Freedom of Expression Case Digest
Sanidad Vs Comelec Facts: On October 23, 1989, Republic Act No. 6766, entitled "AN ACT PROVIDING FOR AN ORGANIC ACT FOR THE CORDILLERA AUTONOMOUS REGION" was enacted into law. The Commission on Elections, by virtue of the power vested by the 1987 Constitution, the Omnibus Election Code (BP 881), said R.A. 6766 and other pertinent election laws, promulgated Resolution No. 2167, to govern the conduct of the plebiscite on the said Organic Act for the Cordillera Autonomous Region. In a petition dated November 20, 1989, herein petitioner Pablito V. Sanidad, who claims to be a newspaper columnist of the "OVERVIEW" for the BAGUIO MIDLAND COURIER, a weekly newspaper circulated in the City of Baguio and the Cordilleras, assailed the constitutionality of Section 19 of Comelec Resolution No. 2167, which provides: Section 19. Prohibition on columnists, commentators or announcers. — During the plebiscite campaign period, on the day before and on the plebiscite day, no mass media columnist, commentator, announcer or personality shall use his column or radio or television time to campaign for or against the plebiscite issues It is alleged by petitioner that said provision is void and unconstitutional because it violates the constitutional guarantees of the freedom of expression and of the press enshrined in the Constitution. Issue : WON the said Section 19 of resolution No 2167 is unconstitutional Held: it is clear from Art. IX-C of the 1987 Constitution that what was granted to the Comelec was the power to supervise and regulate the use and enjoyment of franchises, permits or other grants issued for the operation of transportation or other public utilities, media of communication or information to the end that equal opportunity, time and space, and the right to reply, including reasonable, equal rates therefor, for public information campaigns and forums among candidates are ensured Neither Article IX-C of the Constitution nor
Section 11 (b), 2nd par. of R.A. 6646 can be construed to mean that the Comelec has also been granted the right to supervise and regulate the exercise by media practitioners themselves of their right to expression during plebiscite periods. Media practitioners exercising their freedom of expression during plebiscite periods are neither the franchise holders nor the candidates. In fact, there are no candidates involved in a plebiscite. Therefore, Section 19 of Comelec Resolution No. 2167 has no statutory basis. While the limitation does not absolutely bar petitioner's freedom of expression, it is still a restriction on his choice of the forum where he may express his view. No reason was advanced by respondent to justify such abridgement. We hold that this form of regulation is tantamount to a restriction of petitioner's freedom of expression for no justifiable reason. Plebiscite issues are matters of public concern and importance. The people's right to be informed and to be able to freely and intelligently make a decision would be better served by access to an unabridged discussion of the issues, including the forum. The people affected by the issues presented in a plebiscite should not be unduly burdened by restrictions on the forum where the right to expression may be exercised. Comelec spaces and Comelec radio time may provide a forum for expression but they do not guarantee full dissemination of information to the public concerned because they are limited to either specific portions in newspapers or to specific radio or television times
Facts of the case Several litigants challenged the constitutionality of two provisions in the 1996 Communications Decency Act. Intended to protect minors from unsuitable internet material, the Act criminalized the intentional transmission of "obscene or indecent" messages as well as the transmission of information which depicts or describes "sexual or excretory activitiesor organs" in a manner deemed "offensive" by community standards. After being enjoined by a District Court from enforcing the above provisions, except for the one concerning
obscenity and its inherent protection against child pornography, Attorney General Janet Reno appealed directly to the Supreme Court as provided for by the Act's special review provisions. ISSUE: Did certain provisions of the 1996 Communications Decency Act violate the First and Fifth Amendments by being overly broad and vague in their definitions of the types of internet communications which they criminalized? HELD: Yes. The Court held that the Act violated the First Amendment because its regulations amounted to a content-based blanket restriction of free speech. The Act failed to clearly define "indecent" communications, limit its restrictions to particular times or individuals (by showing that it would not impact adults), provide supportive statements from an authority on the unique nature of internet communications, or conclusively demonstrate that the transmission of "offensive" material is devoid of any social value. The Court added that since the First Amendment distinguishes between "indecent" and "obscene" sexual expressions, protecting only the former, the Act could be saved from facial overbreadth challenges if it dropped the words "or indecent" from its text. The Court refused to address any Fifth Amendment issues.
