[Mirror] Santos, Gail Joseph

SY 2011-2012, First Semester


Is it appropriate for media personalities to say “follow us on twitter or add us in facebook”?

Is it appropriate for media personalities to say or promote a particular social networking site when they invite their viewers to follow them on twitter or facebook?

A resounding YES!

There is no law prohibiting media personalities from endorsing their preferred social networking sites in the course of their broadcast. At best, the provisions of the New Civil Code of the Philippines can be the source of an argument for those with opposing views.

Article 19 of the New Civil Code provides that “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.”

It is imperative to note that while the mentioned article is considered as a catch-all provision, it must however be necessary to consider the position of the proponent before commenting harshly to this blog.

While the law directs the manner by which a person must handle his affairs, it is also equally important to determine the rights which a media personality, particularly a news anchor, has while performing his job inside the studio.

As a news anchor, he must deliver the news with impartiality, disregarding his own dismay or liking to that article that he just read. Whether or not he is affected by such, he should not let it interfere with his duty to READ the NEWS.

Now that his major role has been established, let us now go to my view that their tendencies to say ” like us on facebook” or “follow us on twitter” are really acceptable.

First, as I mentioned at the opening of my blog, there is NO LAW prohibiting them from saying this or should I say promoting these social websites. They have a right to do whatever they want as long as they are not prejudicial to the rights of other persons.

Do I hear reactions? Some would say that it is prejudicing the rights of other social networking sites given that there are undue favors given to Twitter and Facebook. How so? Could it be that the matter of patronizing a particular forum is solely dependent on the discretion and choice of the user? Assuming for the sake of argument that there indeed was a violation, does it deprive other social networking sites of possible income or popularity which will ultimately lead to duopoly? (is there such a word) I DO NOT THINK SO! Again, it all boils down to one thing, its consumer’s preference man!

Second, what is this right to freedom of expression that is being talked about by our very own 1987 Constition? Is this right absolute? Let’s discuss.

Article 3 Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution provides that “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

Is this law applicable to the current discussion? Yes. To flag as inappropriate the act of these media persons is a curtailment of the freedom granted to them. Certainly this act does not fall under any of the exceptions as to when this right may be deprived. I will no longer discuss the exceptions as it already seem to be an overkill given that the point that I am trying to drive at is that this freedom may be curtailed but not for causing an alleged “unfair competition towards other social networking sites.”

Third, I read after googling that France no longer allows their media practitioners to openly say “follow us on twitter or facebook.” Instead, they resort to saying “follow us on a social networking site” which I personally consider as stupid. How so? There are many social sites offering the same services and how, in this good earth, will the viewer find which website is used by the anchor? Duh!

Nevertheless, at least France has a law which entitles them to prohibit news anchors from openly promoting the network in which they are a part of. This 1992 law prohibits the mere mention of these sites on-air unless, twitter and facebook are in the news themselves (excerpts from an article witten by Devin Brown in cbsnews.com). Again, going back to my initial statement, there is a law which prohibits that’s why they can enforce it.

In closing, I may somewhat agree to the proposition that undue recognition is given to these big social sites. However, it not their fault that recognition is afforded to them by their users, most especially those in the media industry. It is just that their sites offer the best services fit for the requirements of the user. Those “not- so-recognized sites” should perhaps improve what they are offering to the people and let the people make the choice on whether to shift or not.

As a final statement, media practitioners in the Philippines should be allowed to say “like us on facebook” or “follow us on twitter” on-air.


Can we as ordinary citizens, create our own version of Wikileaks.org and report therein the anomalies of the State and the major corporations?

What is Wikileaks?

WikiLeaks is a non-profit media organization dedicated to bringing important news and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for independent sources around the world to leak information to our journalists. We publish material of ethical, political and historical significance while keeping the identity of our sources anonymous, thus providing a universal way for the revealing of suppressed and censored injustices. (taken from http://wikileaks.org/)

It has been one of the major sources of information relevant to issues which have been kept secret from us. In fact, one of its leaks that gained a strong following was that concerning the US Diplomatic Cables leaks. It became so popular that even the US Government wanted to prosecute the proprietor of this website.

You may be wondering why I have decided to create a blog regarding this issue, the answer is that a question was propounded to us by our law professor which is something that really intrigued me, given my view concerning full transparency in all dealings of the government.

Can we as ordinary citizens, create our own version of Wikileaks.org and report therein the anomalies of the State and the major corporations? That was the question.

