[Mirror] Gildo, Casilda

SY 2011-2012, First Semester

Whether or not it is appropriate for broadcasting companies to allow the mention of social media sites on air.

Yes. It is appropriate for broadcasting companies to allow the mention of social media sites on air.

Broadcasting companies at present make as part of their strategy to keep their viewers or listeners, the mention of social media sites where their viewers or listeners could follow them. Lines such as “follow us on Twitter” or “find us on Facebook” are usually mentioned before the broadcasters sign off from their programs.

In my opinion, it is a proper act regardless of whether or not these social media sites pay them. If the broadcasting company is being paid for so doing, then, it can be considered as an advertising agency or agent which means a service organization or enterprise creating, conducting, producing, implementing or giving counsel on promotional campaigns or programs through any medium for and in behalf of any advertiser (Republic Act No. 7394 or The Consumer Act of the Philippines). Under the same law, an advertiser is the client of the advertising agency or the sponsor of the advertisement on whose account the advertising is prepared, conceptualized, presented or disseminated. Further, advertising means the business of conceptualizing, presenting or making available to the public, through any form of mass media, fact, data or information about the attributes, features, quality or availability of consumer products, services or credit.

Advertising is a licit business and the mention of social media sites on air by broadcasting companies is an example of it and nothing is improper with it. In fact, it benefits both the broadcasting company and the social media site; the former earns and is able to keep their viewers or listeners and the latter gains more popularity which means more people will be attracted to use their sites.

If these broadcasting companies are not paid, they still act within the bounds of propriety. Pursuant to their franchise, they have rights to air matters not contrary to law, public policy, custom, tradition, morality, etc. The mention of social media sites is not violative of any of these. Their act seems to be a gesture of gratitude to social media sites for allowing them to mention the sites for the purpose of keeping their viewers and listeners. So much so, the social media sites are also grateful for the free advertising extended by the broadcasting company. No rights are transgressed and no obligations have failed. In fact, a mutual relationship between the two parties is strengthened.

One of the famous axioms in law states, “Our right ends where the right of others begins”. The contention that this act of broadcasting companies prejudice the rights of unpopular social media sites, must fail. The broadcasting company is vested by law with rights to advertising and to air any matter provided not contrary to law, public policy, custom, tradition, morality, etc. Small time and unpopular social media sites are bereft of rights to stop the exercise of the rights by the broadcasting companies. There may be damnum absque injuria; damage without injury or damage or injury inflicted without injustice or loss or damage without violation of a legal right or a wrong done to a man for which the law provides no remedy. The broadcasting companies and the popular social media sites are acting within the bounds of propriety although it lessens more the popularity of small time social media sites. Dura lex sed lex or the law may be harsh but it is still the law. As long as we act not in contravention of it we shall fear nothing. For the small time and unpopular social media sites, this should serve as their challenge to innovate and devise strategies in order to rise from the rank.

Can we as ordinary citizens create our own version of wikileaks.org, post sensitive documents pertaining to or to expose anomalies of the state or major corporations?

As ordinary citizens we cannot create our own version of wikileaks.org, post sensitive documents pertaining to or to expose anomalies of the state or major corporations. Article III Section 7 of the Philippine Constitution states that, “The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.

The Constitution recognizes the right of the people to information, however, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law. It is then very clear that the right to information is not absolute as there are other societal values that press for recognition. These may include the security of the state, national interest and public safety which are of paramount importance rather than the individual’s right to information.

It was further discussed in Indian laws that as no right can be absolute, the right to information has to have its limitations. There will always be areas of information that should remain protected in public and national interest. Moreover, this unrestricted right can have an adverse effect of an overload of demand on administration. So the information has to be properly, clearly classified by an appropriate authority.

The usual exemption permitting Government to withhold access to information is generally in respect of the these matters: (1) International relations and national security; (2) Law enforcement and prevention of crime; (3) Internal deliberations of the government; (4) Information obtained in confidence from some source outside the Government; (5) Information which, if disclosed, would violate the privacy of an individual; (6) Information, particularly of an economic nature, when disclosed, would confer an unfair advantage on some person or subject or government; (7) Information which is covered by legal/professional privilege, like communication between a legal advisor and his client and (8) Information about scientific discoveries and inventions and improvements, essentially in the field of weapons.

These categories are broad and information of every kind in relation to these matters cannot always be treated as secret. There may be occasions when information may have to be disclosed in public interest, without compromising the national interest or public safety.

Wikileaks being available through the web would invite people all around the world to view and read the posts therein. The anomalies whether substantiated or not would then be exposed to everybody’s eyes worldwide, thus, reveal the wrongdoings of the state or any of its major corporations which may or may not be groundless. The posting of sensitive documents would do the same hazard, too. Such act would be an anathema to the progress of the nation as it would affect the judgments of investors whether to invest or not in the country. Further, the image of the state would then be stained affecting its relations with other states as its impression is already tainted with the information that came into its knowledge through the created wikileaks site. With regards to the citizens, their opportunities abroad would be slimmer because the state may be listed as one of those with great anomalies, thus, will also affect their image and background.