Miriam College Foundation, Inc. v CA 348 SCRA 265 December 15, 2000 Facts: The members of the editorial board of the Miriam College Foundation’s school paper were subjected to disciplinary sanction by the College Discipline Committee after letters of complaint were filed before the Board following the publication of the school paper that contains obscene, vulgar, and sexually explicit contents. Prior to the disciplinary sanction to the defendants they were required to submit a
written statement to answer the complaints against them to the Discipline Committee but the defendants, instead of doing so wrote to the Committee to transfer the case to the DECS which they alleged to have the jurisdiction over the issue. Pushing through with the investigation ex parte the Committee found the defendants guilty and imposed upon them disciplinary sanctions. Defendants filed before the court for prohibition with preliminary injunction on said decision of the Committee questioning the jurisdiction of said Discipline Board over the defendants. Issue: WON the Discipline Board of Miriam College has jurisdiction over the defendants.
Held: The court resolved the issue before it by looking through the power of DECS and the Disciplinary Committee in imposing sanctions upon the defendants. Section 5 (2), Article XIV of the Constitution guarantees all institutions of higher learning academic freedom. This institutional academic freedom includes the right of the school or college to decide for itself, its aims and objectives, and how best to attain them free from outside coercion or interference save possibly when the overriding public welfare calls for some restraint. Such duty gives the institution the right to discipline its students and inculcate upon them good values, ideals and attitude. The right of students to free speech in school is not always absolute. The court upheld the right of students for the freedom of expression but it does not rule out disciplinary actions of the school on the conduct of their students. Further, Sec. 7 of the of the Campus Journalism Act provides that the school cannot suspend or expel a student solely on the basis of the articles they write EXCEPT when such article materially disrupts class work of involve substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others. Therefore the court ruled that the power of the school to investigate is an adjunct of its power to suspend or expel. It is a necessary corollary to the enforcement of rules and regulations and the maintenance of a safe and orderly educational environment conducive to learning. That
power, like the power to suspend or expel, is an inherent part of the academic freedom of institutions of higher learning guaranteed by the Constitution. The court held that Miriam College has the authority to hear and decide the cases filed against respondent students.
ABS-CBN VS COMELEC
A Petition for Certiorari raised by ABS-CBN under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court assailing Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc Resolution No. 98-14191 dated April 21, 1998. In the said Resolution, the poll body RESOLVED to approve the issuance of a restraining order to stop ABS-CBN or any other groups, its agents or representatives from conducting such exit survey and to authorize the Honorable Chairman to issue the same. The Resolution was issued by the Comelec allegedly upon "information from [a] reliable source that ABS-CBN (Lopez Group) has prepared a project, with PR groups, to conduct radio-TV coverage of the elections . . . and to make [an] exit survey of the . . . vote during the elections for national officials particularly for President and Vice President, results of which shall be [broadcast] immediately." The electoral body believed that such project might conflict with the official Comelec count, as well as the unofficial quick count of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel). It also noted that it had not authorized or deputized Petitioner ABS-CBN to undertake the exit survey. On May 9, 1998, this Court issued the Temporary Restraining Order prayed for by petitioner. We directed the Comelec to cease and desist, until further orders, from implementing the assailed Resolution or the restraining order issued pursuant thereto, if any. In fact, the exit
polls were actually conducted and reported by media without any difficulty or problem.
: Whether the assailed resolution is valid.
The absolute ban imposed by the Comelec cannot be justified. It does not leave open any alternative channel of communication to gather the type of information obtained through exit polling. On the other hand, there are other valid and reasonable ways and means to achieve the Comelec end of avoiding or minimizing disorder and confusion that may be brought about by exit surveys. A specific limited area for conducting exit polls may be designated. Only professional survey groups may be allowed to conduct the same. Pollsters may be kept at a reasonable distance from the voting center. They may be required to explain to voters that the latter may refuse interviewed, and that the interview is not part of the official balloting process. The pollsters may further be required to wear distinctive clothing that would show they are not election officials.48 Additionally, they may be required to undertake an information campaign on the nature of the exercise and the results to be obtained therefrom. These measures, together with a general prohibition of disruptive behavior, could ensure a clean, safe and orderly election. The freedom of expression is a fundamental principle of our democratic government. It "is a 'preferred' right and, therefore, stands on a higher level than substantive economic or other liberties. . . . [T]his must be so because the lessons of history, both political and
legal, illustrate that freedom of thought and speech is the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom."14 Our Constitution clearly mandates that no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.15In the landmark case Gonzales v. Comelec,16 this Court enunciated that at the very least, free speech and a free press consist of the liberty to discuss publicly and truthfully any matter of public interest without prior restraint. The freedom of expression is a means of assuring individual selffulfillment, of attaining the truth, of securing participation by the people in social and political decision-making, and of maintaining the balance between stability and change.17 It represents a profound commitment to the principle that debates on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide open.18 It means more than the right to approve existing political beliefs or economic arrangements, to lend support to official measures, or to take refuge in the existing climate of opinion on any of public consequence. And paraphrasing the eminent Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes,19 we stress that the freedom encompasses the thought we hate, no less than the thought we agree with. In exit polls, the contents of the official ballot are not actually exposed. Furthermore, the revelation of whom an elector has voted for is not compulsory, but voluntary. Voters may also choose not to reveal their identities. Indeed, narrowly tailored countermeasures may be prescribed by the Comelec, so as to minimize or suppress incidental problems in the conduct of exit polls, without transgressing the fundamental rights of our people. WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED, and the Temporary Restraining Order issued by the Court on May 9, 1998 is made PERMANENT. Assailed Minute Resolution No. 98-1419 issued by the Comelec en banc on April 21, 1998 is hereby NULLIFIED and SET ASIDE. No costs.
