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RE Request for Copy of 2008 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) and Personal Data Sheet or Curriculum Vitae of the Justices of the Supreme Court and Officers and Employees of the Judiciary, AM 09-8-6-SC, 13 June 2012
RE Request for Copy of 2008 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) and Personal Data Sheet or Curriculum Vitae of the Justices of the Supreme Court and Officers and Employees of the Judiciary, AM 09-8-6-SC, 13 June 2012
· In a letter, dated July 30, 2009, Rowena C. Paraan, Research Director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), sought copies of the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN) of the Justices of this Court for the year 2008. She also requested for copies of the Personal Data Sheet (PDS) or the Curriculum Vitae (CV) of the Justices of this Court for the purpose of updating their database of information on government officials.
· In her Letter, dated August 13, 2009, Karol M. Ilagan, a researcher- writer also of the PCIJ, likewise sought for copies of the SALN and PDS of the Justices of the Court of Appeals (CA), for the same above-stated purpose.
· The two requests were ordered consolidated by the Court on August 18, 2009. On the same day, the Court resolved to create a special committee (Committee) to review the policy on requests for SALN and PDS and other similar documents, and to recommend appropriate action on such requests.
· On November 23, 2009, the Committee, chaired by then Associate Justice Minita V. Chico-Nazario submitted its Memorandum dated November 18, 2009 and its Resolution dated November 16, 2009, recommending the creation of Committee on Public Disclosure that would, in essence, take over the functions of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) with respect to requests for copies of, or access to, SALN, and other personal documents of members of the Judiciary
· Meanwhile, several requests for copies of the SALN and other personal documents of the Justices of this Court, the CA and the Sandiganbayan (SB) were filed.
· Pursuant to Section 6, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, the Court, upon recommendation of the OCA, issued its Resolution dated October 13, 2009, denying the subpoena duces tecum for the SALNs and personal documents of Justice Roland B. Jurado of the SB.
· Also, considering the development in Impeachment Case No. 002-2011 against Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, the Court, on January 24, 2012, resolved to consider moot the Subpoena Ad Testificandum Et Duces Tecum issued by the Senate impeachment court.
· In resolving the remaining pending incidents, the Court, on January 17, 2012 required the CA, the SB, the CTA, the Philippine Judges Association, the Metropolitan and City Judges Association of the Philippines, the Philippine Trial Judges League, and the Philippine Women Judges Association (PWJA), to file their respective comments.
Whether or not requests of SALN disclosure can be approved.
In order to give meaning to the constitutional right of the people to have access to information on matters of public concern, the Court laid down the guidelines to be observed for requests made. Thus:
1. All requests for copies of statements of assets and liabilities of any Justice or Judge shall be filed with the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court or with the Court Administrator, as the case may be (Section 8 [A], R.A. 6713), and shall state the purpose of the request.
2. The independence of the Judiciary is constitutionally as important as the right to information which is subject to the limitations provided by law. Under specific circumstances, the need for fair and just adjudication of litigations may require a court to be wary of deceptive requests for information which shall otherwise be freely available. Where the request is directly or indirectly traced to a litigant, lawyer, or interested party in a case pending before the court, or where the court is reasonably certain that a disputed matter will come before it under circumstances from which it may, also reasonably, be assumed that the request is not made in good faith and for a legitimate purpose, but to fish for information and, with the implicit threat of its disclosure, to influence a decision or to warn the court of the unpleasant consequences of an adverse judgment, the request may be denied.
3. Where a decision has just been rendered by a court against the person making the request and the request for information appears to be a “fishing expedition” intended to harass or get back at the Judge, the request may be denied.
4. In the few areas where there is extortion by rebel elements or where the nature of their work exposes Judges to assaults against their personal safety, the request shall not only be denied but should be immediately reported to the military.
5. The reason for the denial shall be given in all cases.
This Constitutional duty is echoed and particularized in a statutory creation of Congress: Republic Act No. 6713, also known as "Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees":
Section 8. Statements and Disclosure. - Public officials and employees have an obligation to accomplish and submit declarations under oath of, and the public has the right to know, their assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests including those of their spouses and of unmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their households.
(A) Statements of Assets and Liabilities and Financial Disclosure. - All public officials and employees, except those who serve in an honorary capacity, laborers and casual or temporary workers, shall file under oath their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth and a Disclosure of Business Interests and Financial Connections and those of their spouses and unmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their households.
The two documents shall contain information on the following:
(a) real property, its improvements, acquisition costs, assessed value and current fair market value;
(b) personal property and acquisition cost;
(c) all other assets such as investments, cash on hand or in banks, stocks, bonds, and the like;
(d) liabilities, and;
(e) all business interests and financial connections.
The documents must be filed:
(a) within thirty (30) days after assumption of office;
(b) on or before April 30, of every year thereafter; and
(c) within thirty (30) days after separation from the service.
All public officials and employees required under this section to file the aforestated documents shall also execute, within thirty (30) days from the date of their assumption of office, the necessary authority in favor of the Ombudsman to obtain from all appropriate government agencies, including the Bureau of Internal Revenue, such documents as may show their assets, liabilities, net worth, and also their business interests and financial connections in previous years, including, if possible, the year when they first assumed any office in the Government.
Husband and wife who are both public officials or employees may file the required statements jointly or separately.
The Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth and the Disclosure of Business Interests and Financial Connections shall be filed by:
(1) Constitutional and national elective officials, with the national office of the Ombudsman;
(2) Senators and Congressmen, with the Secretaries of the Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively; Justices, with the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court; Judges, with the Court Administrator; and all national executive officials with the Office of the President.
(3) Regional and local officials and employees, with the Deputy Ombudsman in their respective regions;
(4) Officers of the armed forces from the rank of colonel or naval captain, with the Office of the President, and those below said ranks, with the Deputy Ombudsman in their respective regions; and
(5) All other public officials and employees, defined in Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, with the Civil Service Commission.
(B) Identification and disclosure of relatives. - It shall be the duty of every public official or employee to identify and disclose, to the best of his knowledge and information, his relatives in the Government in the form, manner and frequency prescribed by the Civil Service Commission.
Like all constitutional guarantees, however, the right to information, with its companion right of access to official records, is not absolute. While providing guarantee for that right, the Constitution also provides that the people’s right to know is limited to “matters of public concern” and is further subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.
Jurisprudence has provided the following limitations to that right: (1) national security matters and intelligence information; (2) trade secrets and banking transactions; (3) criminal matters; and (4) other confidential information such as confidential or classified information officially known to public officers and employees by reason of their office and not made available to the public as well as diplomatic correspondence, closed door Cabinet meetings and executive sessions of either house of Congress, and the internal deliberations of the Supreme Court.
This could only mean that while no prohibition could stand against access to official records, such as the SALN, the same is undoubtedly subject to regulation.
In this regard, Section 8 (c) and (d) of R.A. No. 6713 provides for the limitation and prohibition on the regulated access to SALNs of government officials and employees, viz:
(C) Accessibility of documents. - (1) Any and all statements filed under this Act, shall be made available for inspection at reasonable hours.
(2) Such statements shall be made available for copying or reproduction after ten (10) working days from the time they are filed as required by law.
(3) Any person requesting a copy of a statement shall be required to pay a reasonable fee to cover the cost of reproduction and mailing of such statement, as well as the cost of certification.
(4) Any statement filed under this Act shall be available to the public for a period of ten (10) years after receipt of the statement. After such period, the statement may be destroyed unless needed in an ongoing investigation.
(D) Prohibited acts. - It shall be unlawful for any person to obtain or use any statement filed under this Act for:
(a) any purpose contrary to morals or public policy; or
(b) any commercial purpose other than by news and communications media for dissemination to the general public.
Moreover, the following provisions in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 6713
WHEREFORE, the Court resolves to GRANT the requests contained in this case insofar as copies of the 2011 SALN, PDS, and CV of the Justices of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, and the Court of Tax Appeals; Judges of lower courts; and other members of the Judiciary, are concerned, subject to the limitations and prohibitions provided in R.A. No. 6713, its implementing rules and regulations, and the following guidelines:
1. All requests shall be filed with the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, the Court of Tax Appeals; for the lower courts, with the Office of the Court Administrator; and for attached agencies, with their respective heads of offices.
Requests shall cover only copies of the latest SALN, PDS and CV of the members, officials and employees of the Judiciary, and may cover only previous records if so specifically requested and considered as justified, as determined by the officials mentioned in par. 1 above, under the terms of these guidelines and the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 6713.
