[Mirror] Mengullo, Keith

SY 2011-2012, Second Semester

Online Publication Of Philippine Laws: A Substantial Compliance

Art. 2 of the New Civil Code provides: ”Laws shall take effect after fifteen days following the completion of their publication either in the Official Gazette, or in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines, unless it is otherwise provided. (As amended by E.O. 200)

With the advent and the continuous development of technology worldwide, the same is utilized in disseminating information which is readily available for public consumption at all times. In consonance with the E-Commerce Act, which mainly aims to utilize the electronic medium, publication of a law in http://www.gov.ph which is the official website for official gazette of the Philippines suffices the requirement laid down in Art. 2 of the New Civil Code.

Simple reading of the provision would show that what is required is the publication in the Official Gazette of the Philippines or in a newspaper of general circulation for a law to be effective. The provision did not impose any limitation or publication regarding publication online. Although, publication would usually be interpreted to be printed in papers, the same would defeat the main goal of E-Commerce Act. This is apart from the fact that publication online is the most convenient and fastest way of offering information to the general public.

Invoking Right To Privacy On The Publication of SC Decisions

Judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws or the constitution, as expressly provided under Art. 8 of the New Civil Code, shall form part of the legal system of the Philippines. Its publication is a necessary element in scrutinizing decision-making processes to ensure that fairness and justice has been laid. However, in cases where highly sensitive information proves to be prejudicial to the litigant, the issue on the right to privacy sits in.

It is well recognized that right to privacy is a constitutional right expressly granted by no less than the supreme law of the country, hence to be given utmost regard. Nonetheless, just like any other right it does not present itself without limitations. This fundamental protection to privacy generally does not outweigh the open court principle and the values that its supports, to wit: public confidence in the justice system, the legitimacy of criminal justice, and the accountability of courts and judges. In consonance, open court principle caters deeper awareness to the legitimacy of the justice system and presents jurisprudence to be relatively unresponsive to the concerns of privacy.

Constitutional Rights Do Not End At The Airport

The vista of having our own confidential computers, phone and other electronic devices scrutinized is in direct conflict with the spirit and letter of the law as outlined in Art. 3, section 2 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

A case of a random warrantless search of computers based on an intelligence report that a certain passenger carries with it a file in violation of the Anti-Child Pornography Law (R.A. 9775) will not fall under the exception from compliance of the aforementioned provision in the bill of rights so as to effect validity of said search. If authorities have reasonable suspicion that evidence of a crime is in an electronic device, there is more reason to believe the existence of sufficient time to secure a warrant. Neither can it be considered under a valid warrantless search under airport searches because such exception is anchored on the limitation of a routine airport security procedure.

When no one’s safety is on the line, the authorities cannot in the guise of an exception based on airport searches validate a warrantless search that clearly impairs the citizens’ reasonable expectation to privacy.

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