Chavez vs. Gonzales (2008) (Political Law) Francisco Chavez vs. Raul M. Gonzales and NTC | G.R. No. 168338 | February 15, 2008 Facts: As a consequence of the public release of copies of the “Hello Garci” compact disc audiotapes involving a wiretapped mobile phone conversation between then-President Gloria Arroyo and Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, respondent DOJ Secretary Gonzales warned reporters that those who had copies of the CD and those broadcasting or publishing its contents could be held liable under the Anti-Wiretapping Act. He also stated that persons possessing or airing said tapes were committing a continuing offense, subject to arrest by anybody. Finally, he stated that he had ordered the NBI to go after media organizations “found to have caused the spread, the playing and the printing of the contents of a tape.” Meanwhile, respondent NTC warned TV and radio stations that their broadcast/airing of such false information and/or willful misrepresentation shall be a just cause for the suspension, revocation and/or cancellation of the licenses or authorizations issued to the said media establishments. Petitioner Chavez filed a petition under Rule 65 against respondents Secretary Gonzales and the NTC directly with the Supreme Court.
Issues: (1) Will a purported violation of law such as the AntiWiretapping Law justify straitjacketing the exercise of freedom of speech and of the press? (2) Did the mere press statements of respondents DOJ Secretary and the NTC constitute a form of contentbased prior restraint that has transgressed the Constitution?
Held: (1) No, a purported violation of law such as the Anti-Wiretapping Law will not justify straitjacketing the exercise of freedom of speech and of the press. A governmental action that restricts freedom of
speech or of the press based on content is given the strictest scrutiny, with the government having the burden of overcoming the presumed unconstitutionality by the clear and present danger rule. This rule applies equally to all kinds of media, including broadcast media. Respondents, who have the burden to show that these acts do not abridge freedom of speech and of the press, failed to hurdle the clear and present danger test. For this failure of the respondents alone to offer proof to satisfy the clear and present danger test, the Court has no option but to uphold the exercise of free speech and free press. There is no showing that the feared violation of the anti-wiretapping law clearly endangers the national security of the State. (2) Yes, the mere press statements of respondents DOJ Secretary and the NTC constituted a form of content-based prior restraint that has transgressed the Constitution. It is not decisive that the press statements made by respondents were not reduced in or followed up with formal orders or circulars. It is sufficient that the press statements were made by respondents while in the exercise of their official functions. Any act done, such as a speech uttered, for and on behalf of the government in an official capacity is covered by the rule on prior restraint. The concept of an “act” does not limit itself to acts already converted to a formal order or official circular. Otherwise, the non formalization of an act into an official order or circular will result in the easy circumvention of the prohibition on prior restraint. JOSE JESUS M. DISINI, JR., ET AL. v. THE SECRETARY OF JUSTICE, ET AL., G.R. No. 203335, FEBRUARY 18, 2014
Constitutional law; Unsolicited commercial communications, also known as “spam” is entitled to protection under freedom of expression. To prohibit the transmission of unsolicited ads would
deny a person the right to read his emails, even unsolicited commercial ads addressed to him. Commercial speech is a separate category of speech which is not accorded the same level of protection as that given to other constitutionally guaranteed forms of expression but is nonetheless entitled to protection. The State cannot rob him of this right without violating the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. Unsolicited advertisements are legitimate forms of expression. Criminal law; Cyberlibel under Section 4(c)(4) of the Cybercrime Law is constitutional. The Court agrees with the Solicitor General that libel is not a constitutionally protected speech and that the government has an obligation to protect private individuals from defamation. Indeed, cyberlibel is actually not a new crime since Article 353, in relation to Article 355 of the Penal Code, already punishes it. In effect, Section 4(c)(4) above