[Mirror] Guiling, Ayesha Hania

SY 2011-2012, First Semester


Follow Me on Twitter

With the emergence of social networking sites, most, if not all, broadcasting networks in the Philippines would end their show without the broadcasters asking the viewers to follow them on Twitter or add them up or be a fan of them on Facebook. However, this act is now the subject of legal debates. Wouldn’t this act of broadcasting networks result to unfair competition? Aren’t other social networking sites prejudiced by this? Isn’t it free advertising for Facebook and Twitter?

In a recent move by the French government, it disallowed broadcasting networks within its jurisdiction to ask its viewers to follow them or like them in Twitter and Facebook respectively. It only allowed the announcement that the viewers can follow them on a social networking site. On the other hand, the American government has given its stamp of approval on this act. It allowed broadcasting networks to do so. Now, you may ask, what about in the Philippines? Has the Philippine government made a stand on this? The answer is No.

No law has been enacted prohibiting such act. The issue had not reached yet the Supreme Court so there would be no jurisprudence tackling this matter. Even the KBP or Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster sa Pilipinas did not issue any memorandum or circular to discourage such act. Hence, in the absence of any law prohibiting or approving this act, I am only able to give my own opinion on this matter.

I am of the opinion that this act of broadcasting networks is perfectly within the bounds of law. First, it is a fact that there is no law prohibiting such. Where there is no law prohibiting such act it is implied that such act is allowed. Further, broadcasting networks when duly incorporated are considered juridical person. It being a person, it may do any act that it opts to do and be responsible to the consequences of its acts. Every person, whether it be a natural or juridical, has the right of complete freedom with regard to his acts provided too that he does not step on other people’s rights.

Some claim that this act would result to unfair competition as it would result to free advertisement of Facebook and Twitter. However, we must take into consideration the intent of broadcasting companies in doing such. Broadcasting companies ask their viewers to follow them or be a fan primarily to solicit the viewer’s reactions and comments. These sites are also used to empower the viewers so that they may share latest news to the broadcasting network. Clearly, the use of the networking sites is to get the viewers involved. In fact, such practice is even beneficial to the public as it keeps them informed. The use of Facebook and Twitter is intended neither to put other networking sites in a disadvantageous position nor to advertise the two sites.

With this, I ask my readers to follow me on Twitter: @qthania


Wikileaks Philippine Version?

WikiLeaks is an international non-profit organisation that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources, news leaks, and whistleblowers. [1] It has published footages of Iraqi airstrikes, released documents about the Afghan war and diplomatic cables of different country. The organization has been praised for releasing these documents thus creating more transparency in the operations of every government. However, criticisms too were thrown for creating possible chaos on the releases of documents intended to be private and some even classified as confidential information.

During a symposium in Far Easter University last January, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago urged the student to study the case of Julian Assange, founder-director of Wikileaks. [2] She suggests that an organization the same of that Wikileaks may be used to fight the prevalent problem of corruption in the country. Sen. Dantiago even gave tips on how to go about with the operation of such an organization.

Now, would the creation of a similar organization as that of Wikileaks in the Philippines be legally possible?

Advocates of an organization like that of Wikileaks stand their ground on Article III Section 7 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution which provides that the right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. It further states that access to official records, and to documents, and papers, pertaining to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizens, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.

In determining whether or not a particular information is of public concern there is no rigid test which can be applied. “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 directly affect their lives, or simply because such matters naturally arouse the interest of an ordinary citizen. In the final analysis, it is for the courts to determine on a case by case basis whether the matter at issue is of interest or importance, as it relates to or affects the public. [3]

In the case of Valmonte vs. Belmonte (G.R. No. 74930, 1989), the High Court said that: the right to information is an essential premise of a meaningful right to speech and expression. But this is not to say that the right to information is merely an adjunct of and therefore restricted in application by the exercise of the freedoms of speech and of the press. Far from it. The right to information goes hand-in-hand with the constitutional policies of full public disclosure * and honesty in the public service. ** It is meant to enhance the widening role of the citizenry in governmental decision-making as well as in checking abuse in government.