In the case of requests for copies of SALN of the Justices of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan and the Court of Tax Appeals, the authority to disclose shall be made by the Court En Banc.
Every request shall explain the requesting party’s specific purpose and their individual interests sought to be served; shall state the commitment that the request shall only be for the stated purpose; and shall be submitted in a duly accomplished request form secured from the SC website. The use of the information secured shall only be for the stated purpose.
In the case of requesting individuals other than members of the media, their interests should go beyond pure or mere curiosity.
In the case of the members of the media, the request shall additionally be supported by proof under oath of their media affiliation and by a similar certification of the accreditation of their respective organizations as legitimate media practitioners.
The requesting party, whether as individuals or as members of the media, must have no derogatory record of having misused any requested information previously furnished to them.
The requesting parties shall complete their requests in accordance with these guidelines. The custodians of these documents (the respective Clerks of Court of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, and Court of Tax Appeals for the Justices; and the Court Administrator for the Judges of various trial courts) shall preliminarily determine if the requests are not covered by the limitations and prohibitions provided in R.A. No. 6713 and its implementing rules and regulations, and in accordance with the aforecited guidelines. Thereafter, the Clerk of Court shall refer the matter pertaining to Justices to the Court En Banc for final determination.
Department of Foreign Affairs v. BCA International Corporation, GR 210858, 29 June 2016
- In an Amended Build-Operate-Transfer Agreement dated 5 April 2002 (Agreement), petitioner Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) awarded the Machine Readable Passport and Visa Project (MRPN Project) to respondent BCA International Corporation (BCA), a domestic corporation.
- During the implementation of the MRPN Project, DFA sought to terminate the Agreement. However, BCA opposed the termination and filed a Request for Arbitration, according to the provision in the Agreement.
- an ad hoc arbitral tribunal6 was constituted, the arbitral tribunal approved BCA's request to apply in court for the issuance of subpoena, subject to the conditions that the application will not affect its proceedings and will proceed whether the witnesses attend or not.
- BCA filed before the RTC a Petition for Assistance in Taking Evidence8 pursuant to the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of "The Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 2004," or Republic Act No. 9285 (RA 9285).
- DFA filed its comment, alleging that the presentation of the witnesses and documents was prohibited by law and protected by the deliberative process privilege.
Whether or not the witnesses presented before the ad hoc arbitral tribunal are prohibited from disclosing information on the basis of the deliberative process privilege
No. As a qualified privilege, the burden falls upon the government agency asserting the deliberative process privilege to prove that the information in question satisfies both requirements - predecisional and deliberative. "The agency bears the burden of establishing the character of the decision, the deliberative process involved, and the role played by the documents in the course of that process." It may be overcome upon a showing that the discoverant's interests in disclosure of the materials outweigh the government's interests in their confidentiality. "The determination of need must be made flexibly on a case-by-case, ad hoc basis," and the "factors relevant to this balancing include: the relevance of the evidence, whether there is reason to believe the documents may shed light on government misconduct, whether the information sought is available from other sources and can be obtained without compromising the government's deliberative processes, and the importance of the material to the discoverant's case."
Navarro v. CA, GR 121087 (1999)
Two local media men, Stanley Jalbuena, Enrique Lingan, in Lucena City went to the police station to report alledged indecent show in one of the night establishment shows in the City. At the station, a heated confrontation followed between victim Lingan and accused policeman Navarro who was then having drinks outside the headquarters, lead to a fisticuffs. The victim was hit with the handle of the accused's gun below the left eyebrow, followed by a fist blow, resulted the victim to fell and died under treatment. The exchange of words was recorded on tape, specifically the frantic exclamations made by Navarro after the altercation that it was the victim who provoked the fight. During the trial, Jalbuena, the other media man , testified. Presented in evidence to confirm his testimony was a voice recording he had made of the heated discussion at the police station between the accused police officer Navarro and the deceased, Lingan, which was taken without the knowledge of the two.
Whether or not the voice recording is admissible in evidence in view of RA 4200, which prohibits wire tapping.
Yes. The answer is affirmative, the tape is admissible in view of RA 4200, which prohibits wire tapping. Jalbuena's testimony is confirmed by the voice recording he had made.
The law provides:
SECTION 1. It shall be unlawful for any person, not being authorized by all the parties to any private communication or spoken word, to tap any wire or cable, or by using any other device or arrangement, to secretly overhear, intercept, or record such communication or spoken word by using a device commonly known as a dicta-phone or dictagraph or detectaphone or walkie- talkie or tape-recorder, or however otherwise described:
It shall also be unlawful for any person, be he a participant or not in the act or acts penalized in the next preceding sentence, to knowingly possess any tape record, wire record, disc record, or any other such record, or copies thereof, of any communication or spoken word secured either before or after the effective date of this Act in the manner prohibited by this law; or to replay the same for any other person or persons; or to communicate the contents thereof, either verbally or in writing, or to furnish transcriptions thereof, whether complete or partial, to any other person: Provided, That the use of such record or any copies thereof as evidence in any civil, criminal investigation or trial of offenses mentioned in section 3 hereof, shall not be covered by this prohibition.
SEC. 4. Any communication or spoken word, or the existence, contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning of the same or any part thereof, or any information therein contained obtained or secured by any person in violation of the preceding sections of this Act shall not be admissible in evidence in any judicial, quasi- judicial, legislative or administrative hearing or investigation.
Thus, the law prohibits the overhearing, intercepting, or recording of private communications. Since the exchange between petitioner Navarro and Lingan was not private, its tape recording is not prohibited.
Nor is there any question that it was duly authenticated. A voice recording is authenticated by the testimony of a witness (1) that he personally recorded the conversation; (2) that the tape played in court was the one he recorded; and (3) that the voices on the tape are those of the persons such are claimed to belong. In the instant case, Jalbuena testified that he personally made the voice recording; that the tape played in court was the one he recorded; and that the speakers on the tape were petitioner Navarro and Lingan. A sufficient foundation was thus laid for the authentication of the tape presented by the prosecution.
Gaanan v. IAC, 1465 SCRA 113 (1986)
Complainant and his client were in the living room of complainant’s residence discussing the terms for the withdrawal of the complaint for direct assault which they filed with the the City Fiscal against Laconico. After they had decided on the proposed conditions, complainant made a telephone call to Laconico. Laconico telephoned appellant, to advise him on the settlement of the direct assault. When complainant called up, Laconico requested appellant to secretly listen to the telephone conversation through a telephone extension so as to hear personally the proposed conditions for the settlement. Appellant heard complainant enumerate the following conditions for withdrawal of the complaint for direct assault. Twenty minutes later, complainant called up again to ask Laconico if he was agreeable to the conditions. Laconico answered ‘Yes’. Complainant then told Laconico to wait for instructions on where to deliver the money. Complainant called up again and instructed Laconico to give the money to his wife at the office of the then Department of Public Highways. Laconico who earlier alerted his friend Colonel Zulueta of the Criminal Investigation Service of the Philippine Constabulary, insisted that complainant himself should receive the money. When he received the money at the Igloo Restaurant, complainant was arrested by agents of the Philippine Constabulary. Appellant executed an affidavit stating that he heard complainant demands for the withdrawal of the case for direct assault. Laconico attached the affidavit of appellant to the complainant for robbery/extortion which he filed against complainant. Since appellant listened to the telephone conversation without complainant’s consent, complainant charged appellant and Laconico with violation of the Anti-Wiretapping Act. After trial on the merits, the lower court, in a decision dated November 22, 1982, found both Gaanan and Laconico guilty of violating Section 1 of Republic Act No. 4200. Not satisfied with the decision, the petitioner appealed to the appellate court who affirmed the decision of the trial court, holding that the communication between the complainant and accused Laconico was private in nature and, therefore, covered by Rep. Act No. 4200.
Whether “any other device or arrangement” includes extension phones and listening thru it is a violation of RA 4200.