merely affirms that online defamation constitutes “similar means” for committing libel. But the Court’s acquiescence goes only insofar as the cybercrime law penalizes the author of the libelous statement or article. Cyberlibel brings with it certain intricacies, unheard of when the Penal Code provisions on libel were enacted. The culture associated with internet media is distinct from that of print. Criminal law; Section 5 of the Cybercrime Law that punishes “aiding or abetting” libel on the cyberspace is a nullity. The terms “aiding or abetting” constitute broad sweep that generates chilling effect on those who express themselves through cyberspace posts, comments, and other messages. Its vagueness raises apprehension on the part of internet users because of its obvious chilling effect on the freedom of expression, especially since the crime of aiding or abetting ensnares all the actors in the cyberspace front in a fuzzy way. What is more, as the petitioners point out, formal crimes such as libel are not punishable unless consummated. In the absence of legislation tracing the interaction of netizens and their level of responsibility such as in other countries, Section 5, in relation to Section 4(c)(4) on Libel,
Section 4(c)(3) on Unsolicited Commercial Communications, and Section 4(c)(2) on Child Pornography, cannot stand scrutiny.
FACTS: Petitioners Jose Jesus M. Disini, Jr., Rowena S. Disini, Lianne Ivy P. Medina, Janette Toral and Ernesto Sonido, Jr., as taxpayers, file a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, the petitioners seek to 1) nullify Sections 4(c)(4), 6, 7, 12 and 19 of RA 10175, otherwise known as the “Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012” for violating the fundamental rights protected under the Constitution; and 2) prohibit the Respondents, singly and collectively, from enforcing the aforementioned provisions of the Cybercrime Act. Named as Respondents are the Secretary of Justice, the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, the Executive Director of the Information Communications Technology Office, the Chief of the Philippine National Police, and the Director of the National Bureau of Investigation.
ISSUES/GROUNDS: 1. Sections 4(c)(4), 6, 7, 12 and 19 of The Cybercrime Act violate the petitioners’ constitutionally protected rights to freedom of expression, due process, equal protection, privacy of communications, as well as the Constitutional sanctions against double jeopardy, undue delegation of legislative authority and the right against unreasonable searches and seizure; o
• Sections 6 and 7 of the Cybercrime Act more than doubles the liability for imprisonment for any violation of existing penal laws are in violation of the petitioners’ right against Double Jeopardy;
• Section 12 of the Cybercrime Act, which permits the NBI and the PNP “with due cause” to engage in real time collection of traffic data without the benefit of the intervention of a judge, violates the Petitioners’ Constitutionally-protected right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizure as well as the right to the privacy of communications; • Section 19 of the Cybercrime Act, which authorizes the Respondent Secretary of DOJ to block or restrict access to any content upon a prima facie finding that the same violates the law, contains an undue delegation of legislative authority, infringes upon the judicial power of the judiciary, and violates the Petitioners’ Constitutionally-protected right to due process and freedom of expression; and • Section 4(c)(4) defines libel as a cybercrime and in relation to Section 6 of the law increased the penalty from 6 months to 4 years and 2 months to the greater period of 6 years to 10 years, infringes upon the right to freedom of expression and also restricts the freedom of the press. Under Section 12, a prima facie finding by the Secretary of DOJ can trigger an order directed at service providers to block access to the said material without the benefit of a trial or a conviction. Thus, RA 10175 infringes upon the right to freedom of expression and also restricts the freedom of the press. The increased penalties, plus the ease by which allegedly libelous materials can be removed from access, work together as a “chilling effect” upon protected speech.
2. No other plain, speedy, or adequate remedy in the court of law, and that this Petition is therefore cognizable by the SC’s judicial power under Article VIII, Section 1 par. 2 of the Constitution and pursuant to Rule 65, Sec. 1 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended.
ARGUMENTS/DISCUSSIONS: 1. The Cybercrime Act Violates Free Speech: o
• imposes heavier penalties for online libel than paperbased libel; single act of online libel will result in two convictions penalized separately under the RP and the Cybercrime Act; online libel under the Cybercrime Act will ensure the imprisonment of the accused and for a much longer period. Such changes will result in a chilling effect upon the freedom of speech; • with the passage of the Cybercrime Act, Senator Vicente Sotto III’s earlier threat to criminally prosecute all bloggers and internet users who were critical of his alleged plagiarism of online materials for use in his speech against the Reproductive Health Bill became real; threat of criminal prosecution under RA 10175 will work to preclude people such as Petitioners from posting social commentaries online, thus creating a “chilling effect” upon the freedom of expression; • gives the DOJ Secretary blanket authority to restrain and block access to content whether authored by private citizens or the organized press sans any hearing of any kind but merely upon a mere prima facie showing that a particular Internet article constitutes online libel; • respondents must demonstrate how the Cybercrime Act will fare under strict scrutiny
2. Sections 6 and 7 of the Cybercrime Act violate the Double Jeopardy and Equal Protection Clauses of the Constitution: o
• Persons who commit crimes using information and communication technologies (ICTs) face the possibility of
being imprisoned more than double the imprisonment laid down in the RPC or special law, simply by the passage of the Cybercrime Act; o
• the cybercrimes defined and punished under Section 6 of the Act are absolutely identical to the crimes defined in the RPC and special laws which raises the possibility that an accused will be punished twice for the same offense in violation of the Constitution; • Congress created a class of offenders who commit crimes “by, through or with the use” of ICTs in violation of the equal protection clause
3. The Real Time Collection of Traffic Date Violate the Right to Privacy and the Right Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizure: o
• No compelling state interest that justifies real time collection of data; the authority vested on the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation to collect data is not bounded by any reasonable standard except “due cause” which presumably, the PNP and NBI will determine for itself; • While the privacy of suspected terrorists, through the Human Security Act, are protected by the intervention of the Court of Appeals before surveillance operations are conducted, the privacy of all citizens may be infringed without judicial participation in the Cybercrime Act; • Neither the PNP nor the NBI is required to justify the incursion into the right to privacy; No limits imposed upon the PNP or the NBI since they can lawfully collect traffic data at all times without interruption; • No stated justification for this warrant-free unlimited incursion into the privacy of citizens
4. The Respondent DOJ Secretary’s Take Down Authority under Section 19 of the Cybercrime Act violates Due Process and is an Undue Delegation of Legislative Authority o
• The DOJ Secretary’s overwhelming powers to order the restriction or blocking of access to certain content upon a mere prima facie finding without any need for a judicial determination is in clear violation of petitioners’ Constitutionally protected right to due process; • The Cybercrime Act contemplates that the respondent DOJ Secretary will be “judge, jury and executioner” of all cybercrime-related complaints; To consider that all penal provisions in all specials laws are cybercrimes under Section 6, it • follows that: 1. Complaints filed by intellectual property rights owners may be acted upon the Respondent DOJ Secretary to block access to websites and content upon a mere prima facie showing of an infringement; 2. Foreign sites (e.g. Amazon.com) offering goods on retail to Philippine citizens may be blocked for violating the Retail Trade Law; 3. Foreign service providers such as Skype may be blocked from offering voice services without securing a license from the National Telecommunications Communication; 4. YouTube video may be blocked for presumably violating the IP Code.
• The Cybercrime Act fails the two tests laid down by the Court in Abakada Guro Party List v. Purisima (GR No. 166715) to determine the validity of delegation of legislative power: (1) the completeness test and (2) the sufficient standard test
1. Nowhere in the Cybercrime Act’s declaration of policy does it lay down the legislative policy with respect to the blocking of content. No limits upon the takedown power of the respondent DOJ Secretary; 2. Prima facie standard is not enough to prevent the DOJ Secretary from exercising infinite discretion and becoming the supreme authority in the Philippine Internet landscape. PRAYER: 1. Declare null and void, for being unconstitutional, Sections 4(c)(4), 6, 7, 12 and 19 of RA 10175; 2. Prohibit all Respondents from implementing Sections 4(c)(4), 6, 7, 12 and 19 of RA 10175; 3. Issue a TRO enjoining the Respondents from implementing Sections 4(c)(4), 6, 7, 12 and 19 of RA 10175; and 4. Issue other reliefs, just and equitable in the premises. 5. The Supreme Court on Tuesday, February 18, upheld as constitutional most provisions of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Law, including online libel – subject to one condition. 6. The High Court also struck down a provision of the law that gives the state the power to take down online content without a court warrant. 7. Seeking to strike a balance between fundamental freedoms and government control, the High Court decided on the constitutionality of Republic Act 10175 a little over a year afteroral arguments were heard on Jan 15, 2013. 8. Among the hotly-debated issues during the oral arguments was the law's provision on online libel. (READ: 'Libel gone is bestcase scenario for SC cybercime ruling')
9. The Supreme Court decision, penned by Justice Roberto Abad, ruled online libel to be constitutional but with an exception – that is, in cases where it covers persons other than the original author. Recipients of, and netizens who react to a potentially defamatory post, will not be covered by online libel.
