[Mirror] Nabua, Marie France

SY 2011-2012, First Semester


Whether Chan Robles Virtual Library, Lawphil or any other private repository of laws and jurisprudence may be compelled to remove copies of jurisprudence where the name of a particular person is mentioned or where he is party to a case which was decided by the court on the claim that it violates his right to privacy?

Due to rapid advancement in technology like computers and internet, the information became easily accessible to the public. Advanced information systems have accelerated and the individual’s ability to control its use has diminished. Electronic copies of the decisions of our Supreme Court on various cases over the period of years may be found in the internet by merely typing the G.R. number or title of the case. Among the known private repository or databank of laws and jurisprudence in the Philippines are the Lawphil by the Arellano Law Foundation and Chan Robles Virtual Library by The Law Firm of Chan Robles & Associates. Even the Philippine Supreme Court publishes its decided cases in its website.

With this, an issue may be raised on whether the party in a case or person whose name appeared in a case decided by the Supreme Court compel these private repositories to remove the copies of these cases claiming that it violates their right to privacy.

The right to privacy is the right of an individual to be let alone, or to be free from unwarranted publicity, or to live without unwarranted interference by the public in the matters which the public is not necessarily concerned. [1] It is considered as belonging to that class of rights which every human being possesses in his natural state and which he does not lose or surrender by becoming a member of organized society. It is founded in the belief in a person’s inherent right to enjoy his private life without having incidents relative thereto made public against his will. The right has been equated with the right to live as one chooses under the law, free from interference in the pursuit of one’s choices. [2]

To ensure protection of our right to privacy, Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides the following relevant provisions:

Section 2. 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.

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. (2) Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.

Section 7 grants Filipinos the right to gain access to “information on matters of public concern … 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.”

Further, there were several statutory laws enacted related to this right to privacy. Among the others is found in Section 5 of the Rape Victim Assistance Program Act of 1998 which states 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.” Likewise, Section 8 of the Proposed Rule on Juveniles in Conflict (the Rule) 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 9 of the Rule, dealing with the fingerprinting and photographing of a juvenile, states “while under investigation, no juvenile in conflict with law shall be fingerprinted or photographed in a humiliating and degrading manner,” and stipulates procedural guidelines such as separate storage of fingerprint files from adult files; restricted access by prior authority of the Family Court; and automatic destruction if no charges are laid or when the juvenile reaches the age of majority (21). 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. [3]

Moreover, Section 26 of the Civil Code of the Philippines likewise protects individual’s right to privacy which reads:

Article 26. 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 belief, lowly station in life, place of birth, physical defect or other personal condition.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, individual’s right to privacy has certain limitations. It is limited whenever the circumstances of the occasion show a reasonable interest on the part of the public in the conduct or affairs of persons who, by their activities, have become public characters. While public as a general rule can claim no right to knowledge concerning one’s looks, his clothes, the intimacies of his home and family, or the purely personal associations of his private life, yet, the moment a man enters a public life, or writes a book, or paints a picture, or commits a crime, or does an act in which the public may have an interest, he cannot complain of reasonable publicity. [4]

Moreover, when an individual seeks redress from our courts, he basically waives his right to privacy in matter relating to subject matter of his case. Usually, the case becomes a legitimate public concern especially in criminal cases. The decisions of the Supreme Court applying and interpreting the laws in a particular case will form part of the legal system of the Philippines in accordance with Article 8 of our Civil Code. This information should be accessible to the public being an official record or document pertaining to official acts or decisions as stated in Section 7, Article III of our Constitution.

In this regard, a party or individual whose name appears in a decision by the Supreme Court cannot compel these private repositories of laws and jurisprudence to remove a case involving him or containing his name on the basis that it violates his right to privacy.


Endnotes

[1] Arturo M. Tolentino, Civil Code of the Philippines, Commentaries and Jurisprudence Vol. I, 1990.

[2] Siliman University: Right to Privacy, http://www.negroschronicle.com/?p=15728

[3] PHR2006- Republic of the Philippines, https://www.privacyinternational.org/article/phr2006-republic-philippines

[4] Arturo M. Tolentino, Civil Code of the Philippines, Commentaries and Jurisprudence Vol. I, 1990

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