By Marita Moaje

Senate Majority Floor Leader Francis Tolentino (PNA file photo)

MANILA – Senate Majority Floor Leader Francis Tolentino said he believes that a Chinese diplomat violated the country’s wiretapping law after secretly recording his conversation with former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command chief, Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos.

In a news release on Friday, Tolentino said Carlos testified during a hearing of the Senate Committee on National Defense on Wednesday that he indeed talked with a Chinese military attaché identified as “Senior Col. Li” in January but did not permit their conversation to be recorded, which is a clear violation of local and international laws.

“I believe he is telling the truth. Vice Admiral Carlos is an honorable soldier, a graduate of the US Naval Academy. We trust his testimony. The investigation, as per the resolution I filed, is focused on whether wiretapping occurred and if it did, it constitutes a violation of Philippine laws, and that’s where I am focused,” he said.

During the same hearing, Carlos also categorically denied that he made secret deals with China and some Chinese officials, as he is not authorized to enter into agreements on matters regarding policies and country-to-country agreements.

Tolentino said based on Carlos’s testimony, wiretapping likely occurred and that the act of the Chinese official violates Republic Act 420 or the Anti-Wiretapping Act.

However, he also said that the audio recording needs to be authenticated by the authorities first, especially because deepfakes using artificial intelligence could now duplicate and fabricate voices.

“In my appreciation of the testimonies, it seems there was wiretapping. However, I want the National Bureau of Investigation to authenticate the alleged taped conversation because it is now easy to fabricate voices,” Tolentino said.

He said the Senate would conduct an executive session as certain sensitive information related to national interest cannot be disclosed publicly.

He also urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to start the process of declaring the Chinese diplomat persona non grata and expelling him from the country.

Tolentino said Congress could also amend the laws related to espionage, imposing stiffer penalties, especially if a civilian is involved with an official. (PNA)