Unconstitutional provisions Three provisions were voted down as categorically unconstitutional:
Section 4 (c)(3) which pertains to unsolicited commercial communications
Section 12 which pertains to real-time collection of traffic data
Section 19 which pertains to restricting or blocking access to computer data
The SC decided that Section 19 – granting power to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to restrict computer data on the basis of prima facie or initially observed evidence – was not in keeping with the Constitution. The said automatic take-down clause is found in Section 19 of the cybercrime law. Even the SOLICITOR General, in his defense of RA 10175, admitted before the SC that Section 19 is "constitutionally impermissible, because it permits a form of final restraint on speech without prior judicial determination." Section 12 would have allowed law enforcement authorities with due cause to collect or record by technical or electronic means "traffic data" in real time. Section 4 (c)(3) of the law says that "the transmission of commercial electronic communication with the use of computer system which seek to advertise, sell, or offer for sale products and services are prohibited" unless certain conditions – such as prior affirmative consent from the recipient – are met. This was ruled unconstitutional.
A separability clause contained in Section 29, Chapter VIII of the law allows the rest of the law to "remain in full force and effect" even if certain provisions are held invalid.
Nuances in other provisions Three other provisions were not struck down and remain in the law, but they will not apply in certain cases as decided by the SC. Among these provisions is online libel, which is constitutional as far as the original author is concerned. Section 5, which pertains to aiding or abetting the commission of a cybercrime and to the attempt to commit a cybercrime, was declared unconstitutional only in the following cases: child pornography, unsolicited commercial communications (or spam), and online libel. Section 5 will apply to all other cybercrimes outlined in the law. National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Cybercrime Division Chief Ronald Aguto explained to Rappler that it will also be hard for both law enforcement and the prosecution to prove the "attempt to commit a cybercrime." Aiding a nd abetting the commission of a cybercrime, he added, might unduly cover certain players in the online industry. Section 7, which pertains to liability of a cyber criminal under other laws, was declared unconstitutional only in the following cases: online libel and child pornography. The SC cited the guarantee against double jeopardy or being punished more than once for the same offense – a guarantee outlined in the Constitution – in deciding on Section 7. Libel is punishable by Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code, while child pornography is punishable by RA 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act.
A person convicted of libel or child pornography can only be punished once, under the coverage of a single law.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, LIBEL AND NATIONAL SECURITY
Babst v NIB GR. No L-62992, Sept., 25, 1994. J. Plana Facts: Petitioners are columnists, feature article writers and reporters of various local publications. At different dates since July, 1980, some of them have allegedly been summoned by military authorities who have subjected them to sustained interrogation on various aspects of their works, and even their private lives. Aside from the interrogations, a criminal complaint for libel was filed by Brig. Gen. Artemio Tadiar, Jr. against petitioners Domini TorrevillasSuarez, editor of the Panorama, and Ma. Ceres Doyo based on an article written by Doyo and published in the March 28, 1982 issue of the Panorama, on which the author had been interrogated by respondents. The complaint included an staggering P10 million claim for damages. Petitioners maintain that the respondents have no jurisdiction over the proceedings which are violative of the constitutional guarantee on free expression since they have the effect of imposing restrictive guidelines and norms on mass media. In their comment, respondents counter that no issue of jurisdiction exists since they do not pretend to exercise jurisdiction over the petitioners; that what respondents have sent to petitioners were neither subpoenas nor summonses, but mere invitations to dialogues
which were completely voluntary, without any compulsion employed on petitioners. Relative to the libel case, respondents contend that petitioners have no cause of action against respondent Board since respondent General Tadiar is not a member of respondent Board and has filed the libel case in his personal capacity. Moreover, the proceedings were already terminated by the NIB. Issue: Was the issuance by respondent NIB to petitioners of letters of invitation, their subsequent interrogation, and the filing of the aforementioned libel suit unconstitutional? Held: No. Petition dismissed. Ratio: The assailed proceedings have come to an end. The acts sought to be prohibited (i.e., the issuance of letters of invitation petition and subsequent interrogations) have therefore been abated, thereby rendering the petition moot and academic as regards the aforesaid matters. Be that as it may, it is not Idle to note that ordinarily, an invitation to attend a hearing and answer some questions, which the person invited may heed or refuse at his pleasure, is not illegal or constitutionally objectionable. Under certain circumstances, however, such an invitation can easily assume a different appearance. Thus, where the invitation comes from a powerful group composed predominantly of ranking military officers issued at a time when the country has just emerged from martial rule and when the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus has not entirely been lifted and the designated interrogation site is a military camp, the same can easily be taken, not as a strictly voluntary invitation which it purports to be, but as an authoritative command which one can only defy at his peril.