No, an extension telephone cannot be placed in the same category as a dictaphone, dictagraph or the other devices enumerated in Section 1 of RA No. 4200 as the use thereof cannot be considered as “tapping” the wire or cable of a telephone line. The telephone extension in this case was not installed for that purpose. It just happened to be there for ordinary office use. It is a rule in statutory construction that in order to determine the true intent of the legislature, the particular clauses and phrases of the statute should not be taken as detached and isolated expressions, but the whole and every part thereof must be considered in fixing the meaning of any of its parts. Likewise, Article 1372 of the Civil Code stipulates that ‘however general the terms of a contract may be, they shall not be understood to comprehend things that are distinct and cases that are different from those upon which the parties intended to agree.’ Similarly, Article 1374 of the same Code provides that ‘the various stipulations of a contract shall be interpreted together, attributing to the doubtful ones that sense which may result from all of them taken jointly. The law refers to a “tap” of a wire or cable or the use of a “device or arrangement” for the purpose of secretly overhearing, intercepting, or recording the communication. There must be either a physical interruption through a wiretap or the deliberate installation of a device or arrangement in order to overhear, intercept, or record the spoken words.
Hence, the phrase “device or arrangement” in Section 1 of RA No. 4200, although not exclusive to that enumerated therein, should be construed to comprehend instruments of the same or similar nature, that is, instruments the use of which would be tantamount to tapping the main line of a telephone. It refers to instruments whose installation or presence cannot be presumed by the party or parties being overheard because, by their very nature, they are not of common usage and their purpose is precisely for tapping, intercepting or recording a telephone conversation.
Ople v. Torres, GR 127685, 23 July 1998
A.O. No. 308 titled “Adoption of a National Computerized Identification Reference System” was issued by President Fidel V. Ramos on December 12, 1996. Senator Blas Ople files a petition challenging the validity of the questioned AO.
The petitioner also contends that A.O. No. 308 is not a mere administrative order but a law, and hence, beyond the power of the President to issue, he also claimed that the implementation of which also violates the rights of the citizens of privacy as guaranteed by the Constitution.
Whether or not AO 308 violates the rights of the citizen of privacy guaranteed by the Constitution
The petition is granted and declared the Administrative Order No. 308 entitled "Adoption of a National Computerized Identification Reference System" null and void for being unconstitutional.
While the need to provide our citizens and foreigners with the facility to conveniently transact business with basic service and social security providers and other government instrumentalities and the need to reduce, if not totally eradicate, fraudulent transactions and misrepresentations by persons seeking basic services are valid considerations for the government, these interests are compelling enough to justify or warrant the issuance of a broad, vague and overbreadth measure of data and information recording mechanism such as the challenged AO.
The right to privacy is one of the most threatened rights of man living in a mass society. The executive branch, by issuing A.O. No. 308, pressures the people to surrender their privacy by giving information about themselves on the pretext that it will facilitate delivery of basic services. Given the record-keeping power of the computer, only the indifferent will fail to perceive the danger that A.O. No. 308 gives the government the power to compile a devastating dossier against unsuspecting citizen
The possibilities of abuse and misuse of the Population Reference Number (PRN), biometrics and computer technology are accentuated when we consider that the individual lacks control over what can be read or placed on his ID, much less verify the correctness of the data encoded. They threaten the very abuses that the Bill of Rights seeks to prevent.
Kilusang Mayo Uno v. Director General, National Economic Development Authority
EO 420, issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on 13 April 2005, required all government agencies and government-owned and controlled corporations to streamline and harmonize their Identification (ID) systems. Under said EO, all government agencies and government-owned and controlled corporations were ordered to adopt a uniform data collection and format for their existing identification (ID) systems. Herein petitioners, sought to enjoin the Director-General from implementing the said EO alleging that it is unconstitutional because it constitutes usurpation of legislative functions by the executive branch of the government and infringes on the citizen’s right to privacy. Thus, filing these two consolidated petitions for certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, seeking the nullification of Executive Order No. 420 (EO 420).
Whether or not EO 420 infringes on the citizen’s right to privacy.
No. All these years, the GSIS, SSS, LTO, Philhealth and other government entities have been issuing ID cards in the performance of their governmental functions. There have been no complaints from citizens that the ID cards of these government entities violate their right to privacy. There have also been no complaints of abuse by these government entities in the collection and recording of personal identification data. Petitioners have not shown how EO 420 will violate their right to privacy. Petitioners cannot show such violation by a mere facial examination of EO 420 because EO 420 narrowly draws the data collection, recording and exhibition while prescribing comprehensive safeguards. EO 420 applies only to government entities that already maintain ID systems and issue ID cards pursuant to their regular functions under existing laws. In the present case, EO 420 does not establish a national ID system but makes the existing sectoral card systems of government entities like GSIS, SSS, Philhealth and LTO less costly, more efficient, reliable and user-friendly to the public. Hence, EO 420 is a proper subject of executive issuance under the President’s constitutional power of control over government entities in the Executive department, as well as under the President’s constitutional duty to ensure that laws are faithfully executed.
People v. Aruta, GR 120915, 3 April 1998
People v. Rondero, GR 125687, 9 December 1999
Garcia v. BOI, 177 SCRA 374 (1989)
PSALM is a Government Owned and Controlled Corporation (GOCC) created by virtue of Republic Act No. 9136 (Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 aka EPIRA), to manage the orderly sale, disposition, and privatization of NPC generation assets, real estate and other disposable assets, and Independent Power Producer (IPP) contracts over a 25 year period.
Within the discharge of its lawful mandate, PSALM held a public bidding for the sale of the 246-megawatt (MW) AHEPP located in San Lorenzo, Norzagaray, Bulacan. On May 5, 2010, and after a post-bid evaluation, PSALM’s Board of Directors approved and confirmed the issuance of a Notice of Award to the highest bidder, K-Water, a Korean owned corporation.
Even before, PSALM gave the Notice of Award to K-Water. IDEALS had been sending letters to PSALM to request for copies of documents pertaining to the sale. The first letter dated April 20, 2010 requested for documents such as Terms of Reference and proposed bids submitted by the bidders. At that time, the bids were yet to be submitted at the bidding scheduled on April 28, 2010. PSALM’s website carried news and updates on the sale of AHEPP, providing important information on bidding activities and clarifications regarding the terms and conditions of the Asset Purchase Agreement (APA) to be signed by PSALM and the winning bidder (Buyer).
The second letter dated May 14, 2010 specifically requested for detailed information regarding the winning bidder, such as company profile, contact person or responsible officer, office address and Philippine registration.
Despite PSALM’s own press releases over the award given to K-Water, it failed to sufficiently provide IDEALS with the information it was asking for.
Whether or Not PSALM violated of the constitutional right to information of the petitioner IDEALS.
YES, PSALM violated the constitutional right to information of the petitioner IDEALS.
Section 7, Article III of the Constitution, which reads: Sec. 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.
The people’s constitutional right to information is intertwined with the government’s constitutional duty of full public disclosure of all transactions involving public interest.Section 28, Article II of the Constitution declares the State policy of full transparency in all transactions involving public interest, to wit: Sec. 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.
The foregoing constitutional provisions seek to promote transparency in policy-making and in the operations of the government, as well as provide the people sufficient information to exercise effectively other constitutional rights. They are also essential to hold public officials "at all times accountable to the people," for unless citizens have the proper information, they cannot hold public officials accountable for anything. Armed with the right information, citizens can participate in public discussions leading to the formulation of government policies and their effective implementation. An informed citizenry is essential to the existence and proper functioning of any democracy.
In the case of Chavez v. Public Estates Authority the court laid down the rule that the constitutional right to information includes official information on on-going negotiations before a final contract. The information, however, must constitute definite propositions by the government and should not cover recognized exceptions like privileged information, military and diplomatic secrets and similar matters affecting national security and public order. In addition, Congress has prescribed other limitations on the right to information in several legislations.
Valmonte v. Belmonte, 170 SCRA 256 (1989)
Atty. Ricardo Valmonte and his co-pettioners wrote a letter to GSIS General Manager Feliciano Belmonte requesting the list of opposition members of Batasang Pambansa who were able to secure a clean loan of P2 million each on guarranty of Mrs. Imelda Marcos. They invoked the right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall and access to official records shall be afforded. In reply, GSIS answered in negative, that it has a duty to its customers to preserve confidentiality and that it would not be proper for GSIS to breach the same unless so ordered by the courts. Accordingly, Valmonte, et. al filed a special civil action for mandamus with preliminary injunction invoke their right to information and pray that Belmonte be directed: (a) to the list of the names and/or (b) to furnish petitioners with certified true copies of the documents evidencing their respective loans; and/or (c) to allow petitioners access to the public records for the subject information.
