[Mirror] Delos Reyes, Angelico Zenon

SY 2011-2012, First Semester

“Follow us on Twitter/Facebook!” – unfair competition or getting more audience share?

We are all aware that these two social networks are the two biggest and popular networking sites in the web thus most of us got hooked in posting tweets and notes on the wall almost every moment of each day. As such, many local broadcasting networks lately are plugging at the end of its shows the “Follow us on Twitter or Facebook” remarks. And now the question – is the plugging of this “follow us on Twitter or Facebook” appropriate?

In legal paradigm, there is nothing wrong with this. If France bans the “follow us on Twitter or Facebook”, then let them be. Our laws are different from theirs. We do not have a law similar to them. Not even our unfair competition policies have anything specific to say about this kind of end-plug. In order to ban this manner of plugging, appropriate government regulatory agencies having jurisdiction over broadcast media must formulate newer guidelines in order to restrain this way of end-plug. But as of the moment, nobody will sure “Follow on France”.

We cannot blame the media industry especially the big broadcast networks from using this social networks to get better audience share. The more audience they have, the more advertisers they will get, and the more income they will receive. They really mean business.

Besides, everyone here in this country has gone gaga over these two social networking sites. Even different government agencies have their own Facebook and Twitter pages. Even the President has one.

And one last thing, in this day of globalization, there is no fair competition after all.

Wikileaks-Philippines.org – Not Illegal

Realistically, many anomalies are already out there in the media but the problem really is whether these anomalies are consolidated, validated and thoroughly reviewed before releasing for public consumption. Nobody in the news media industry would seriously bother to research deeply on the information they gathered. We should not rely only on what we hear from the radio or television. The news media industry here in the country has a distorted value-setting. They only impress with the public with what they call responsible journalism; balance views; and among others. Take note and observe that the news organization would most often have lengthy endorsements and advertisements in between. This only clearly shows that in order to survive the business, the news program (and even broadsheets) must have been sponsored. What we really have is a commercialized reporting of what they think the majority will be likened to know.

There are many Filipinos out there who know the truth but are afraid to speak because there is a culture of distrust in the government. Assuming the Freedom of Information Act, the Whistle-Blower Act and other protective measures are passed into law, still nothing will change the sad reality that the truth will be remained hidden and soon be forgotten. Nothing will happen in the sense that the ones who will implement such laws are the ones who most often violates the fundamental right to information and transparency. Neither the limitation to the powers of the State as enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution can guard against the evils of corruption and other anomalies. Remember that as long as the State holds its vast powers, it corrupts and it is corrupted.

That is why we ordinary citizens must establish and create our own version of wikileaks.org. If the Sunshine Press behind wikileaks.org managed to organize establish such investigative journalism, more so Filipinos, who are not lagged behind in today’s technology and love for transparency, can do it also. The truth will not come out from those in the mainstream but rather from those who are prejudiced and cannot even be protected by the State. A similar website such as wikileaks.org can protect the identity of the whistle-blower or the informant without being identified by neither the government nor any other influential private entity. The only problem with this is on how to get such ripe source of information pertaining to a particular anomaly – may it be legal or else.

Perhaps, this is not an issue to be considered.

The Internet is a good medium to tell the truth since this can hide the source and identity of the contributor to the extent that almost the impossible can be done virtually. We do not have enough laws to delimit the fast-changing exchanges of information over the Internet. Then, we should take advantage of this. There is no liability once a Philippine version of wikileaks.org arises since there is no clear law to prohibit such a website. Besides, this is covered and guaranteed by our constitutional right and freedom of expression. Assuming such will be banned, can the intelligence units of the Armed Force of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, or of the National Bureau of Investigation, detect and trace the identity of those behind wikileaks-philippines.org version? May be not. The Internet is far wider than the universe.

But surely, the government will not like this. Brave as we may. The government is still more powerful than the Internet. The fight against corruption and cry for transparency are two concerns hounding today’s democracy.

Jurisprudence and Privacy

With today’s advance technology, our legal library and research tools must not be confined in the traditional way of finding answers by way of scanning books. These are very tedious and cumbersome, not to mention, these eat a lot of precious time. Considering that lawyers nowadays must act fast in satisfying the needs of their clients, the internet is a very helpful tool in doing research work without spending lots of time finding reference materials in our conventional law libraries. Especially in searching for appropriate jurisprudences which can support arguments and positions, websites providing databanks of these, provide convenience and instantaneous results with just a few clicks. However, unlike the Official Gazette, Philippine Reports, and Supreme Court Reports Annotated (or SCRA), which cases contained therein are not within the easy reach of most if not all people, website providing databanks of cases can easily be searched via commonly used search engines like Yahoo and Google, not only by Filipinos alone, but also by all internet users around the world.

Decisions of the Supreme Court found in websites like chanrobles.com; lawphil.net; scjudiciary.gov.ph and other similar case law banks, are public documents which must be accessed by the public at large. None must be kept confidential because it opens an individual’s controversial experience or one’s bitter issue against another. Art. 8 of the New Civil Code states: Judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws or the Constitution shall form a part of the legal system of the Philippines. As such, it is very clear that our jurisprudences are significantly important in the development of our legal framework. Parties, personalities or litigants appearing in cases must be oriented that once the court acquired jurisdiction already of their issues, they should be prepared to have a reduced private life. For one thing, pleadings themselves are verified and certified against non-forum shopping, which means, these are notarized by a notary public and thus, these becomes public instrument. Even at this point, privacy was already reduced.

Jurisprudences appearing in websites do not violate our constitutional guaranteed right to privacy. The Bill of Rights enshrined in our present constitution only protects the people from the possible abuses of public authorities. It is only a delimitation of the power of the State. The present Civil Code also does not provide for any privacy right to give protection to personalities appearing in controversial cases. What our privacy laws only protect are communications and correspondences, and not public documents.

Jurisprudences are interpretation of our laws which also give clarity, life and meaning to it. The principle of transparency in upholding our legal system will never allow websites providing databanks of cases for public use to remove a few cases because of some clamor of personalities appearing in the cases. It is for sure that the Supreme Court will not promulgate any rules that will delimit the use of these online cases. No private person can compel online law libraries or websites to remove certain cases which affect their privacy. The academe and a great number of soon-to-be-lawyers will be prejudiced if this kind of accessibility will be regulated. Academic freedom weighs more profoundly than the privacy of a few.

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