Similarly, prohibition will not issue in respect of the libel charges now pending in court against two of the petitioners and similar suits that might be filed. Firstly, the writ of prohibition is directed against a tribunal, board or person acting without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion vis-a-vis certain proceedings pending before it. The libel cases adverted to are not pending before respondent NIB or any other respondent. Secondly, the issue of validity of the libel, charges by reason of their alleged collision with freedom of expression, is a matter that should be raised in the proper forum, i.e., before the court where the libel cases are pending or where they may be filed. Finally, the right to seek redress when libeled is a personal and individual privilege of the aggrieved party, and no one among the respondent officials has the authority to restrain any of his subordinates who has been libeled from vindicating his right by instituting a libel suit. Brig. Gen. Tadiar has filed the libel case against petitioners Suarez and Doyo in his personal capacity.
Espuelas vs People G.R. No. L-2990 December 17, 1951 Facts: On June 9 and June 24, 1947, both dates inclusive, in the town of Tagbilaran, Bohol, Oscar Espuelas y Mendoza had his picture taken, making it to appear as if he were hanging lifeless at the end of a piece of rope suspended form the limb of the tree, when in truth and in fact, he was merely standing on a barrel. After securing copies of his photograph, Espuelas sent copies of same to Free Press, the Evening News, the Bisayas, Lamdang of general circulation and other local periodicals in the Province of Bohol but also throughout the
Philippines and abroad, for their publication with a suicide note or letter, wherein he made to appear that it was written by a fictitious suicide, Alberto Reveniera and addressed to the latter's supposed wife translation of which letter or note, stating his dismay and administration of President Roxas, pointing out the situation in Central Luzon and Leyte, and directing his wife his dear wife to write to President Truman and Churchill of US and tell them that in the Philippines the government is infested with many Hitlers and Mussolinis.
Issue: Whether the accused is liable of seditious libel under Art. 142 of the RPC against the Government of the Philippines?
Held: Yes. The accused must therefore be found guilty as charged. And there being no question as to the legality of the penalty imposed on him, the decision will be affirmed with costs. Analyzed for meaning and weighed in its consequences, the article written bybthe accused, cannot fail to impress thinking persons that it seeks to sow the seeds of sedition and strife. The infuriating language is not a sincere effort to persuade, what with the writer's simulated suicide and false claim to martyrdom and what with is failure to particularize. When the use irritating language centers not on persuading the readers but on creating disturbances, the rationable of free speech cannot apply and the speaker or writer is removed from the protection of the constitutional guaranty. If it be argued that the article does not discredit the entire governmental structure but only President Roxas and his men, the reply is that article 142 punishes not only all libels against the Government but also "libels against any of the duly constituted
authorities thereof." The "Roxas people" in the Government obviously refer of least to the President, his Cabinet and the majority of legislators to whom the adjectives dirty, Hitlers and Mussolinis were naturally directed. On this score alone the conviction could be upheld. Regarding the publication, it suggests or incites rebellious conspiracies or riots and tends to stir up people against the constituted authorities, or to provoke violence from opposition who may seek to silence the writer. Which is the sum and substance of the offense under consideration. The essence of seditious libel may be said to its immediate tendency to stir up general discontent to the pitch of illegal courses; that is to say to induce people to resort to illegal methods other than those provided by the Constitution, in order to repress the evils which press upon their minds.
RAFAEL S. MERCADO, petitioner, vs. COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF RIZAL, BRANCH V, CITY FISCAL OF QUEZON CITY and VIRGINIA M. MERCADO, respondents. G.R. No. L-38753 August 25, 1982, 116 SCRA 93 Ponente: Fernando, CJ: FACTS:-Petitioner (Rafael Mercado) is being charged by Respondent (Virginia Mercado) for sending an allegedly libelous telegram to the superior of respondent. The telegram says that she has enriched herself thru corrupt practices considering that she has properties and spending above what her salary can afford with the husband jobless.Petitioner’s defense is that the telegram is a privileged communication and that the case should be dismissed. Issue: 1. WON free speech and free press guarantees of the Constitution constitute a bar to prosecutions for libel arising from a communication addressed to a superior complaining against the conduct of a subordinate.
