letterhead ng Secretary of Justice ang gamit ng humihingi ng dokumento. But I thought - mistakenly - that the Senate could hold its own. I was disturbingly wrong.

Secondly, Mr. President, I am concerned about the cavalier attitude of the Office of the Senate President towards the rights of Ms. Venturillo, employees of the Senate and members of the media. While I support the principles of Freedom of Information and these must be balanced with the privacy rights of individuals, particularly the privacy of ordinary Filipinos. Let me draw your attention to Section 7(b) of E.O. No. 2, Series of 2016, which states that, 'each government office must protect personal information in its custody or control by making reasonable security arrangements against leaks or premature disclosure of personal information which unduly exposes the individual whose personal information is requested, to vilification, harassment or any other wrongful acts.' FOI is for transparency and accountability. It is not a weapon to be used to bully ordinary citizens like Ms. Venturillo and expose their personal information to possible intimidation.

The National Privacy Commission, on the specific question of whether or not personal data sheets of a government employee should be released, stated that, 'in all cases, the rights of the data subject should be respected, including the right to be informed and notified on the use of his personal data.' I am curious as to whether Ms. Venturillo was notified that there were enquiries being made about her, and that the Senate had supplied Mr. Aguirre with her information. If an individual employee or consultant of the Senate is slapped with a baseless criminal complaint, can the adverse party now go to the Senate, without even a subpoena, and quietly request for copies of Personal Data Sheets, personnel records, photos, and other information, with the expectation that such request will be granted and the other party not notified? We would have opened a Pandora's Box, Mr. President. What if I filed a case against the Senate President - I wonder if I could now just go to the Senate Sergeant at Arms and clandestinely ask for personnel records of the Office of the SP, without the SP being informed? Or do different rules apply when the requesting party is the Secretary of Justice and the data subject is a neophyte opposition senator?

Nakakabahala ang pagsuko ng Senate President sa institutional integrity ng Senado. When I learned about it last Tuesday, I immediately wrote him and copy furnished other Senate officials. The Senate President has not responded in five days. I am therefore constrained, as a concerned member of this House, to follow it up on the floor now. The institutional integrity of this chamber is at stake. Does this not call for corrective action on behalf of the Senators, the Senate employees and the Senate itself as an institution?

Mr. President, nasaan ang tapang at integridad na kailangan ng institusyong ito sa ilalalim ng kanyang pamunuan? Ganito na ba tayo sa Senado ngayon?

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