Whether or not Valmonte, et. al may access GSIS records pertaining to behest loans secured by Imelda Marcos in favor of certain members of the opposition in the Batasang Pambansa.
The right to information is meant to enhance the widening role of the citizenry in governmental decision-making as well as in checking abuses in the government. The right to information is an essential premise of a meaningful right to speech and expression. But this is not to say that the right to information is merely an adjunct of and therefore restricted in application by the exercise of the freedoms of speech and of the press. Far from it. The right to information goes hand-in-hand with the constitutional policies of full public disclosure and honesty in the public service. It is meant to enhance the widening role of the citizenry in governmental decision-making as well as in checking abuse in government.
The constitutional right to information is not an absolute right, hence, before mandamus may issue, it must be clear that the information sought is of “public interest” or “public concern” and that the same is not exempted by law from the operation of such constitutional right.
The information sought by herein petitioners as to the truth of reports that some opposition members were granted “clean loans” by the GSIS is a matter of public interest and concern.
The GSIS is a trustee of contributions from the government and its employees and the administrator of various insurance programs for the benefit of the latter. Undeniably, its funds assume a public character. Considering the nature of its funds, the GSIS is expected to manage its resources with utmost prudence and in strict compliance with the pertinent laws or rules and regulations. Thus, one of the reasons that prompted the revision of the old GSIS law (CA. No. 186, as amended) was the necessity “to preserve at all times the actuarial solvency of the funds administered by the System” [Second Whereas Clause, P.D. No. 1146. Consequently, as respondent himself admits, the GSIS “is not supposed to grant ‘clean loans’.” It is therefore the legitimate concern of the public to ensure that these funds are managed properly with the end in view of maximizing the benefits that accrue to the insured government employees.
The right to privacy belongs to the individual in his private capacity, it cannot be invoked by juridical entities like the GSIS. It may be invoked only by the person whose privacy is claimed to have been violated. In this case, neither can the GSIS through its General Manager, the respondent, invoke the right to privacy of its borrowers. The right is purely personal in nature.
Baldoza v. Dimaano, 71 SCRA 14 (1976)
Whether the rules and conditions imposed by Judge Dimaano on the inspection of the docket books infringe upon the right of individuals to information.
No. Judge Dimaano did not act arbitrarily in the premise. As found by the Investigating Judge, Dimaano allowed the complainant to open and view the docket books of Dimaano under certain conditions and under his command and supervision. It has not been shown that the rules and conditions imposed by Dimaano were unreasonable. The access to public records is predicated on the right of the people to acquire information on matters of public concern. Undoubtedly in a democracy, the public has a legitimate interest in matters of social and political significance. The New Constitution expressly recognizes that the people are entitled to information on matters of public concern and thus are expressly granted access to official records, as well as documents of official acts, or transactions, or decisions, subject to such limitations imposed by law. The incorporation of this right in the Constitution is a recognition of the fundamental role of free exchange of information in a democracy. There can be no realistic perception by the public of the nation's problems, nor a meaningful democratic decision-making if they are denied access to information of general interest. Information is needed to enable the members of society to cope with the exigencies of the times. As has been aptly observed: "Maintaining the flow of such information depends on protection for both its acquisition and its dissemination since, if either process is interrupted, the flow inevitably ceases." However, restrictions on access to certain records may be imposed by law. Thus, access restrictions imposed to control civil insurrection have been permitted upon a showing of immediate and impending danger that renders ordinary means of control inadequate to maintain order.
Tanada v. Tuvera, 146 SCRA 446 (1986),
Whether or not publication in the official gazette is indispensable.
YES. The very first clause of Section I of Commonwealth Act 638 reads: "There shall be published in the Official Gazette ... ." The word "shall" used therein imposes upon respondent officials an imperative duty. That duty must be enforced if the Constitutional right of the people to be informed on matters of public concern is to be given substance and reality. The law itself makes a list of what should be published in the Official Gazette. Such listing, to our mind, leaves respondents with no discretion whatsoever as to what must be included or excluded from such publication.
The publication of all presidential issuances "of a public nature" or "of general applicability" is mandated by law. It is a requirement of due process. It is a rule of law that before a person may be bound by law, he must first be officially and specifically informed of its contents. Obviously, presidential decrees that provide for fines, forfeitures or penalties for their violation or otherwise impose a burden on the people, such as tax and revenue measures, fall within this category. Other presidential issuances which apply only to particular persons or class of persons such as administrative and executive orders need not be published on the assumption that they have been circularized to all concerned.
The objective is to give the general public adequate notice of the various laws which are to regulate their actions and conduct as citizens. Without such notice and publication, there would be no basis for the application of the maxim "ignorantia legis non excusat." It would be the height of injustice to punish or otherwise burden a citizen for the transgression of a law of which he had no notice whatsoever, not even a constructive one.
Silverio v. CA, GR 94284, 8 April 1991
On 26 January 1988, respondent People of the Philippines filed an Urgent ex parte Motion to cancel the passport of and to issue a hold-departure Order against accused-petitioner on the ground that he had gone abroad several times without the necessary Court approval resulting in postponements of the arraignment and scheduled hearings.
Overruling opposition, the Regional Trial Court, on 4 April 1988, issued an Order directing the Department of Foreign Affairs to cancel Petitioner's passport or to deny his application therefor, and the Commission on Immigration to prevent Petitioner from leaving the country. This order was based primarily on the Trial Court's finding that since the filing of the Information on 14 October 1985, "the accused has not yet been arraigned because he has never appeared in Court on the dates scheduled for his arraignment and there is evidence to show that accused Ricardo C. Silverio, Sr. has left the country and has gone abroad without the knowledge and permission of this Court"
Petitioner contends that respondent Court of Appeals erred in not finding that the Trial Court committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction in issuing its Orders, dated 4 April and 28 July 1988, (1) on the basis of facts allegedly patently erroneous, claiming that the scheduled arraignments could not be held because there was a pending Motion to Quash the Information; and (2) finding that the right to travel can be impaired upon lawful order of the Court, even on grounds other than the "interest of national security, public safety or public health."
Whether or not the right to travel can be impaired upon lawful order of the Court, even on grounds other than the "interest of national security, public safety or public health.
The foregoing condition imposed upon an accused to make himself available at all times whenever the Court requires his presence operates as a valid restriction of his right to travel. A person facing criminal charges may be restrained by the Court from leaving the country or, if abroad, compelled to return. So it is also that "An accused released on bail may be re-arrested without the necessity of a warrant if he attempts to depart from the Philippines without prior permission of the Court where the case is pending.
Article III, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution should be interpreted to mean that while the liberty of travel may be impaired even without Court Order, the appropriate executive officers or administrative authorities are not armed with arbitrary discretion to impose limitations. They can impose limits only on the basis of "national security, public safety, or public health" and "as may be provided by law"
Article III, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution should by no means be construed as delimiting the inherent power of the Courts to use all means necessary to carry their orders into effect in criminal cases pending before them. When by law jurisdiction is conferred on a Court or judicial officer, all auxillary writs, process and other means necessary to carry it into effect may be employed by such Court or officer.
Petitioner is facing a criminal charge. He has posted bail but has violated the conditions thereof by failing to appear before the Court when required. Warrants for his arrest have been issued. Those orders and processes would be rendered nugatory if an accused were to be allowed to leave or to remain, at his pleasure, outside the territorial confines of the country. Holding an accused in a criminal case within the reach of the Courts by preventing his departure from the Philippines must be considered as a valid restriction on his right to travel so that he may be dealt with in accordance with law. The offended party in any criminal proceeding is the People of the Philippines. It is to their best interest that criminal prosecutions should run their course and proceed to finality without undue delay, with an accused holding himself amenable at all times to Court Orders and processes.
WHEREFORE, the judgment under review is hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner, Ricardo C. Silverio.
Genuino v. De Lima, GR 197930, 17 April
The case is a consolidated case of Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition against former DOJ Secretary Delima for her issuance of DOJ circular no. 41. Series of 2010, known as the “Consolidated Rules and Regulations Governing Issuance and Implementation of Hold Departure Orders (HDO), Watch list Orders (WLO) and Allow Departure Orders (ADO)” . The Petitioners questions the constitutionality of this DOJ circular on the ground that it infringes the constitutional right to travel.
