SY 2011-2012, First Semester
- Reaction Paper about France saying ‘Adieu’ to Twitter and Facebook on TV
- Creating our own version of Wikileaks.org, are we allowed as an ordinary citizen?
- Right to privacy Is it absolute?
Twitter and Facebook – the leading social networking sites as of today. These giant communication network dominates the online social engagement of people whether it be for personal, business or promotional purposes. In TV broadcasting, it is being used as a medium of interaction between viewers, especially in news and current affairs where the people can voice out their sentiments and opinions to every relevant issue. The spiel “Follow me/us on Twitter” or “Like us on Facebook” can be commonly heard during these programs. Admittedly, it is the fastest and quickest way to promote and inform and at the same time have the viewer’s choice or sentiments be heard globally.
But there is always the other side of the coin, there are people who disapprove this kind of promotional strategy.
In France, there is a decree being supported by officials which is banning radio and tv personalities from specifically mentioning either Facebook or Twitter unless they are part of the story in the said networking sites. Nicolas Sarkozy’s colleagues have agreed to uphold a 1992 decree which stipulates that commercial enterprises should not be promoted on news program.  The internet sites have fallen foul of a 1992 decree that outlaws the advertising or promotion of private business on programs. Journalists will no longer be able to end their reports by saying ‘Follow us on Twitter or “Have a look at our Facebook page”, because the French government deems this as either blatant or subliminal promotion, and has decided it is unfair to other similar networks. 
With this move, it is expected that the virtual world would be a buzz with various reactions and comments either condemning or agreeing with the bold strategy of the French Government. Bloggers and online users of the said social networking sites are surprised with the attack on their virtual fortress. On a personal level, even I was astounded to hear of this breaking news. Questions regarding their reason behind this surprise move have twirled around in my head. Some commentators have suggested the ban is another effort by France to control the influence of Anglo-Saxon cultural influences, particularly those seen as encouraging the use of English. 
To provide their side and the rationale behind this move of the government, CSA spokesperson Christine Kelly has this to say and I quote, “Why give preference to Facebook, which is worth billions of dollars, when there is many other social networks that struggling for recognition. This would be distortion of competition. If we allow Facebook and Twitter to be cited on air, it’s opening a Pandora’s box – other social networks will complain to us saying, ‘why not us?”
This has been in effect as of June 2011. As of the moment, I haven’t heard any news talking about taking the protest to the streets of France but there is definitely virtual noise in the form of blogs and online comments.
I don’t have to discuss on what is the rule in America – where the disputed social sites came into existence – because we all know what it is in the affirmative. They are allowing the use of Twitter and Facebook in their spiels as a part connecting to their viewers and spectators. It’s all over the internet sites and news program. In fact I’m following some of it on my Twitter account.
How about in the Philippines? Obviously, it is permitted. What is even more apparent is that Twitter and Facebook plays a vital role in disseminating information and gathering feedback from audiences. In fact, the first Filipino to have reached a million followers in Twitter is actress and TV host Anne Curtis. Hence there is no doubt that we are totally supportive of this advanced communication technology.
Now we come to my take on this issue. Is it really appropriate for broadcasters, tv personalities and the like, to say on TV the phrase ‘Follow us on Twitter’ and ‘Like us on Facebook’? Is there really a distortion of competition as Christine Kelly is emphasizing?
My stand: I don’t see any problem with it. I think it doesn’t in any way undermine online competition between social networking sites.
Jurisdictionally speaking, we don’t have a law that prohibits advertising social sites. Article 3, Section 4 of the Constitution explicitly provides that “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances”. During the Marcos regime, we are not allowed to talk, express our sentiments and criticize the government. Journalist, Broadcasters and the like are being detained during that historic regime because the freedom of speech is impaired. Hence, it becomes a major part/change in our present Constitution. With the advancement of technology, people can now say what they want to say, react to any issues and be informed of what is happening at the tip of their hands. Communication is very accessible. Thanks specifically to Twitter and Facebook.
The only agency to have come up with a regulation regarding the use of social sites is National Police Commission under the helm of the Department of Interior and Local Government. Memorandum Circular 2011-001 provides the guidelines on the provisional utilization of social networking sites in support to the PNP Mission. The memorandum circular provides guidelines on the limited utilization of social networking site in support to the PNP mission, particularly in the anti-crime and public safety campaign. To summarize the memorandum, here are some of the highlights:
- No Classified Information shall be posted
- Public Information Campaign
- Citizen’s Feedback, Comments, Complaints and Reports
Now, if we are going to apply the French rule and the newscaster would say, ‘Find us in social networking sites’, what would be the reaction? Instincts would tell us that ‘what social site is he or she referring to’. It would create confusion from the viewers. Unlike if we say directly what social networking site, then it would be much easier and interaction will now comes into play
It is also obvious that Twitter and Facebook has its unique style hence being favored by many online users. There is no competition to speak of since other networking sites haven’t that much to offer unlike Twitter and Facebook. In order for them to be active online, they must come up with a unique feature that is not present to the two giant sites being disputed. Latest I heard is that Google is coming up with its own networking site. It is currently under trial and we’ll still have to see its feature until it is fully launch.
For now, since we don’t have restrictions as provided by law in the use of social networking site, there is no reason why it should be banned just like what France did. Let us keep in mind though that we need to utilize it as fairly as possible. Let’s use it for a responsible and productive communication.
Last 2007, Wikileaks was launched. It is a not-for-profit media organization whose goal is to bring important news and information to the public. One of their most important activities is to publish original source material alongside the news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of truth. The broader principles on which their work is based are the defense of freedom of speech and the support of the rights of all people to create new history. They derive these principles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular, Article 19. It states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.  The people behind this organization are trained professionals and journalists whose duty is to provide information and news to people. They strictly follow a protocol in coming up with a story. They make sure its veracity and accuracy.
Now, are we allowed to create our own version of wikileaks.org? Do we have a law that would prevent us from doing so? I say, we can. However, it must be set within the limitations set forth by statute and natural law.
I agree with the purpose and reason behind Wikileaks.org and that is creating open governments. The people have the right to know what is going on because after all, they are the ones who are deeply affected with the situation and to create among themselves awareness and consciousness. However, it must be within the boundaries meted by our statute and natural law. Our Constitution supports and upholds the freedom of information. Specifically, it states:
- Article 3 Section 3 (1) – 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
- Article 3 Section 4 – No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances
- Article 3 Section 7 – 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.
Clearly, the law allows the right of the people for expression and communication. This includes any grievances and issues the people might have against the government as well as suggestions for its improvement and development. We are entitled to it as a matter of right. The means and medium of communication may vary. With the advancement of technology, we can now provide a much more meaningful way of expressing our thoughts and opinions.
However, even though we are supported by law to such freedom of information, it is not absolute. They are lines that need not be crossed because of a certain prohibition that is valid and justifiable.
Information is power thus it must be carefully scrutinized and analyzed for not all of it is helpful. Some of it is even dangerous if obtained because it might be used for the wrong purpose and reason.
On December 14, 2009, the Senate of the Philippines approved the Freedom of Information Act designed to allow access to key public documents, including those related to projects where corruption has been an issue. The only times access to information may be denied are:
- when the information must be kept secret under executive order guidelines;
- when the data is related to internal and external defense or law enforcement and its public scrutiny would compromise anti-crime activities or put the safety of a protected source, witness, law enforcement or military officer, or family member of those officers in danger;
- when the information is of a personal nature related to someone other than the requesting party and its release would compromise that person’s privacy;
- when disclosure would open trade, industrial, financial, or commercial secrets;
- when the information is privileged by law or a court ruling from production in legal proceedings;
- when the information is exempted from freedom of information requests by law or constitutional provision;
- when the information had been obtained by either house of the legislature in executive session; or
- when the items requested are drafts of executive, administrative, judicial, or quasi-judicial decisions, if their public release could reasonably be seen as obstructing the administration of justice, such as by impairing the impartiality of verdicts.
Under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, it maintains nine exemptions to the general presumption of mandatory disclosure. They are as follows:
- National defense or foreign policy information properly classified pursuant an Executive Order
- Documents “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.”
- Documents “specifically exempted from disclosure by statute” other than FOIA, but only if the other statute’s disclosure prohibition is absolute
- Documents which would reveal “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.”
- Documents which are “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandum or letters” which would be privileged in civil litigation
- Documents which are “personnel and medical and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
- Documents which are “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes,” but only if one or more of six specified types of harm would result
- Documents which are related to specified reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of agencies which regulate financial institutions
- Documents which would reveal oil well data. 
With the following known and stated exemptions, there is no doubt that, freedom to information is not an absolute right, rather it maintains a detailed and specific prohibition violating it would be vital to a nation’s national security and may put its citizens at risk. Moreover, people who intend to provide such information, exposing anomalies as well as corruptions of the government must put to mind that it must be accurate and verified. It must not only provide the basic information rather it must contain the purpose and reasons behind such exposure. Readers don’t have to take their word of it, they can see it themselves. 
On another note, providing such information may attack the very integrity of the State. It can crush to doom its core values. It can make or break its existence. Thus, persons who wanted to expose such unwanted stories must keep in mind the colossal effect it may have towards the persons responsible and to the nation as a whole. They must be very careful in selecting and identifying stories.
Information is power. Every person is entitled to it. Even beggars who pays taxes by buying goods in the market is entitled to it. Freedom to information is of vital importance towards the moral growth of every nation. It creates a sense of so
We place so much value into communication. It is part of our everyday life. We are so much elated to every piece of advance technology facilitating faster connection to others hence we must used it responsibly.
Aspiring law students and geeks have so much to be thankful for these days. Why? Because they can easily search thru the web case laws decided by the Supreme Court and it can go back up to the Philippine reports era. Anytime, anywhere they can download and print it directly. No more waiting in the library for the availability of SCRA or Phil Reports, just search and click.
However, one important and worth discussing issue has sprang with the rose of technology in law materials – privacy rights of the people involved in case laws. I remember during my first year in law, my professor has disclosed to us that he knows of a person who has been affected because of what she uncovered in the internet. She discovered an alarming truth about her personality. Her mother is a rape victim and that she is the result. What disturbs her is the fact that she isn’t the first to know, it was her classmates who told her about her mother being a victim decided years ago. It’s the truth and she can’t do anything about it.
Now, the issue to be discussed here is that – can a person actually demands that his or her name mentioned in the case laws posted in the internet be stricken out on the ground that it violates his or her right to privacy?
Privacy laws can be classified according to its nature. We have Health Privacy laws, Financial Privacy laws, and Information privacy laws which I think is the law that is being invoked in this scenario. Information privacy laws cover the protection of information on private individuals from intentional or unintentional disclosure or misuse.  It means that it protects an individual’s private information pertaining to his whereabouts and the like. This includes his name, social security number etc. Can this be invoked by the individual whose name is mentioned in a case law? My answer is leaning towards the negative side.
Case laws originated from the ruling of the Supreme Court. The discussions dealt with purely questions of law. It has been part of our legal system. We call it jurisprudence strictly speaking. Nowadays, as I mentioned earlier, jurisprudence is already searchable in the web. Currently we have Chan Robles and Lawphil, a law repository website, who provides a wide array of case laws way back from the Philippine reports era. Its purpose is to provide an easy access to law students for educational purposes and not to undermine the persons involved in the case. Is the posting in the internet actual transcript of jurisprudence undermines the right to privacy of the parties involved in the case? I think it is not.
Our Constitution provides protection to its citizens regarding the right to privacy in terms of private information and any information obtain without due process of law cannot be used against that citizen. It is our shield against unreasonable, excessive and abuse of power of the authority in obtaining private information that may be used against the will of the citizens. But this right is not absolute. It has certain exemptions that when implemented doesn’t violate the right of the citizen to privacy. One of these exemptions is jurisprudence. Persons cannot complain the fact that there names must not be included and be stricken out on the ground that it violates their right to privacy.
It has been held time and again that once the court acquired jurisdiction over the person of the defendant or the plaintiff, they will now be considered as public figure. Once you filed a complaint, a petition over the court, you are indirectly waiving your right to privacy. You are completely surrendering towards the jurisdiction of the court. You are giving them access to obtain information about yourself that is deemed appropriate in the pursuing the proceedings.
I completely understand the sentiments of the private parties – that they don’t want to be as much as possible be open and well-known to the world. Being a party alone in a proceeding is enough burden and by publishing the case in the internet is another stuff they need to carry. It is not easy to be involved in something that may affect your status as a person and as a citizen. There was no malice in publishing the materials thus it is not correct to say that rights are violated. Authorities understand the merits of the parties in terms of its right to privacy thus they come up with something that can somehow mitigate the situation.
In order to minimize the embarrassment and humiliation, the law affords ample protection towards the parties involved. Authorities promulgated in 1998 Republic Act No. 8505 or the Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act. Section 5 of this statute provides that the names 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.  After the implementation of this act, the parties in a rape case, their names have been unidentified and this is reflected in the actual transcript of the case laws. In this manner, victims and the accused are protected towards public humiliation.
Right to privacy is a well founded right but it is not absolute. It has certain exemptions whose purpose in leaned towards public concern and interest. The act of publishing law materials in the internet is not to humiliate or exposed the parties involved but rather it is inclined towards public interest and information.