SY 2011-2012, First Semester
The social networking phenomenon began slightly more than a decade ago. Friendster was the one of the most popular social networking sites. However, it lost its appeal to the people. Nowadays, a day would not pass without hearing from someone about Facebook and Twitter. Even the different broadcasting networks have respective accounts. You can hear at every end of a program to “follow us on____.” Thus, the issue of fair competition with regard to the other social networking sites which are not as popular as Facebook and Twitter.
Legally speaking, there is nothing in our laws which prohibits the different broadcasting networks from promoting said networks by announcing to the public their respective accounts. For them, this is to gain more audience. And when we say more audience, it means more money coming in into the network since advertisers flow where there are more audience to influence in buying their products.
I have read that Twitter and Facebook reminders are being banned in French airwaves. And just because the French does it does not mean that we should to. Twitter and Facebook are the most popular networking sites. We cannot blame the broadcasting networks to use them to gain popularity. We cannot blame the broadcasting networks to use some other social networking sites which the public are not familiar with because it is like putting a gun in one’s hand and committing suicide for the public to see.
The year 2010 marked the popularity of WikiLeaks.org, said to be a non-profit media organization dedicated in revealing the so-called “secrets of the world.” Many people claim this as a powerful tool in exposing anomalies being committed by several governments in the world. And when those anomalies were revealed, its founder Julian Assange was either praised by those who believes in his cause and criticized by the government to which the anomalies pertain, particularly the US Government.
Now that we our under a new government, and every now and then, whether it be here in our country or in foreign soil, we hear about how corrupt the past administration was – the bottomline is we, the Filipino citizens, have been bombarded with the so-called anomalies of the Gloria administration. No wonder that we are no longer surprised, if one after the other, said corrupt practices were being shoved into our faces.
So, can we, as ordinary citizens, create our own version of WikiLeaks.org to post sensitive documents pertaining to anomalies being committed by our own government?
If we are to create our own “expose site”, what would be its implication to the constitutional right of freedom of expression and to the national security?
Under the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the Government for redress of grievances.” Conflict, thus, arises when this right is exercised in divulging the “secrets” of our own government.
Freedom of expression is not absolute. It also has its limitations. We cannot use it without reign. So, should there be any conflict with its exercise and the status of national security, and as much as every Filipino is entitled to such right, this right must yield to circumstances when national security will be put at risk.
Creating our own WikiLeaks may lead one to commit acts which are prohibited under our laws. Espionage – the crime of gathering or transmitting information involving national defense with intent or reason to believe that the information is to be used to the injury of our country or to the advantage of any foreign nation is punishable under Article 117 of the Revised Penal Code. Furthermore, libel may also be committed.
So, how does poor Juan stays vigilant while at the same time fears being arrested for exposing matters of national security? Maybe the answer to this is proper implementation and enforcement of laws. In the first place, there will be nothing to reveal if only each and every individual in our country do what one ought to do.
Technology is a powerful device. Period. But one which we must use with great caution. It is hard to put side by side right to information, national security and laws which sanction one for exercising his right. To leak a government’s corrupt practices maybe a step toward better governance but again, what is the right way, or should I say, the better way of doing this still depends on how it will affect the general public.
Nowadays, in every click of the button and in every scroll of the mouse, technology defines who individuals are. It bridges relationships. It provides communication. It provides information. Actually, too much information. Thus, comes the conflict between the right to privacy and the right to public information.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution recognizes both these rights. Article III, Section 2 provides that “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.” The Constitution further provides 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.” Article III, Section 7 also provides that “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 limitations as may be provided for by law.”
These rights are considered fundamental rights in our country. However, in times of conflict, it may be difficult to choose between these two. May a private individual compel private repositories of Philippine jurisprudence to remove his name on the claim of right to privacy? This scenario may arise in case one, by using technology, searches on a person’s name only to find out that the latter have been involved in a sensitive case or trial which may affect his privacy as an individual. Thus, the only way to protect it is for his name to be removed from the case. But how can this be done if the decision in the case is or had been a basis for rendering decisions in other cases? Wouldn’t it deprive those simple individuals the right to know about a certain ruling which may help them to better understand the law? How about those law practitioners and students who use past decisions to serve as a basis for a cause of action or for defending suits? If there is a way of upholding the right to privacy than the right to public information, how can it be done?
Under Article 26 of the New Civil Code provides under Article 26: “Every person shall respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons.” Is it disrespect if a case involving a private individual be placed in repositories of Philippine jurisprudence? I don’t think so. For me, once an individual subjected himself to the Philippine courts, any information about himself which may be obtained through the proceedings is considered public information and thus, may be readily accessible to the public. Hence, the Supreme Court is correct when it stated that while all laws invasive of privacy would be subject to “strict scrutiny”, “the right to privacy does not bar all incursions to privacy.” So, while the right to privacy may be considered a fundamental right, it cannot be upheld at all times because to do so may deprive the right of the people to public information.
A private individual may invite the idea that the right of the public to access information about decided cases must be limited to certain individuals, like those individuals involved in the study of law as well as in its practice. However, it is important to note that there are also individuals outside this group who may be interested to know more about the law without being a student or practitioner of this field of expertise. A private individual may invite the idea that the use of technology helped in compiling Philippine laws and jurisprudence in the internet, why not provide registration/log in details before one can readily access such laws and cases? However, to do this may violate the constitutional mandate about the right to speedy disposition of cases and may clog the courts. Thus, in applying right to privacy, each case must be judged in its peculiar circumstances.