[Mirror] Rodrigo, Renante

SY 2011-2012, First Semester

To Follow or To Like???

With the influx of technology, information is no longer a scarce necessity. On the contrary, it has become a major income generating machinery in the so called world-wide-web. It paved the way for the advertisements in different websites and pop-up ads are here and there.

One of the interesting results of the so called information revolution is the active participation of the media men, both local and foreign media. Whether we are a viewer of television reports or a listener of a radio reports, you may also have observed that before the end of each program the news anchor will utter the words “Follow us on Twitter or Like us on facebook”. These short but powerful words concern me a lot.

I am a firm believer of fairness and equality. With the abovementioned practice of news anchors nowadays, I am concerned with the “small” and “not popular” social network websites. The latter are suppressed with the direct campaign or endorsement from powerful media practitioners. By analogy, “they are giving additional growth hormones to the giants and depriving nutrients and vitamins to the dwarves”. Also, it is like promoting (without a fee) the fastfood giants like McDonalds’ or Jollibee and failing to mention “Aling Gloria’s Carenderia” or “Mang Kiko’s Kaininan sa Kanto”.

I share this sentiment because under the law of France, the said practice is prohibited. On the contrary, in the United States it is sensationalized and now part of the tri-media system. Back to our country, our law on human relations under the New Civil Code provides under:

Art. 19. Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.

Art. 20. Every person who, contrary to law, wilfully or negligently causes damage to another, shall indemnify the latter for the same.

Thus, in my opinion something is not correct with the said practices. We are always captivated by fad and trend but sometimes we fail to realize that small people and small players are receiving more pains and more aches because of the undue advantage of the big and the famous.

We all love to be loved and be admired. We all like to promote and to recognize the big and the famous. However, we must not forget that every giant in this world also started as an infant. We must correct the said practice in order to avoid the harm against the “infants” in the social network arena.

The Internet Exposé

The political landscape of the Philippines has been imputed with preposterous allegations of corruptions and scandals. Thus, it has been an “open-secret” conversation that the officials of the government are manipulating the government activities with tainted intentions to personally gain for each and every “official” transaction. On the other hand, the private sector is not also immune from such accusations. There have been allegations that the elite, the privileged and the powerful business tycoons are in-sync with their activities with the government executives.

In relation to the abovementioned and with the advent of technology, are we as ordinary citizens ready to expose the alleged anomalies in the government and private sectors using the internet as a medium of expression?

Before we click the “like” icon, let us first examine the laws which are vital to the subject matter before we proceed to the said undertaking.

“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression or of the press or the right of the people peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances”. This is a clear import from Article 3 Section 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. The next probable question might be, is it absolute? Well, the answer is a reverberating NO! Hence, the said freedom is not absolute, and may be properly regulated in the interest of the public. Accordingly, the State may validly impose penal and/or administrative sanctions.

the part of the private corporations, it also well-settled that corporations may also file a claim for moral damages against any person who imputed false, libelous, malicious and defamatory accusation. (Filipinas Broadcasting Network vs Ago Medical)

With all these roadblocks, where do we go?

We are left with no other recourse but to submit to the duly constituted authorities. The internet is a very powerful medium of expressing one’s emotion, feeling or frustration but it is also a volatile avenue to redress our grievances against the government. The exposé of the alleged anomalies in the internet, with or without supporting evidence, will be subjected to public opinion, public ridicule and public prosecution. Thus, it may create harm, damage and injury to public order and public safety.

The Penumbra of Right of Privacy

With the dawn of technology in the legal system, it has come to our attention that the access to the names of the parties in a legal proceedings decided by the Supreme Court are just a click away. As such, their identities are openly divulged to the public eyes whether the said parties were the aggrieved or the defendants, the current technology will not distinguish. As a result, it may cause public scrutiny and public humiliations to the concern individuals.

The question now is whether the parties to the case may invoke their right to privacy and thereafter ask the legal repositories to stricken their names or identities in the case decided by the Supreme Court.

The 1987 Constitution protects the citizens on the right to information which has two important aspects, first, the right of the individual not to have private information about himself be disclosed and, second, the right of an individual surveillance and intrusion. These doctrines serve as our armament in our daily lives with respect to the exercise of our Constitutional right. May these doctrines be considered as absolute rules?

The answer is probably no.

In one of the publications in Harvard Law Review which was written by Samuel Warren and Louis D. Brandeis entitled The Right to Privacy, originally published in 4 Harvard Law Review 193 (1890), the authors ratiocinated that, “It remains to consider what are the limitations of this right to privacy, and what remedies may be granted for the enforcement of the right. To determine in advance of experience the exact line at which the dignity and convenience of the individual must yield to the demands of the public welfare or of private justice would be a difficult task; but the more general rules are furnished by the legal analogies already developed in the law of slander and libel, and in the law of literary and artistic property”.

First. The right to privacy does not prohibit any publication of matter which is of public or general interest.

Second. The right to privacy does not prohibit the communication of any matter, though in its nature private, when the publication is made under circumstances which would render it a privileged communication according to the law of slander and libel.

Third. The law would probably not grant any redress for the invasion of privacy by oral publication in the absence of special damage.

Fourth. The right to privacy ceases upon the publication of the facts by the individual, or with his consent.

Fifth. The truth of the matter published does not afford a defense.

Sixth. The absence of “malice” in the publisher does not afford a defense.

The remedies for an invasion of the right of privacy are also suggested by those administered in the law of defamation, and in the law of literary and artistic property, namely: —

  1. An action of tort for damages in all cases. Even in the absence of special damages, substantial compensation could be allowed for injury to feelings as in the action of slander and libel.
  2. An injunction, in perhaps a very limited class of cases

Finally, in the case of Ople vs Torres 293 SCRA 141, the High Court opined that “Public concern” like “public interest” is a term that eludes exact definition. Both terms embrace a broad spectrum of subjects which the public may want to know, either because these affects their lives, or simply because such matters naturally arouse the interest of an ordinary citizen”. Thus, parties to the cases decided by the Supreme Court under ordinary circumstances may not invoke their right to privacy as armor in their pursuit to remove their names in the High Court’s decisions.

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