MANILA (UPDATED) -- Presidential Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma challenged United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary general Toby Tiangco to provide concrete evidence on his claim that the government purchased $3.4 million worth of "spy gadgets" to conduct surveillance on administration critics.
Coloma admitted that the government purchased surveillance equipment, but insisted that the purchase is part of the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The equipment will be primarily used in counter-terrorism efforts, he said.
Coloma added that the aim of the purchase is to professionalize the AFP and make sure that incidents like the "Hello, Garci" scandal are a thing of the past.
Tiangco, however, refused to provide proof for his claim, saying that doing so would compromise his source's safety.
Tiangco, who is currently on a vacation in the US, said via Skype interview that UNA had been getting reports as early as 2012 that the administration is purchasing communications equipment from German company Rohde and Schwarz.
But it was not until November of 2013 that he allegedly received confirmation that the equipment was being used against him and other members of the UNA.
"Ang sabi lang sa akin, 'Mag-ingat kayo kasi may nakikinig sa mga tawag niyo,'" he said.
The Navotas representative said he also received information that other critics of the government as well as their children are also part of the surveillance.
Tiangco assumes this pertains to Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, who is the son of Vice President Jejomar Binay.
According to Tiangco, this move by the administration implies that the government can zero in on whoever it wants to with impunity.
Republic Act 4200 or the Anti Wire-tapping Law prohibits the recording of conversations and other violations of the right to private communication.