SY 2011-2012, First Semester
- Are ordinary citizens entitled free access to information even if the information is confidential in nature?
- Whether Chan Robles, Law Phil, UST repository of laws or any other private repository of laws and jurisprudence may be compelled by any person to cause the removal of any jurisprudence which he have been a party thereto per his claim that it violates his right to privacy?
Are ordinary citizens entitled free access to information even if the information is confidential in nature?
As defined by Wikipedia, INFORMATION in its most restricted technical sense is an ordered sequence of symbols that record or transmit a message. It can be recorded as signs, or conveyed as signals by waves. Information is any kind of event that affects the state of a dynamic system. As a concept, however, information has numerous meanings. Moreover, the concept of information is closely related to notions of constraint, communication, control, data, form, instruction, knowledge, meaning, mental stimulus, pattern, perception, representation, and especially entropy.
The English word was apparently derived from the Latin stem (information-) of the nominative (informatio): this noun is in its turn derived from the verb “informare” (to inform) in the sense of “to give form to the mind”, “to discipline”, “instruct”, “teach”: “Men so wise should go and inform their kings.” (1330) Inform itself comes (via French informer) from the Latin verb informare, to give form, to form an idea of. Furthermore, Latin itself already contained the word informatio meaning concept or idea, but the extent to which this may have influenced the development of the word information in English is not clear.
The Philippines is one among countries that have elevated the right to information into a Constitutional guarantee. Such high level of importance accorded to the right to information is only proper given the key role that the right to information plays in empowering the people, ensuring good governance, deepening democracy and working for sustainable development.
It must be emphasized that access to information is a constitutional right that is at the heart of an informed citizenry and a transparent, accountable and responsible government. The framers of the 1987 Constitution, cognizant of the necessity to ensure transparency and accountability in government, have included such right of the people under the Declaration of Principles and State Policies, and under Section 28, Article II which provides that:
“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.”
The constitutional right to information first gained recognition in the Bill of Rights, Article IV, of the 1973 Constitution, which states:
Sec. 6. 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, shall be afforded the citizen subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.
The foregoing provision has been retained and the right therein provided amplified in Article III, Sec. 7 of the 1987 Constitution with the addition of the phrase, “as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development.” The new provision reads:
“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 stations as may be provided by law. “
These constitutional provisions are self-executing. They supply the rules by means of which the right to information may be enjoyed (Cooley, A
Treatise on the Constitutional Limitations 167 ) by guaranteeing the right and mandating the duty to afford access to sources of information. Hence, the fundamental right therein recognized may be asserted by the people upon the ratification of the constitution without need for any ancillary act of the Legislature. (Id. at, p. 165) What may be provided for by the Legislature are reasonable conditions and limitations upon the access to be afforded which must, of necessity, be consistent with the declared State policy of full public disclosure of all transactions involving public interest (Constitution, Art. 11, Sec. 28). However, it cannot be overemphasized that whatever limitation may be prescribed by the Legislature, the right and the duty under Art. III Sec. 7 have become operative and enforceable by virtue of the adoption of the New Charter. Therefore, the right may be properly invoked in a mandamus proceeding such as this one.
Moreover, Section 5(e) of Republic Act No. 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, requires that all public documents must be made accessible to, and readily available for inspection by, the public within reasonable working hours. It states:
Section 5. Duties of Public Officials and Employees. – In the performance of their duties, all public officials and employees are under obligation to:
e) Make documents accessible to the public. – All public documents must be made accessible to, and readily available for inspection by, the public within reasonable working hours.
Corollary to the issue on public access to information, WikiLeaks, an international non-profit media organization that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources, news leaks, and whistleblowers and dedicated to bringing important news and information to the public. It provides an innovative, secure and anonymous way for independent sources around the world to leak information, publish material of ethical, political and historical significance while keeping the identity of its sources anonymous, thus providing a universal way for the revealing of suppressed and censored injustices.
Time magazine said that Wikeleaks, “”Could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”
According from them, WikiLeaks states that its “primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behaviour in their governments and corporations.
The Colbert Report explained about the limit to the freedom of speech, saying, “[it is] not an ultimate freedom, however free speech is what regulates government and regulates law. That is why in the US Constitution the Bill of Rights says that Congress is to make no such law abridging the freedom of the press. It is to take the rights of the press outside the rights of the law because those rights are superior to the law because in fact they create the law. Every constitution, every bit of legislation is derived from the flow of information. Similarly every government is elected as a result of people understanding things”.
With regard to propriety of Wikileaks, in my opinion, transparency is a must, especially with regard to government dealings. In this digital age because of technology it is difficult to control any leaks if people give it a try. Wikileaks and newspapers just publish what is given to them. If any government does not want such documents to be leaked out in such quantity, simply just not to put them in digital format. Go back to use paper only. Then again, even if suppressed citizens’ access to information is inevitable.
In view of the foregoing arguments, I strongly believe that ordinary citizens should be given access to information as a manifestation of a true democratic political and social reform in the country, to benefit our generation, and the generations to come.
Whether Chan Robles, Law Phil, UST repository of laws or any other private repository of laws and jurisprudence may be compelled by any person to cause the removal of any jurisprudence which he have been a party thereto per his claim that it violates his right to privacy?