Here are my answers:

Yes to creating my own Wikileaks for purposes of reporting anomalies of the State.

First off, it is the State’s policy to maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and take positive and effective measures against graft and corruption. This is provided under the Article II of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines.

As a State which adopts a policy to ensure that our government remains trustworthy, it is but obvious that creating one site reporting the blunders, misgivings and other atrocious acts of the government will be welcomed by the government. With several laws in place to put an end to graft and corruption and continuous senate hearings in aid of legislation to make sure that they make better laws, the additional avenue to help this government actually achieve the policy that it has set and consequently the highest degree of respect to its officials from its citizens, is something that to look forward to.

Imagine our government actually doing its job properly. What a sight to behold! There will be little or no lopsided deals entered into by the government, basic services will be restored since taxpayers fund will fully be accounted for. Debts will be properly serviced and government spending will be limited to legitimate ones.

Secondly, the policy of the state supporting full public disclosure is also something which makes the creation feasible. Sec 28 of Article II of the same Constitution provides:

“Section 28. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest:”

Transactions of the State involving the disposition of funds, given that most of the funds that they are using are from our hardwork and sacrifices, are basically of public interest and thus we have a right to know. But mere knowledge is not sufficient. We must be involved. If the transactions are or pose threats to national security, then by all means let’s not divulge. But if it isn’t, then, we should expose not to malign but to make it known to our government that we are not apathetic. It’s exactly the opposite.

Lastly, our right to access information, although not absolute, is guaranteed by the Constitution itself. Our Bill of Rights provide

“Section 7. 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 such limitations as may be provided by law.”

Almost similar to that of the preceding paragraph, as citizens, we should not be shortchanged. How, by showing the people the deals that our government officials have entered into to the detriment of the citizenry. We have a right not to be duped by our own government. We have a right to know what goes behind every deal and every botched one specially merits the attention of the people, who, according the very same Constitution, is the source of all government authority.

Now then, does the right to expose anomalies, extend to major private corporations? I say it may or may not!

No to indiscriminate reporting of anomalies committed by private corporations

Let me qualify that no. If the transactions for expose are made between Private Corporations alone, then reporting them will be a violation of the “Privacy” that our supreme law so guards. Anomalies made by these corporations, as long as these does not affect public interest,cannot be divulged by non-privy individuals without the consent of those actually involved.

“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. – Art III Sec 3(1) of the 1987 Constitution.

This right may not be absolute but as long as there is no legal basis for us to expose their dealings, then we do not have the right to encroach upon their privacy. Gee, it is them who will be affected anyway so we really need not bother.

But if that corporation deals with the government or provides services or products which are of public interest, then we can.

Imagine banking corporations creating a cartel on interest rates and connives with the BSP through the issuance of regulations to make the interests legal and with an agreement that so much of the profit gained from the exorbitant rates from us poor debtors will be shared by them, or the DOE conniving with the oil companies so that the fuel prices reaches P1,000.00 per liter because of an artificial shortage created to increase the demand or allowing them to undercut the quality of the fuel that they sell to have a better margin. If this is the case, then yes, let the consumers be informed though any means.

In the end, it will depend on what to publish in the the wikileaks site. As long as no right or law is violated, under the freedom of expression, we can say whatever we want, expose whatever is wrong, and most importantly, be the whistleblower that we’ve always wanted to be.


Removing name of party litigant in case repositories due to right to privacy

Is a person’s right to privacy violated whenever his name appears on the repositories of Philippine jurisprudence such as lawphil, lex libris, SCRA or other similar repositories more especially if it will involve the disclosure of private details which are closely guarded by the said person?

To put you in perspective, let take the case of Chi Ming Tsoi (G.R. No. 119190, January 16, 1997) where a part of the said decision provided this paragraph:

“The doctor said, that he asked the defendant to masturbate to find out whether or not he has an erection and he found out that from the original size of two (2) inches, or five (5) centimeters, the penis of the defendant lengthened by one (1) inch and one centimeter.”

In the above stated paragraph, the length of the genitalia of Chi Ming Tsoi was indicated whereby it was possible that Mr Choi could have been subjected to insults because of this revelation.

Now that our perspective are already somewhat on a similar level, I’ll start the discussion.

LIMITED ACCESS OF THE PEOPLE TO INFORMATION

Some of these affected party-litigants may raise this issue as unconstitutional on the basis that it is provided by the supreme law of the land. It states:

“Section 7. 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 such limitations as may be provided by law.”

For the possible argument on the part of the affected person, he could say that the fact that he had a minute penis should not be included since the right to information is not absolute as this is subject to limitations which the law may provide.

RESPECTING ONE’S DIGNITY

Banking on the Civil Code, he may use the argument that this limitation has been provided by the Civil Code of the Philippines particularly Article 26, which states:

“Art. 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:

Xxx”

Now comes the real question, can this argument be actually sustained and eventually have his privacy protected from further exploitation?

No, the possible arguments are not valid and his privacy is never violated by the recital of facts contained in these repositories which are merely lifted entirely from the Supreme Court decisions.

APPLICATION OF THE LIMITATIONS

First, invoking the provisions of the Bill of Rights is misplaced. The limitations provided to protect the party litigant are provided under Section 29 of Republic Act 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act and Sections 40 and 44 of Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004;

“Sec. 29 of RA 7610 provides:

Sec. 29. Confidentiality.—at the instance of the offended party, his name may be withheld from the public until the court acquires jurisdiction over the case.

It shall be unlawful for any editor, publisher, and reporter or columnist in case of printed materials, announcer or producer in the case of television and radio broadcasting, producer and director in the case of the movie industry, to cause undue and sensationalized publicity of any case of a violation of this Act which results in the moral degradation and suffering of the offended party.

Sec. 44 of RA 9262 similarly provides:

Sec. 44. Confidentiality.—All records pertaining to cases of violence against women and their children including those in the barangay shall be confidential and all public officers and employees and public or private clinics or hospitals shall respect the right to privacy of the victim. Whoever publishes or causes to be published, in any format, the name, address, telephone number, school, business address, employer, or other identifying information of a victim or an immediate family member, without the latter’s consent, shall be liable to the contempt power of the court.

Any person who violates this provision shall suffer the penalty of one (1) year imprisonment and a fine of not more than Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00).

Likewise, the Rule on Violence Against Women and their Children states:

Sec. 40. Privacy and confidentiality of proceedings.—All hearings of cases of violence against women and their children shall be conducted in a manner consistent with the dignity of women and their children and respect for their privacy.

Records of the cases shall be treated with utmost confidentiality. Whoever publishes or causes to be published, in any format, the name, address, telephone number, school, business address, employer or other identifying information of the parties or an immediate family or household member, without their consent or without authority of the court, shall be liable for contempt of court and shall suffer the penalty of one year imprisonment and a fine of not more than Five Hundred Thousand (P500,000.00) Pesos.”

The limitations set is only applicable to offended parties who are children or women. Moreover, this limitation based on the Feb 14, 2006 resolution of the Supreme Court entitled A.M. No. 99-7-06-SC In Re Internet Web Page of the Supreme Court as provided by the court in the landmark case of People v Cabalquinto (G.R. No. 167693, September 19, 2006). It stated:

“It is worth mentioning in this connection that the Court has resolved to refrain from posting in its Internet Web Page the full text of decisions in cases involving child sexual abuse in response to a letter from a mother of a child abuse victim addressed to the Chief Justice expressing anxiety over the posting of full text decisions of the Supreme Court on its Internet Web Page. The mother submitted that confidentiality and the best interest of the child must prevail over public access to information and pleaded that her daughter’s case, as well as those of a similar nature, be excluded from the Web Page.”

It is now therefore clear that if the offended person is not a child or a woman, this limitation cannot be applied and ultimately the provisions of the Constitution cannot be properly invoked. Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius.

PRESERVING THE DIGNITY OF PERSONS CONCERNED

Decisions of the court are of public record and may be accessed anytime. It also forms part of the legal system of the Philippines as provided under the New Civil Code.

“Art. 8. Judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws or the Constitution shall form a part of the legal system of the Philippines. (n)”

As such, these decisions may not be altered by anyone, although at times, confidential matters that are not supposed to be made known are included in the presentation of facts especially if these facts are material to the case or issue being heard by the court.

In fact, the Rules of Court specifically requires the pleading to contain the ultimate facts omitting only statements of mere evidentiary facts (Sec 1, Rule 8, 1997 Revised Rules of Court)

In this connection, the argument which relies on the provision of the New Civil Code cannot prosper given that the intent to malign, besmirch or otherwise tarnish the dignity of the person is wanting. The mere fact that a personal circumsance is material to the case indicates that its inclusion is not a matter or choice but a necessity. Otherwise, the case might crumble like a makeshift house under an Intensity 9 earthquake.

To conclude, no right is violated and the person affected has no right to demand the removal of his name from the database kept by these repositories.

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