The petitioners in these consolidated cases are former Presiden tArroyo and her husband, and Efraim and Erwin Genuino. Former DOJ Secretary De lima issued HDO and WLO against petitioners on the ground that criminal charges of plunder, qualified theft and violation of the Omnibus Election Code were filed against them. Petitioners, particularly Spouses Arroyo, file temporary restraining order against the issued HDO and WLO of DOJ seeking relief and grant from court to allow them to travel so that former president Arroyo may seek medical treatment abroad. The court granted relief sought on a condition that petition will file a bond of PhP2M, an undertaking that petitioners shall report to Philippine consulate in the countries they are to visit (Germany, Singapore, USA, Italy, Spain and Austria) and shall appoint a representative to receive on their behalf subpoena, orders and other legal processes. Petitioners complied with all the conditions instead of following the order of the court, DOJ caused for the refusal to process the petitioners travel documents.
Whether or not the DOJ Circular No. 41 is unconstitutional for being a violation of the right to travel
Yes. The DOJ has no authority to issue DOJ Circular No. 41 which effectively restricts the right to travel through the issuance of Watchlist Orders (WLOs) and Hold Departure Orders(HDOs). There are only three considerations that may permit a restriction on the right to travel: national security, public safety or public health. Further, there must be an explicit provision of statutory law or Rules of Court providing for the impairment.
DOJ Circular No. 41 is not a law. It is not a legislative enactment, but a mere administrative issuance designed to carry out the provisions of an enabling law. DOJ is not authorized to issue WLOs and HDOs to restrict the constitutional right to travel. There is no mention of the exigencies stated in the Constitution that will justify the impairment. The provision simply grants the DOJ the power to investigate the commission of crimes and prosecute offenders. It does not carry the power to indiscriminately devise all means it deems proper in performing its functions without regard to constitutionally-protected rights.
DOJ cannot justify the restraint in the liberty of movement imposed by the circular on the ground that it is necessary to ensure presence and attendance in the preliminary investigation of the complaints. There is no authority of law granting it the power to compel the attendance of the subjects of a preliminary investigation pursuant to its investigatory powers. Its investigatory power is simply inquisitorial and, unfortunately, not broad enough to embrace the imposition of restraint on the liberty of movement.
PADCOM Condominium Corporation v. Ortigas Center Association Inc., GR 146807
Padcom Condominium Corporation (PADCOM) owns and manages the Padilla Office Condominium Building (PADCOM Building) located at Emerald Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. The land on which the building stands was originally acquired from the Ortigas &Company, Limited Partnership (OCLP), by Tierra Development Corporation (TDC) under a Deed of Sale dated 4 September 1974. Among the terms and conditions in the deed of sale was the requirement that the transferee and its successor-in-interest must become members of an association for realty owners and long-term lessees in the area later known as the Ortigas Center. Subsequently, the said lot, together with improvements thereon, was conveyed by TDC in favor of PADCOM in a Deed of Transfer dated 25 February 1975. In 1982, Ortigas Center Association, Inc. was organized to advance the interests and promote the general welfare of the real estate owners and long-term lessees of lots in the Ortigas Center. It sought the collection of membership dues in the amount of P2,724.40 per month from PADCOM. The corporate books showed that PADCOM owed the Association P639,961.47, representing membership dues, interests and penalty charges from April 1983 to June 1993.
The letters exchanged between the parties through the years showed repeated demands for payment, requests for extensions of payment, and even a settlement scheme proposed by PADCOM in September 1990. In view of PADCOM’s failure and refusal to pay its arrears in monthly dues, including interests and penalties thereon, the Association filed a complaint for collection of sum of money before the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 264 (Civil Case No. 63801), but the same was dismissed. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed and set aside the trial court’s dismissal. Hence, this petition.
Whether PADCOM can be compelled to join the association pursuant to the provisions on automatic membership appearing as a condition in a Deed of Sale
Yes, PADCOM may be compelled.
Evidently, it was agreed by the parties that dues shall be collected from an automatic member and such fees or assessments shall be a lien on the property. This stipulation was likewise annotated at the back of Transfer Certificate of Title No. 457308 issued to TDC. And when the latter sold the lot to PADCOM on 25 February 1975, the Deed of Transfer expressly stated:
...the transfer of lands is free from any liens and encumbrances, except those already annotated at the back of said Transfer Certificate of Title…
This is so because any lien annotated on previous certificates of title should be incorporated in or carried over to the new transfer certificates of title. Such lien is inseparable from the property as it is a right in rem, a burden on the property whoever its owner may be. It subsists notwithstanding a change in ownership; in short, the personality of the owner is disregarded. As emphasized earlier, the provision on automatic membership was annotated in the Certificate of Title and made a condition in the Deed of Transfer in favor of PADCOM. Consequently, it is bound by and must comply with the covenant.
Moreover, Article 1311 of the Civil Code provides that contracts take effect between the parties, their assigns and heirs. Since PADCOM is the successor-in-interest of TDC, it follows that the stipulation on automatic membership with the Association is also binding on the former.
Neither are we convinced by PADCOM’s contention that the automatic membership clause is a violation of its freedom of association. PADCOM was never forced to join the association. It could have avoided such membership by not buying the land from TDC. Nobody forced it to buy the land when it bought the building with the annotation of the condition or lien on the Certificate of Title thereof and accepted the Deed. PADCOM voluntarily agreed to be bound by and respect the condition, and thus to join the Association.
Clara Homeowners' Association v. Spouses Gaston, GR 141961, 23 January 2002
Spouses Victor Ma. Gaston and Lydia M. Gaston were residents of San Jose Avenue, Sta. Clara
Subdivision, Mandalagan, Bacolod City. They purchased their lots in the said subdivision sometime in 1974, and at the time of purchase, there was no mention or requirement of membership in any homeowner association. From that time on, they have remained non-members of SCHA. They also stated that an arrangement was made wherein homeowners who were non-members of the association were issued "non-member gate pass stickers for their vehicles for identification by the security guards manning the subdivision entrances and exits. This arrangement remained undisturbed until sometime in the middle of March 1998, when SCHA disseminated a board resolution which decreed that only its members in good standing were to be issued stickers for use in their vehicles. Thereafter, on three separate incidents, Victor M. Gaston, the son of the spouses Gaston who lives with them, was required by the guards on duty employed by SCHA to show his driver license as a prerequisite to his entrance to the subdivision and to his residence therein despite their knowing him personally and the exact location of his residence.
On 29 March 1998, Victor Ma. Gaston was himself prevented from entering the subdivision and proceeding to his residential abode when security guards Roger Capillo and a "John Doe" lowered the steel bar of the KAMETAL gate of the subdivision and demanded from him his driver license for identification. On 1 April 1998, Spouses Victor Ma. Gaston and Lydia M. Gaston filed a complaint for damages with preliminary injunction/preliminary mandatory injunction and temporary restraining order before the Regional Trial Court in Negros Occidental at Bacolod City against Santa Clara Homeowners Association (SCHA) thru its Board of Directors, namely: Arneil Chua, Luis Sarrosa, Jocelyn Garcia, Ma. Milagros Vargas, Lorenzo Lacson, Ernesto Piccio, Dindo Ilagan, Danilo Gamboa, Jr., Rizza de la Rama and Security Guard Capillo and John Do, and Santa Clara Estate, Incorporated (Civil Case 98-10217, RTC- Branch 49, Bacolod City); alleging that the acts of SCHA, et al., done in the presence of other subdivision owners had caused the spouses Gaston to suffer moral damage. On 8 April 1998, SCHA, et al. filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the trial court had no jurisdiction over the case as it involved an intra- corporate dispute between SCHA and its members pursuant to Republic Act 580, as amended by Executive Orders 535 and 90, much less, to declare as null and void the subject resolution of the board of directors of SCHA, the proper forum being the Home insurance and Guaranty Corporation (HIGC). To support their claim of intra-corporate controversy, SCHA, et al. stated that the Articles of Incorporation of SCHA, which was duly approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on 4 October 1973, provides "that the association shall be a non-stock corporation with all homeowners of Sta. Clara constituting its membership and that its by-laws contains a provision that "all real estate owners in Sta. Clara Subdivision automatically becomes members of the association among others. On 6 July 1998, the lower court resolved to deny SCHA et al.'s motion to dismiss, finding that there existed no intra-corporate controversy since the Spouses Gaston alleged that they had never joined the association. On 18 July 1998, SCHA, et al. submitted a Motion for Reconsideration, adding lack of cause of action as ground for the dismissal of the case. On 17 August 1998, the trial court denied the said motion without however ruling on the additional ground of lack of cause of action. On 18 August 1998, SCHA, et al. filed a motion to dismiss its motion to dismiss on ground of lack of cause of action. On 8 September 1998, the trial court issued an order denying the motion. On 24 September 1998, SCHA. et al. elevated the matter to the Court of Appeals via a Petition for Certiorari. On 31 August 1999, the Court of Appeals dismissed the Petition and ruled that the RTC had jurisdiction over the dispute. The appellate court likewise denied SCHA, et al. motion for reconsideration in a resolution dated 11 February 2000. SCHA, et al. filed the petition for review.
