Philippines: Tech blogger and Congress staffer harassed by police
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Philippines: Tech blogger and Congress staffer harassed by police

A Filipino blogger is now the subject of an unexplained and illegal police investigation, drawing an outcry from a Member of Congress for whom she works and from bloggers who know her.

Maureen Hermitanio, the victim of a serious breach of her right to privacy and security, currently writes and edits for politics section of the Philippine Online Chronicles. She was former editor of Yehey.com’s gadgets section.

Congressman Joel Maglunsod of the partylist group Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) issued a statement Nov. 9, asking the House of Representatives to explain why Ret. Brig.Gen Horacio Lactao, the chamber’s sergeant-at-arms, purportedly dispatched two unidentified men to conduct a “background check” on Hermitanio who is employed as a member of Maglunsod’s staff in Congress.

Hermitanio started working for Maglunsod in April 2009. She had worked previously as a legislative staff member and researcher for Anakpawis Congressman Rafael Mariano and as public information officer of Anakpawis Congressman Crispin Beltran. She was a consultant for the Congressional Oversight Committee on Labor and Employment (COCLE).

Maglunsod said that the two men, who refused to give their names and said that they had come from the San Mateo local police, visited Hermitanio’s residence on October 24, 26, 28 and November 3. They later told Hermitanio’s sister that they were sent by Lactao, the House sergeant-at-arms, to purportedly do a “background check”.

Lualhati Roque, Maglunsod’s chief-of-staff, managed to confront on Nov. 5 two of the police agents tailing Hermitanio, Police Officer 1 Bonifacio Dela Cruz and Police Officer 2 Ireneo Descaya. Dela Cruz told Roque that they were just following orders from San Mateo Police Chief Intelligence Officer Michael Angeles.
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/>Maglunsod’s office later discovered that the “background checks” were being done by the police based on a letter-request by Lactao dated July 1, which sought police assistance to check the background of Congressmen’s staff members in the run-up to the President’s state of the nation address. Included in the order are three other staff members.

Maglunsod said it was clearly a case of harassment and an invasion of privacy.

According to the congressman, Congress should not give out personal information of employees and staff to non-civilian entities. “The House leadership must look into this matter with due diligence as it is the duty of Congress to protect and look after the welfare and security of all its employees.”
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/>Maglunsod said he has already already sought legal advice and will take legal actions on the matter.

Prior to working in Congress, Hermitanio was public information officer of the Kilusang Mayo Uno. She was former editor-in-chief of The Catalyst, the student publication at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, and served as national secretary-general of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines.