Legislators seek answers on US eavesdropping
MANILA, Philippines—“Did the United States eavesdrop on President Aquino just like it did on other world leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel?”
This is the question that militant lawmakers are asking after American National Security Agency (NSA) whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed that the Philippines was among the Asian countries used by the US as listening hubs for its massive spying activities.
ABC News Australia reported on its website that “a secret map released by Snowden revealed (that) the US had also set up surveillance facilities in embassies and consulates, including in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Yangon, Manila, Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai and Beijing.”
Asked ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio: “Is the US snooping on government communications, including that of the President, as in the case of Germany’s Angela Merkel? Are the privacy rights of Filipino citizens being violated? Is our own government doing enough to protect the rights of Filipinos? Or has it given tacit acquiescence to such surveillance?”
Tinio said he would file a resolution asking the House of Representatives for a deeper probe of Snowden’s expose.
Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello suggested that Philippine Ambassador to Russia Alejandro B. Mosquera should “contact Snowden” to ask him about the NSA’s activities in the country.
“We need to find out what facilities the NSA has set up and demand their closure. We must demand that Washington reveal these sites, their targets and the information that has been collected,” Bello said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the government “must demand that the US not only commit to dismantle its spying apparatus but also divulge how much information has been compromised and how the surveillance was undertaken.”
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, meanwhile, said the intelligence community had been checking the claims of ABC News Australia about Manila being one of the listening posts of the United States in Southeast Asia.
“We had it checked with our intelligence community,” Gazmin said.
“We’re discussing if we have sensed something or (if) something had happened. So far, we haven’t seen any signs,” he added.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it was still awaiting confirmation of the Australian news report from the country’s national security agencies.
“Matters like these are within the purview of our national security authorities, who have the mandate and the resources to make any necessary determinations,” DFA spokesman Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez said Monday in a press briefing.
“If any confirmation is given to us by these authorities, then the department will act accordingly,” he added.
The DFA has yet to spell out its possible course of action on the issue, although it did say that foreign embassies are expected to comply with obligations laid down by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
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