Whether the Spouses Gaston are members of the SCHA
No, spouses Gaston are not members of the SCHA. The constitutionally guaranteed freedom of
association includes the freedom not to associate. The right to choose with whom one will associate oneself is the very foundation and essence of that partnership. It should be noted that the provision guarantees the right to form an association. It does not include the right to compel others to form or join one. Homeowners cannot be compelled to become members of a homeowners’ association by the simple expedient of including them in its Articles of Incorporation and By-laws without their express or implied consent; Memberships in homeowners’ associations may be acquired in various ways often through deeds of sale, Torrens certificates or other forms of evidence of property ownership. True, it may be to the mutual advantage of lot owners in a subdivision to band themselves together to promote their common welfare. But that is possible only if the owners voluntarily agree, directly or indirectly, to become members of the association. True also, memberships in homeowners’ associations may be acquired in various ways—often through deeds of sale, Torrens certificates or other forms of evidence of property ownership. In the present case, however, other than the said Articles of Incorporation and By-laws, there is no showing that private respondents have agreed to be SCHA members
Arizala v. CA, GR 43633-34, 14 September 1990
The Industrial Peace Act prohibited supervisors to become, or continue to become, members of labor organizations composed of rank-and-file employees and prescribed criminal sanctions for breach of prohibition. It was under the regime of the said Act that the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) became bound by a collective bargaining agreement executed between GSIS and the GSIS Employees Association. The agreement contained a maintenance-of-membership clause which states that all employees, who at the time of the execution of said agreement, were members of the union or became members thereafter, were obliged to maintain their union membership in good standing for the duration of the agreement as a condition for their continued employment in the GSIS. Pablo Arizala, Sergio Maribao, Leonardo Joven, and Felino Bulandus were occupying supervisory positions at that time. Demands were made on all four of them in view of their supervisory position but they refused to resign from the GSIS Employees Association. Two criminal cases for violation of the Industrial Peace Act were lodged against them. Both criminal cases resulted in the conviction of the accused in separate decisions. They moved for reconsideration. They argued when the so called “1973 Constitution” took effect, their cases were still pending and that since the provision of that constitution and of the Labor Code subsequently promulgated repealing the Industrial Peace Act, they ceased to fall within the coverage of the Industrial Peace Act and should no longer thus continue to be prosecuted and exposed to punishment for a violation thereof.
Whether or not the petitioners’ criminal liability for a violation of the Industrial Peace Act may be deemed to have been obliterated in virtue of subsequent legislation and the provision of the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions.
Yes, the petitioners’ liability for the violation of the Industrial Peace Act have been obliterated. They appear to be correct in their view of the disappearance from the law of the prohibition on supervisors being members of a labor organization composed of rank-and-file employees under their supervision. The Labor Code allowed supervisors who are members of existing labor organizations on the Effectivity of RA 6715 to remain in the rank-and-file unions.
Samuel C. Occena filed a petition for prohibition seeking that sections 4 and 22 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 222, otherwise known as the Barangay Election Act of 1982, be declared as unconstitutional insofar as it prohibits any candidate in the Barangay election of 17 May 1982 "from representing or allowing himself to be represented as a candidate of any political party or prohibits a political party, political group, political committee from intervening in the nomination of a candidate in the barangay election or in the filing of his certificate of candidacy, or giving aid or support directly or indirectly, material or otherwise, favorable to or against his campaign for election." On this basis, it is also prayed that "judgment be rendered declaring the 1982 Barangay elections null and void ab initio, for being unconstitutional, and directing the holding of new barangay elections without any ban on the involvement of political parties, political committees, political organizations and other political group."
Whether the ban on the intervention of political parties in the election of barangay officials is violative of the constitutional guarantee of the right to form associations and societies for purposes not contrary to law.
The right to form associations or societies for purposes not contrary to law is neither absolute nor illimitable; it is always subject to the pervasive and dominant police power of the state and may constitutionally be regulated or curtailed to serve appropriate and important public interests (Gonzales vs. Comelec, 27 SCRA 835; Imbong vs. Comelec, 35 SCRA 28). Whether a restriction imposed is constitutionally permissible or not depends upon the circumstances of each case. Examining Section 4 of the Barangay Election Act of 1982, the right to organize is intact. Political parties may freely be formed although there is a restriction on their activities, i.e., their intervention in the election of barangay officials on 17 May 1982 is proscribed. But the ban is narrow, not total. It operates only on concerted or group action of political parties. Members of political and kindred organizations, acting individually, may intervene in the barangay election. As the law says: "Nothing (therein) shall be construed as in any manner affecting or constituting an impairment of the freedom of individuals to support or oppose any candidate for any barangay office." Moreover, members of the family of a candidate within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity as well as the personal campaign staff of a candidate (not more than 1 for every 100 registered voters in his barangay) can engage in individual or group action to promote the election of their candidate. There are reasons for insulating the barangay from the divisive and debilitating effects of a partisan political campaign. The Barangay Captain and the Barangay Council, apart from their legislative and consultative powers, also act as an agency for neutral community action such as the distribution of basic foodstuff and as an instrument in conducting plebiscites and referenda. The Barangay Captain, together with the members of the Lupon Tagapayapa appointed by him, exercises administrative supervision over the barangay conciliation panels in the latter's work of settling local disputes. The Barangay Captain himself settles or helps settle local controversies within the barangay either through mediation or arbitration. It would definitely enhance the objective and impartial discharge of their duties for barangay officials to be shielded from political party loyalty. In fine, the ban against the participation of political parties in the barangay election is an appropriate legislative response to the unwholesome effects of partisan bias in the impartial discharge of the duties imposed on the barangay and its officials as the basic unit of our political and social structure.
The case has its roots in the COMELEC’s refusal to accredit Ang Ladlad as a party-list organization under Republic Act (RA) No. 7941 (Party-List System Act).
Ang Ladlad is an organization composed of men and women who identify themselves as lesbians, gays, bisexuals, or trans-gendered individuals (LGBTs). Incorporated in 2003, Ang Ladlad first applied for registration with the COMELEC in 2006. The application for accreditation was denied on the ground that the organization had no substantial membership base. In 2009, Ang Ladlad again filed a Petition for registration with the COMELEC.
Before the COMELEC, petitioner argued that the LGBT community is a marginalized and under-represented sector that is particularly disadvantaged because of their sexual orientation and gender identity; that LGBTs are victims of exclusion, discrimination, and violence; that because of negative societal attitudes, LGBTs are constrained to hide their sexual orientation; and that Ang Ladlad complied with the 8-point guidelines enunciated by this Court in Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v. Commission on Elections. Ang Ladlad laid out its national membership base consisting of individual members and organizational supporters, and outlined its platform of governance. After admitting the petitioner’s evidence, the COMELEC dismissed the Petition on moral grounds, that the definition of the LGBT sector makes it crystal clear that petitioner tolerates immorality which offends religious beliefs. COMELEC also pointed out that pertinent provisions of the Civil Code (Articles 695, 1306, 1409) and the Revised Penal Code (Article 201) are deemed part of the requirement to be complied with for accreditation.
Ang Ladlad filed this Petition, praying that the Court annul the Assailed Resolutions and direct the COMELEC to grant Ang Ladlad’s application for accreditation. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) filed a Motion to Intervene or to Appear as Amicus Curiae. The CHR opined that the denial of Ang Ladlad’s petition on moral grounds violated the standards and principles of the Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Whether or not the denial of accreditation of Ang Ladlad, insofar as COMELEC justified the exclusion by using religious dogma, violated the constitutional guarantees against the establishment of religion
Yes, COMELEC violated the constitutional guarantees against the establishment of religion. Religion should not be a basis for refusal to accept Ang Ladlad’s petition for registration.