ISSUE AT BAR: Whether Chan Robles, Law Phil, UST repository of laws or any other private repository of laws and jurisprudence may be compelled by any person to cause the removal of any jurisprudence which he have been a party thereto per his claim that it violates his right to privacy?
Privacy, as defined by Wikipedia, is the ability of an individual or group to seclude them or information about themselves and thereby reveal them selectively. The boundaries and content of what is considered private differ among cultures and individuals, but share basic common themes. Privacy is sometimes related to anonymity, the wish to remain unnoticed or unidentified in the public realm.
When something is private to a person, it usually means there is something within them that is considered inherently special or personally sensitive. The degree to which private information is exposed therefore depends on how the public will receive this information, which differs between places and over time. Privacy is broader than security and includes the concepts of appropriate use and protection of information.
The right to privacy is the right to be let alone, in the absence of some “reasonable” public interest in a person’s activities, like those of celebrities or participants in newsworthy events. Invasion of the right to privacy can be the basis for a lawsuit for damages against the person or entity violating the right.
In United States privacy law embodies several different legal concepts. One is the invasion of privacy, a tort based in common law allowing an aggrieved party to bring a lawsuit against an individual who unlawfully intrudes into his or her private affairs, discloses his or her private information, publicizes him or her in a false light, or appropriates his or her name for personal gain. Public figures have less privacy, and this is an evolving area of law as it relates to the media.
The essence of the law derives from a right to privacy, defined broadly as “the right to be let alone.” It usually excludes personal matters or activities which may reasonably be of public interest, like those of celebrities or participants in newsworthy events. Invasion of the right to privacy can be the basis for a lawsuit for damages against the person or entity violating the right.
In the Philippines, the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that:
Section 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of laws.
Section 2. The right of the people to be ensure 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. 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.
In the landmark case of Morfe v. Mutuc [130 Phil. 415 (1968), the Supreme Court, pronounce that:
… The right to privacy as such is accorded recognition independently of its identification with liberty; in itself, it is fully deserving of constitutional protection. The language of Prof. Emerson is particularly apt: “The concept of limited government has always included the idea that governmental powers stop short of certain intrusions into the personal life of the citizen. This is indeed one of the basic distinctions between absolute and limited government. UItimate and pervasive control of the individual, in all aspects of his life, is the hallmark of the absolute. state,
On the other hand, the concept of jurisprudence was enunciated by Article 8 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines provides that:
Article 8. Judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws or the Constitutions shall form a part of the legal system of the Philippines.
Jurisprudence or judicial decisions is the groundwork of the written law, or, as Bouvier defines it, “The science of law. The particular science of giving a wise interpretation to the laws and making a just application.
Jurisprudence are although in themselves not laws, are nevertheless evidence of what the laws mean, (this being) the reason why under Article 8 of the New Civil Code, Judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws or the Constitution shall form a part of the legal system.’
So once a case is decided by the judiciary based on actual set of facts and controversy, it became now a jurisprudence.
It is also worth mentioning the principle of stare decisis. It is a practice that when a court has laid down a principle of law as applicable to a certain state of facts, it will adhere to that principle and apply it to all future cases where the facts are substantially the same. “Stare decisis et non quieta movere.”
On the issue whether any person may cause any private repository of laws and jurisprudence the removal of any jurisprudence which he have been a party thereto per his claim that it violates his right to privacy?
I submit that he could not citing the following reasons:
The matter or the issue on hand is not a concept of invasion to right to privacy which the party has been injured or a tort which he may have a right to claim any redress or remedy. It is not even a publicity which means that the matter is made public, by communication it to the public at large, or to so many persons that the mater must be regarded as substantially certain to become one of public knowledge, because public repository of laws is not like a newspaper of general circulation with comparable breadth which everybody reads.
Posting decision to any repository of laws is not a violation of the right to privacy because decisions of the supreme court do not defame the parties in a particular case; what judges do is to appreciate the issues in a particular case and apply sound judgment based on applicable laws.
The fact that law students read cases or that particular case is not a violation of the right to privacy of the parties in each particular case. The cases involving specific parties are circumstances on how the laws and legal doctrines are particularly applied. Privacy of a person has no issue of transcendental importance as to the real and primary function of a Supreme Court decision in the field of Law (both in study and in practice).
Similarly, the accused or the adverse party in a decided case cannot invoked confidentially to seek respect to his dignity and protect privacy and to withhold from public the decided case because no undue and sensationalized publicity was done, which couldn’t amounts to moral degradation and suffering of the offended party.
In summary, any person couldn’t compel any private repository of laws to cause for the removal of any jurisprudence in its database, which he have been a party thereto, per his claim that his right to privacy has been violated, notwithstanding all the reasons presented above, what is controlling is the provision of Article 8 of the Civil Code states that “judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws or the constitution shall form part of the legal system of the Philippines.” Said decisions/jurisprudence /pronouncement of the Court, having formed part of the law of the land, withdrawing of the same to public record can no longer be done. Therefore, that person couldn’t do anything or could not compel any private repository of laws to withdraw any jurisprudence in its database.