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Pollo v. Constantino-David, GR 181881, 18 Octoer 2011
Respondent CSC Chair Constantino-David received an anonymous letter complaint alleging of an anomaly taking place in the Regional Office of the CSC. The respondent then formed a team and issued a memo directing the team “to back up all the files in the computers found in the Mamamayan Muna (PALD) and Legal divisions.”
Several diskettes containing the back-up files sourced from the hard disk of PALD and LSD computers were turned over to Chairperson David. The contents of the diskettes were examined by the CSC’s Office for Legal Affairs (OLA). It was found that most of the files in the 17 diskettes containing files copied from the computer assigned to and being used by the petitioner, numbering about 40 to 42 documents, were draft pleadings or letters in connection with administrative cases in the CSC and other tribunals. On the basis of this finding, Chairperson David issued the Show-Cause Order, requiring the petitioner, who had gone on extended leave, to submit his explanation or counter-affidavit within five days from notice.
In his Comment, petitioner denied the accusations against him and accused the CSC Officials of “fishing expedition” when they unlawfully copied and printed personal files in his computer.
He was charged of violating R.A. No. 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees). He assailed the formal charge and filed an Omnibus Motion ((For Reconsideration, to Dismiss and/or to Defer) assailing the formal charge as without basis having proceeded from an illegal search which is beyond the authority of the CSC Chairman, such power pertaining solely to the court.
The CSC denied the omnibus motion and treated the motion as the petitioner’s answer to the charge. In view of the absence of petitioner and his counsel, and upon the motion of the prosecution, petitioner was deemed to have waived his right to the formal investigation which then proceeded ex parte.
The petitioner was dismissed from service. He filed a petition to the CA which was dismissed by the latter on the ground that it found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the respondents. He filed a motion for reconsideration which was further denied by the appellate court. Hence, this petition.
Whether or not the search conducted by the CSC on the computer of the petitioner constituted an illegal search and was a violation of his constitutional right to privacy
No, the search conducted on his office computer and the copying of his personal files was lawful and did not violate his constitutional right.
The Court ruled that the petitioner did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his office and computer files.
The search authorized by the CSC Chair, the copying of the contents of the hard drive on petitioner’s computer is reasonable in its inception and scope.
The case at bar involves the computer from which the personal files of the petitioner were retrieved is a government-issued computer, hence government property the use of which the CSC has absolute right to regulate and monitor.