Our Constitution provides in Article III, Section 5 that “no law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” At bottom, what our non-establishment clause calls for is “government neutrality in religious matters.” Clearly, “governmental reliance on religious justification is inconsistent with this policy of neutrality.” The Court thus find that it was grave violation of the non-establishment clause for the COMELEC to utilize the Bible and the Koran to justify the exclusion of Ang Ladlad. Rather than relying on religious belief, the legitimacy of the Assailed Resolutions should depend, instead, on whether the COMELEC is able to advance some justification for its rulings beyond mere conformity to religious doctrine. Otherwise stated, government must act for secular purposes and in ways that have primarily secular effects. As the Court held in Estrada v. Escritor:
“x x x The morality referred to in the law is public and necessarily secular, not religious as the dissent of Mr. Justice Carpio holds. “Religious teachings as expressed in public debate may influence the civil public order but public moral disputes may be resolved only on grounds articulable in secular terms.” Otherwise, if government relies upon religious beliefs in formulating public policies and morals, the resulting policies and morals would require conformity to what some might regard as religious programs or agenda. The non-believers would therefore be compelled to conform to a standard of conduct buttressed by a religious belief, i.e., to a “compelled religion,” anathema to religious freedom. Likewise, if government based its actions upon religious beliefs, it would tacitly approve or endorse that belief and thereby also tacitly disapprove contrary religious or non-religious views that would not support the policy. As a result, government will not provide full religious freedom for all its citizens, or even make it appear that those whose beliefs are disapproved are second-class citizens.
In other words, government action, including its proscription of immorality as expressed in criminal law like concubinage, must have a secular purpose. That is, the government proscribes this conduct because it is “detrimental (or dangerous) to those conditions upon which depend the existence and progress of human society” and not because the conduct is proscribed by the beliefs of one religion or the other. Although admittedly, moral judgments based on religion might have a compelling influence on those engaged in public deliberations over what actions would be considered a moral disapprobation punishable by law. After all, they might also be adherents of a religion and thus have religious opinions and moral codes with a compelling influence on them; the human mind endeavors to regulate the temporal and spiritual institutions of society in a uniform manner, harmonizing earth with heaven. Succinctly put, a law could be religious or Kantian or Aquinian or utilitarian in its deepest roots, but it must have an articulable and discernible secular purpose and justification to pass scrutiny of the religion clauses. x x x Recognizing the religious nature of the Filipinos and the elevating influence of religion in society, however, the Philippine constitution’s religion clauses prescribe not a strict but a benevolent neutrality. Benevolent neutrality recognizes that government must pursue its secular goals and interests but at the same time strive to uphold religious liberty to the greatest extent possible within flexible constitutional limits. Thus, although the morality contemplated by laws is secular, benevolent neutrality could allow for accommodation of morality based on religion, provided it does not offend compelling state interests.”
Municipality of Tangkal v. Balindon, GR 193340, 11 January 2017
The private respondents, heirs of the late Macalabo Alompo, filed a Complaint with the Shari'a District Court of Marawi City (Shari'a District Court) against the petitioner, Municipality of Tangkal, for recovery of possession and ownership of a parcel of land with an area of approximately 25 hectares.
They alleged that Macalabo was the owner of the land, and that in 1962, he entered into an agreement with the Municipality of Tangkal allowing the latter to "borrow" the land to pave the way for the construction of the municipal hall and a health center building. The agreement allegedly imposed a condition upon the Municipality of Tangkal to pay the value of the land within 35 years, or until 1997; otherwise, ownership of the land would revert to Macalabo. Private respondents claimed that the Municipality of Tangkal neither paid the value of the land within the agreed period nor returned the land to its owner. Thus, they prayed that the land be returned to them as successors-in-interest of Macalabo.
The Municipality of Tangkal filed an Urgent Motion to Dismiss on the ground of improper venue and lack of jurisdiction. It argued that since it has no religious affiliation and represents no cultural or ethnic tribe, it cannot be considered as a Muslim under the Code of Muslim Personal Laws. Moreover, since the complaint for recovery of land is a real action, it should have been filed in the appropriate Regional Trial Court of Lanao del Norte.
The Shari'a District Court denied the motion to dismiss. It held that since the mayor of Tangkal, Abdulazis A.M. Batingolo, is a Muslim, the case "is an action involving Muslims, hence, the court has original jurisdiction concurrently with that of regular/civil courts." It added that venue was properly laid because the Shari'a District Court has territorial jurisdiction over the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte, in addition to the cities of Marawi and Iligan.
The Municipality of Tangkay filed a motion for reconsideration but was denied. Hence this present petition claiming its earlier position that the Shari'a District Court has no jurisdiction.
Whether or not the Shari'a District Court of Marawi City has jurisdiction in an action for recovery of possession filed by Muslim individuals against a municipality whose mayor is a Muslim.
The petition was granted.
The Shari'a District Court had no jurisdiction under the law to decide private respondents' complaint because not all of the parties involved in the action are Muslims.
Consistent with the purpose of the law to provide for an effective administration and enforcement of Muslim personal laws among Muslims, it has a catchall provision granting Shari'a district courts original jurisdiction over personal and real actions except those for forcible entry and unlawful detainer. The Shari'a district courts' jurisdiction over these matters is concurrent with regular civil courts, i.e., municipal trial courts and regional trial courts. There is, however, a limit to the general jurisdiction of Shari'a district courts over matters ordinarily cognizable by regular courts: such jurisdiction may only be invoked if both parties are Muslims. If one party is not a Muslim, the action must be filed before the regular courts.
In determining whether the Shari'a District Court has jurisdiction over the case, the threshold question is whether both parties are Muslims. There is no disagreement that private respondents, as plaintiffs below, are Muslims. The only dispute is whether the requirement is satisfied because the mayor of the defendant municipality is also a Muslim.
Section 2 of Rule 3 of the Rules of Court defines real parties in interest as those who stand to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit or are entitled to the avails of the suit. In this case, the parties who will be directly benefited or injured are the private respondents, as real party plaintiffs, and the Municipality of Tangkal, as the real party defendant. It is clear from the title and the averments in the complaint that Mayor Batingolo was impleaded only in a representative capacity, as chief executive of the local government of Tangkal. When an action is defended by a representative, that representative is not-and neither does he become-a real party in interest.
That Mayor Batingolo is a Muslim is therefore irrelevant for purposes of complying with the jurisdictional requirement that both parties be Muslims. To satisfy the requirement, it is the real party defendant, the Municipality of Tangkal, who must be a Muslim. Such a proposition, however, is a legal impossibility.
Republic v. Manalo, GR 221029, 24 April 2018
The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), represented by its Supreme Bishop Gerardo M. Bayaca, filed a case with the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Manila against Bishop Santiago A. Fonacier. The IFI sought to require Bishop Fonacier to render an accounting of his administration of all the temporal properties in his possession belonging to the church and to recover the properties from him. The IFI claimed that Fonacier had ceased to be its Supreme Bishop.
Bishop Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr., having been elected as Supreme Bishop after the filing of the original complaint, was later made a co-plaintiff in a supplementary complaint.
Fonacier claimed in his defense that: (a) he has not been properly removed as Supreme Bishop;(b) his legal successor was Juan Jamias who had been elected in accordance with the church constitution ; (c) Bishop De los Reyes, Jr. formally joined the Protestant Episcopal Church of America and for this reason ceased to be a member of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente; (d) Bishops De los Reyes and Bayaca having abandoned the faith, fundamental doctrines and practices of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, ceased to be members and consequently, have no personality in filing the complaint.
On May 17, 1950, the court rendered judgment declaring Mons. Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr. as the sole and legitimate Supreme Bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, and ordering Mons. Fonacier to render an accounting of his administration of the properties and funds of the church. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the CFI. Fonacier then filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court.
Whether The Court of Appeals erred “in holding that the ouster of Bishops Manuel Aguilar, Alejandro Remollino, Isabelo de los Reyes Jr., Gerardo Bayaca, Juan Quijano and Pablo Tablante decreed by the Supreme Council and the petitioner as Obispo Maximo was illegal.
The civil courts have jurisdiction to review the action regarding the ouster.
(A) “Where a decision of an ecclesiastical court plainly violates the law it professes to administer, or is in conflict with the laws of the land, it will not be followed by the civil courts.”