In another case, the Court held that the constitutional guarantee to information on matters of public concern is not absolute. It does not open every door to any and all information. Under the Constitution, access to official records, papers, etc., are “subject to limitations as may be provided by law” (Art. III, Sec. 7, second sentence). The law may therefore exempt certain types of information from public scrutiny, such as those affecting national security (Journal No. 90, September 23, 1986, p. 10; and Journal No. 91, September 24, 1986, p. 32, 1986 Constitutional Commission). It follows that, in every case, the availability of access to a particular public record must be circumscribed by the nature of the information sought, i.e., (a) being of public concern or one that involves public interest, and, (b) not being exempted by law from the operation of the constitutional guarantee. The threshold question is, therefore, whether or not the information sought is of public interest or public concern. [4]

These jurisprudence strengthens the fact that the right to information is limited only on matters of public concern and the right is further limited by laws exempting information from public disclosure.

Further, Article 3, Section 3 (1) of the 1987 Constitution 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. The right of individuals to their private documents and correspondences shall at all times be respected except upon the aforementioned circumstances. Absent these three instances, the right to privacy must always be respected. The intention to fight corruption must yield to this Constitutional right.

Finally, we must also look into the process of how members of such an organization would acquire the information they seek to publish and release. Espionage is committed by any person who without authority enters a warship, fort, or naval or military establishment or reservation to obtain any information, plans, photographs or other data of a confidential nature relative to the defense of the Philippine archipelago. Philippine penal laws also penalizes hacking under the E-Commerce Act. Hacking or crackling with refers to unauthorized access into or interference in a computer system/server or information and communication system; or any access in order to corrupt, alter, steal, or destroy using a computer or other similar information and communication devices, without the knowledge and consent of the owner of the computer or information and communications system, including the introduction of computer viruses and the like, resulting in the corruption, destruction, alteration, theft or loss of electronic data messages or electronic documents.

With all these being said, I’m of the opinion that creating an organization here in the Philippines similar to that of Wikileaks would only be more chaotic for the country than be beneficial. Indeed, the creation of one would result to the violation of the rights of many rather than upholding the right of the few.


Endnotes

[1] Wikileaks, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WikiLeaks

[2] Emulate Wikileaks founder, youth urged. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20110128-317079/Emulate-WikiLeaks-founder-youth-urged

[3] Legazpi vs. Civil Service Commission (1987), G.R. No. L-72119

[4] ibid.


Right to Privacy vs. Right to Information on Public Concern

With the advent of technology, access to documents, photographs and video footages have been relatively easy. People have been more liberal in sharing every tidbit in their lives by uploading pictures, videos or telling the whole world about what’s on their mind or what’s happening in their lives. People all of a sudden are not anymore conscious about privacy issues. However, there still remains a few who still want a tight guard on privacy issues.

Lawphil Project is an online and electronic databank of Philippine jurisprudence. One of the foundation’s major aims is to make Philippine law accessible to the legal community but to all sectors of society. [1] In this website, you can find all the laws that were enacted in the country and all cases decided by the Supreme Court.

Question now is being asked on whether a private citizen, whose name appears on a case decided by the High Court, can ask Lawphil Project to remove the case from its databank on the ground that the posting of the case online violates his right to privacy.

I am of the opinion that this may not be validly done. The 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that that the right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. It further states that access to official records, and to documents, and papers, pertaining to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizens, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.

In the case of Legazpi vs. Civil Service Commission, the Court held 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 directly affect their lives, or simply because such matters naturally arouse the interest of an ordinary citizen. In the final analysis, it is for the courts to determine on a case by case basis whether the matter at issue is of interest or importance, as it relates to or affects the public.

Clearly, a case decided by the Supreme Court is a matter of public concern that every Filipino has the right to know. As a case decided by the Court, it forms part of the laws of the land and it is integrated in the legal system of the Philippines. Such case must be accessible to the public. Lawphil Project may not be asked to write down a case. It is a matter of public concern that should be readily available when needed. The right of an individual person for privacy must yield to the right of many to information on public concern.


Endnotes

[1] http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=LAWPHIL_Project

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