These may only be the consequences I can think of as of the moment and for sure there are still others which may be more dangerous than those mentioned. Everybody has the right to be informed of the things that bear significance in their lives as individuals and as citizens. Likewise, the same duty is expected from each one, however, in providing information it should be bore in mind always that the information we share must always be true and must not step on others’ rights. The information must be filtered and scrutinized thoroughly and most importantly, it must be channelled through appropriate means and media. It must be available to those who have stakes on it and not just to anybody to avoid unexpected damage and injury to the state as a whole.

“Can those repositories of Philippine laws and jurisprudence be compelled by a private person to remove the jurisprudence on the ground that it violates his right to privacy?”

No. The repositories of Philippine laws and jurisprudence cannot be compelled by a private person to remove the jurisprudence on the ground that it violates his right to privacy.

Article III of the Constitution of the Philippines contains the Bill of Rights. Section 1 of the Bill of Rights states that the “Congress shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity.” Section 3(1) states that the “privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise, as prescribed by law.” There is a recognized right of privacy in civil law. Article 26 of the Civil Code of the Philippines states that “every person shall respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons. The following and similar acts, though they may not constitute a criminal offense, shall produce a cause of action for damages, prevention and other relief: (1) Prying into the privacy of another’s residence; (2) Meddling with or disturbing the private life or family relations of another; (3) Intriguing to cause another to be alienated from his friends; (4) Vexing or humiliating another on account of his religious beliefs, lowly station in life, place of birth, physical defect, or other personal condition.” Article 32(11) of the Civil Code states that “any public officer or employee, or any private individual, who directly or indirectly obstructs, defeats, violates or in any manner impedes or impairs the privacy of communication and correspondence shall be liable to the latter for damages.”

As can be gleaned from the context of the foregoing provisions, posting of jurisprudence in the web is not among those. This may be because the intention and purpose of posting such jurisprudence is for the efficient dissemination to the public of what the law really is. It is efficient dissemination of the law in the sense that the people need not spend time, effort and money in going to the offices which are repositories of such laws and jurisprudence since they are already readily available in the internet. Further, easy and quick search and access to the needed laws and jurisprudence can be done by all users concurrently through the internet, avoiding the necessity of traffic and crowd in said government offices. So much so, there will always be one website which will be a repository of the laws and jurisprudence and that is the Supreme Court website. It is one of the mandates of the Judiciary and nobody could hinder their legit purpose. It even appears that other repositories of the laws and jurisprudence in the web are there to aid the Judiciary in the discharge of their mandate which is to disseminate to the public in an efficient and effective manner, matters regarding the laws and jurisprudence.

With this lawful purpose, I do believe that no privacy rights are violated. However, on the contention that the use of real names of the parties has great impact on their privacy, then, it would be another issue to tackle on because if it is the point of argument, different names may be used in lieu of real ones. What is salient therein is the interpretation or the concept of the law as concretized in a given case and situation.

In fact, there are already existing measures adopted in order to protect the privacy of a person. For instance, like many broader ethical systems, journalism ethics include the principle of “limitation of harm.” This often involves the withholding of certain details from reports such as the names of minor children, crime victims’ names or information not materially related to particular news reports release of which might, for example, harm someone’s reputation. Section 5 of the Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act of 1998, stipulates that “any stage of the investigation, prosecution and trial of a complaint for rape, the police officer, the prosecutor, the court and its officers, as well as the parties to the complaint shall recognize the right to privacy of the offended party and the accused.” It further states that a police officer, prosecutor or court may order a closed-door investigation, prosecution or trial and that the name and personal circumstances of the offended party and/or the accused, or any other information tending to establish their identities, and such circumstances or information on the complaint shall not be disclosed to the public. Section 8 of the Proposed Rule on Juveniles in Conflict with the Law stipulates that “the right of the juvenile to privacy shall be protected at all times. All measures necessary to promote this right shall be taken, including the exclusion of the media.” Section 26(k) of the Rule confers a duty on the Family Court to respect the privacy of minors during all stages of the proceedings. The Local Government Code of the Philippines provides “all barangay proceedings for settlement shall be public and informal provided that the chairman may upon request of a party, exclude the public from the proceedings in the interest of privacy, decency, or public morals.”

With these adopted safeguards to privacy, compelling the repositories of Philippine laws and jurisprudence to remove the jurisprudence on the ground that it violates a person’s right to privacy will not be a proper remedy. It will only be a hindrance to the efficient and effective dissemination of the laws and jurisprudence to the public. Taking as examples the enacted rules safeguarding a person’s right to privacy, my suggested remedy would be to use different names of the parties in a case in lieu of their real names for after all, the salient purpose of educating the public on matters regarding the law and jurisprudence would be upheld.

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