(B) “Expulsion of a member without notice or an opportunity to be heard is not conclusive upon the civil courts when a property right is involved.”
Since it is claimed that the ouster was made by an unauthorized person, or in a manner contrary to the constitution of the church, and that the ousted bishops were not given notice of the charges against them nor were they afforded an opportunity to be heard, the civil courts, have jurisdiction to review the action regarding the ouster.
American Bilbe Society v. City of Manila, 181 Phil 386 (1957)
The American Bible Society, is a foreign, non-stock, non-profit, religious, missionary corporation duly registered and doing business in the Philippines through its Philippine agency established in Manila in November 1898. The City of Manila, is a municipal corporation with powers that are to be exercised in conformity with the provisions of Republic Act 409, (Revised Charter of the City of Manila). In the course of its ministry, the Society's Philippine agency has been distributing and selling bibles and/or gospel portions thereof (except during the Japanese occupation) throughout the Philippines and translating the same into several Philippine dialects. On 29 May 1953, the acting City Treasurer of the City of Manila informed the Society that it was conducting the business of general merchandise since November 1945, without providing itself with the necessary Mayor's permit and municipal license, in violation of Ordinance 3000, as amended, and Ordinances 2529, 3028 and 3364, and required the Society to secure, within 3 days, the corresponding permit and license fees, together with compromise covering the period from the 4th quarter of 1945 to the 2nd quarter of 1953, in the total sum of P5,821.45. On 24 October 1953, the Society paid to the City under protest the said permit and license fees, giving at the same time notice to the City Treasurer that suit would be taken in court to question the legality of the ordinances under which the said fees were being collected, which was done on the same date by filing the complaint that gave rise to the present action. After hearing, the lower court dismissed the complaint for lack of merit. The Society appealed to the Court of Appeals, which in turn certified the case to the Supreme Court for the reason that the errors assigned involved only questions of law.
Whether the City Treasurer may impose permit fee upon the religious organization before the latter may distribute and sell bibles with the City of Manila.
Article III, section 1, clause (7) of the Constitution guarantees the freedom of religious profession and worship. Religion has been spoken of as 'a profession of faith to an active power that binds and elevates man to its Creator. It has reference to one's views of his relations to His Creator and to the obligations they impose of reverence to His being and character, and obedience to His Will. The constitutional guaranty of the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship carries with it the right to disseminate religious information. Any restraint of such right can only be justified like other restraints of freedom of expression on the grounds that there is a clear and present danger of any substantive evil which the State has the right to prevent. A tax on the income of one who engages in religious activities is different from a tax on property used or employed in connection with those activities. It is one thing to impose a tax on the income or property of a preacher. It is quite another thing to exact a tax from him for the privilege of delivering a sermon. The power to tax the exercise of a privilege is the power to control or suppress its enjoyment. The power to impose a license tax on the exercise of these freedoms is indeed as potent as the power of censorship which this Court has repeatedly struck down. It is not a nominal fee imposed as a regulatory measure to defray the expenses of policing the activities in question. It is in no way apportioned. It is flat license tax levied and collected as a condition to the pursuit of activities whose enjoyment is guaranteed by the constitutional liberties of press and religion and inevitably tends to suppress their exercise. Such is the inherent vice and evil of a flat license tax. Dissemination of religious information cannot be conditioned upon the approval of an official or manager. The right to enjoy freedom of the press and religion occupies a preferred position as against the constitutional right of property owners. Herein, Section 27 (e) of Commonwealth Act 466 (NIRC) -- which exempts corporations or associations organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, or educational purposes, Provided however, That the income of whatever kind and character from any of its properties, real or personal, or from any activity conducted for profit, regardless of the disposition made of such income, shall be liable to the tax imposed under the Code -- does not apply to the Society as its act of distributing and selling bibles, etc. is purely religious in nature. Ordinance 2529, as amended, cannot as well be applied to the Society, for in doing so it would impair its free exercise and enjoyment of its religious profession and worship as well as its rights of dissemination of religious beliefs. The fact that the price of the bibles and other religious pamphlets are little higher than the actual cost of the same does not necessarily mean that it is already engaged in the business or occupation of selling said “merchandise” for profit. Lastly, Constitutional Law II, 2005 ( 20 ) Narratives (Berne Guerrero) Ordinance 3000 of the City of Manila, which requires the obtention of the Mayor's permit before any person can engage in any of the businesses, trades or occupations enumerated therein, is not applicable to the Society, as its business, trade or occupation is not particularly mentioned in Section 3 of the Ordinance, and the record does not show that a permit is required therefor under existing laws and ordinances for the proper supervision and enforcement of their provisions governing the sanitation, security and welfare of the public and the health of the employees engaged in the business of the Society.
Ebralinag vs Division Superintendent, GR 95770, 1 March 1993
Department of Education Culture and Sports (DECS) Regional Office in Cebu received complaints about teachers and pupils belonging to the Jehovah’s Witness, which refused to sing the Philippine National Anthem, salute the flag and recite the patriotic pledge.
Division Superintendent of schools, Susana B. Cabahug of the Cebu Division of DECS directed to remove from service, after due process, teachers and school employees, and to deprive the students and pupils from the benefit of public education, if they do not participate in daily flag ceremony and doesn’t obey flag salute rule.
Members of the Jehovah’s Witness sect find such memorandum to be contrary to their religious belief and choose not to obey. Despite a number of appropriate persuasions made by the Cebu officials to let them obey the directives, still they opted to follow their conviction to their belief. As a result, an order was issued by the district supervisor of Daan Bantayan District of Cebu, dated July 24, 1990, ordering the ‘dropping from the list’ in the school register of all Jehovah’s Witness teachers and pupils from Grade 1 to Grade 6 who opted to follow their belief which is against the Flag Salute Law, however, given a chance to be re-accepted if they change their mind.
Some Jehovah’s Witness members appealed to the Secretary of Education but the latter did not answer to their letter.
Therefore, Petitioners students and their parents filed special civil actions for Mandamus, Certiorari and prohibition, alleging that the respondents acted without or in excess of their jurisdiction and with grave abuse of discretion in ordering their expulsion without prior notice and hearing, hence, in violation of their right to due process, their right to free public education and their right to freedom of speech, religion and worship. Petitioners prayed for the voiding of the order of expulsion or ‘dropping from the rolls’ issued by the District Supervisor
On November 27, 1990, Court issued a TRO and writ of preliminary mandatory injunction, commanding the respondents to immediately re-admit the petitioners to their respective classes until further orders.
On May 31, the Solicitor General filed a consolidated comment to the petitions defending the expulsion orders issued by the respondents.
Petitioners stressed that while they do not take part in the compulsory flag ceremony, they do not engage in ‘external acts’ or behavior that would offend their countrymen who believe in expressing their love of country through observance of the flag ceremony. They quietly stand at attention during the flag ceremony to show their respect for the right of those who choose to participate in the solemn proceedings. Since they do not engage in disruptive behavior, there is no warrant for their expulsion.
Whether members of Jehovah's Witnesses may be expelled from school (both public and private), for refusing, on account of their religious beliefs, to take part in the flag ceremony or singing the Philippine national anthem, saluting the Philippine flag and reciting the patriotic pledge
No. They should not be expelled.
Before, the 30-year-old ruling of the Court in Gerona case upholding the flag salute law and approving the expulsion of students who refuse to obey it, should be reexamined. The idea that one may be compelled to salute the flag, sing the national anthem, and recite the patriotic pledge, during a flag ceremony on pain of being dismissed from one's job or of being expelled from school, is alien to the conscience of the present generation of Filipinos who cut their teeth on the Bill of Rights which guarantees their rights to free speech and the free exercise of religious profession and worship
Hence, Exemption may be accorded to the Jehovah's Witnesses with regard to the observance of the flag ceremony out of respect for their religious beliefs, however "bizarre" those beliefs may seem to others. Nevertheless, their right not to participate in the flag ceremony does not give them a right to disrupt such patriotic exercises.
Moreover, the expulsion of members of Jehovah's Witnesses from the schools where they are enrolled will violate their right as Philippine citizens, under the 1987 Constitution, to receive free education, for it is the duty of the State to "protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education x x x and to make such education accessible to all" (Sec. 1, Art. XIV).
Forcing a small religious group, through the iron hand of the law, to participate in a ceremony that violates their religious beliefs, will hardly be conducive to love of country or respect for duly constituted authorities.