Section 2 of the same Bill of Rights also gives guarantee to the right of our citizens against illegal searches and arrests without the benefit of warrants issued by the judge, but only when the issuing judge is convinced by the witness or witnesses’ statements regarding the presence of a probable cause.
Even the privacy to communication and correspondence is also protected under Sec. 3 of the same Bill. Only a court order can supersede it. It states further that evidence acquired through unlawful means is not acceptable or admissible in any court proceedings. That’s how our government protects our citizens’ right to privacy.
In 1996, then President Fidel Ramos introduced in his Administrative Order No. 308 to adopt a National Computerized Identification Reference System. A similar bill was also filed by the late Senator Bobby Barbers. The Supreme Court ruled against it by saying that it is unconstitutional. We cannot blame the highest court of the land for its ruling because of that provision in the Bill of Rights. Only Congress can amend that provision through constitutional amendment which is not very easy to do. In fact, the clamor of the past administration to a charter change (cha-cha) was looked at as a political strategy. But now, the members of 15th Congress are apparently sympathetic to the idea.
Recently, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) suggested that all laptops should be registered. Prior to that, a similar brouhaha was heard by our citizens that some senators are considering a move to have all Subscriber’s Identity Module (SIM) of cell phones be also registered. All of these crime-averting moves will not find its passage into a law simply because of that provision in our Constitution declaring acts against the human right to privacy illegal.
Effects of privacy law
Because of this law, the citizens have all the opportunities to hide their true status in life insofar as their wealth is concerned. If they don’t want to disclose their true income in order to avoid paying high taxes, they always have that option. Even if the banks deduct withholding taxes from their interests, they are only a tip of the iceberg. Also, the depositor can use fictitious names in their deposits.
This law also benefits the criminals because their identities will not be known to the public. The banks will never divulge the millions of deposits made by any individuals even if they look dubious.
In the recent investigation conducted by the Senate on the case of a Filipino general who was involved in a controversy dragged various private individuals and they are now facing tax evasion charges based on the findings of the investigation.
This is the problem with our privacy law because unless a person is implicated in a controversy, he can always hide his true identity. No one will intrude into the privacy of his bank deposits. Even government officials for that matter also enjoy the benefit of this law.
This is quite unfair to the celebrities because they have no chance to hide their earnings. The actors and actresses of our film industry or those in the television networks doing endorsements of different products are pitiable because the Bureau of Internal Revenue can monitor their takes.
What is the overall effect of this law? Of course, our economy will suffer due to the non-payment of correct taxes. That is why our collecting agencies are now beginning to adopt measures to run after these tax evaders in order for our liquidity to improve. But, without amending the laws affecting the right to privacy, these moves of our money-generating agencies will not be fully effective.
What has to be done?
I hope Congress will review this law and do something about it for the general welfare of our citizens. We need money because of the various economic programs of our government. We are facing multitudes of problems brought about by these bad developments in the Middle East. The prices of gasoline keep on increasing ever and anon. Our unemployment rate is ever-increasing. I don’t know where to deploy these jobless overseas Filipino workers while the Middle East chaos is still on the go.
Aside from that, just very recently, when the news regarding the radiation broke out, many of our citizens received text message giving a warning that the Philippines is in danger of being affected by the radiation. The text message warned the people of the acid rain because of its cancerous effect. What was the result of that malicious text? Plenty of schools sent their students home and made many citizens scary.
The law on privacy could affect only those who have something to hide, but to a law-abiding citizen, this law has no benefit to them. Only those who are resorting to nefarious activities are happy with this law because they can get away easily from harassment. It’s high time for the abolition of this law because it only benefits some individuals. Laws must be passed for the majority of the people to enjoy and protect.