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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.