Malacañang on Monday vowed to go after the group of antipork hackers, who defaced the website of the Office of the Ombudsman and 37 other government offices.
“There are existing laws covering that and proper action will be taken,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said in a press conference.
Saying there were “sufficient avenues for free expression,” Coloma said there was “no need to resort to illegal acts such as the hacking of government websites.”
“There is sufficient democratic space for any individual or group. That’s why there’s no need to commit illegal acts like the one that they did,” he added.
Calling itself Anonymous Philippines, the group hacked into the government websites to encourage the public to join Tuesday’s protest action against the pork barrel at the House of Representatives.
A major target was the website of the Office of the Ombudsman, which is looking into the plunder allegation against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Also charged with plunder are Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the scam, and 34 others.
Willing to listen
Senators downplayed the hacker group’s call for antipork protests in Congress but said they were willing to listen.
Senate President Franklin Drilon and Sen. Ralph Recto said that any Filipino, including Anonymous Philippines, was well within his right to stage protests outside Congress.
“Protest is part of our democratic space. We’re used to that. They can always express their opinion and we will listen,” Drilon said on the phone from Hong Kong on Sunday night.
“Whether or not it is justified is beside the point. We have democratic space, and they can express their views. We will listen,” he added.
Recto said “democratic expression should never be feared.”
Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said the hackers had a right to be fed up with all the looting. “Hooray for them,” he said.
While it apologized for the inconvenience, Anonymous Philippines said this was the only way to convey the message to Filipinos who are “tired of this government and the politicians who only think about themselves.”
“To the corrupt—fear us,” it said.
Members of the Senate and House have been skewered for months over the large-scale misuse of their pork barrel exposed by the Inquirer and the Commission on Audit.
On top of this, they’ve had to fend off criticism that they received additional pork barrel allocations from Malacañang after the Senate convicted Chief Justice Renato Corona for dishonesty in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth in May 2012.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV downplayed the impact of Anonymous Philippines’ “call of action.”
“I believe Filipinos will not follow anonymous virtual movements,” he said in a text message on Sunday.
If the protests push through on Tuesday, most, if not all, of the lawmakers wouldn’t be there to listen to them. Congress is on Halloween break and will resume sessions on Nov. 18.
But Trillanes said Filipinos should “be alarmed about their capability to hack government websites as this could compromise state operations and data storage.”
As they grappled with the backlash against the pork barrel scandal, some senators led by Drilon, Francis Escudero and Vicente Sotto III have pushed for the total scrapping of their Priority Development Assistance Fund from the 2014 national budget.
And ahead of the hearing on the plunder complaint in the Ombudsman, the Senate blue ribbon committee is resuming its inquiry into the scam on Thursday to hear the testimony of Napoles and the whistle-blowers.