Held: 1. No. Lopez publisher and owner of Manila Chronicle and Gatbonton (Editor) v. Court of Appeals and Cruz (1970) Ponente: Fernando, J.
Facts: o January 1956 – Front-page story on the Manila Chronicle à Fidel Cruz, sanitary inspector assigned to the Babuyan Islands, sent distress signals to US Airforce planes which forwarded such message to Manila o An American Army plane dropped emergency sustenance kits on the beach of the island which contained, among other things, a two way radio set. Using the radio set Cruz reported to the authorities in Manila that the locals were living in terror due to a series of killings committed on the island since Christmas of 1955. o Philippine defense forces (scout rangers) were immediately deployed to the babuyan claro. They were led by Major Wilfredo Encarnacion who discovered that Cruz only fabricated the story about the killings to get attention. Cruz merely wanted transportation home to Manila. o Major Encarnacion branded the fiasco as a “hoax” à the same word to be used by the newspapers who covered the same o January 13, 1956 - This Week Magazine of the Manila Chronicle, edited by Gatbonton devoted a pictorial article to it. It claimed that despite the story of Cruz being a hoax it brought to light the misery of the people living in that place, with almost everybody sick, only 2 individuals able to read and write and food and clothing being scarce o January 29, 1956 - This Week Magazineà in the "January News Quiz" made reference to Cruz as “a health inspector who suddenly felt "lonely" in his isolated post, cooked up a story about a murderer running loose on the island of Calayan so that he could be ferried back to civilization.” à Called it “Hoax of the year”
o In both issues photos of a Fidel Cruz were published but both photos were of a different person of the same name à Fidel G. Cruz former mayor, business man, contractor from Santa Maria, Bulacan o January 27, 1957 à published statements correcting their misprint and explained that confusion and error happened due to the rush to meet the Jan 13th issue’s deadline o Cruz sued herein petitioners for libel in CFI Manila. Cruz won and was awarded P11,000 in damages (5k actual, 5k moral, 1k attorney’s fees) o CA affirmed CFI decision hence this case
Issue: o WON petitioners should be held liable for their error in printing the wrong Fidel Cruz’s photo in relation to the “hoax of the year”? o WON such error is sufficient ground for an action for libel to prosper?
Held: Yes they are liable but damages awarded to Cruz is reduced to P1,000.00
Ratio: 1. Mistake is no excuse to absolve publishers because libel is harmful on its face by the fact that it exposes the injured party to more than trivial ridicule, whether it is fact or opinion is irrelevant. o Citing Lu Chu Sing v. Lu Tiong Gui à libel is "malicious defamation, expressed either in writing, printing, or by signs or pictures, or the like,
..., tending to blacken the memory of one who is dead or to impeach the honesty, virtue, or reputation, or publish the alleged or natural defects of one who is alive, and thereby "pose him to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule," o Citing standard treatise of Newell on Slander and Libel à "Publication of a person's photograph in connection with an article libelous of a third person, is a libel on the person whose picture is published, where the acts set out in the article are imputed to such person." o In this case à 3rd person was Cruz à his picture being published beside the article imputes him as the purveyor of the hoax of the year
2. Libel cannot be used to curtail press freedom however it also can not claim any talismanic immunity form constitutional limitations o State interest in press freedom à citing Justice Malcolm: Full discussion of public affairs is necessary for the maintenance of good governance… “Public officials must not be too thin-skinned with reference to comments on official acts”…”of course criticism does not authorize defamation. Nevertheless, as an individual is less than the state, so must expected criticism be born for the common good.” o So long as it was done in good faith, the press should have the legal right to have and express their opinions on legal questions. To deny them that right would be to infringe upon freedom of the press. o “Last word on the subject” à Citing Quisumbing v. Lopez: Press should be given leeway and tolerance as to enable them to courageously and effectively perform their important role in our democracy o Freedom of the press ranks high in the hierarchy of legal values o TEST of LIABLITY à must prove there was actual malice in publishing the story/photo! (Note: but this was not done in this case)
4. Citing Concepcion, CJ. à Correction of error in publishing does not wipe out the responsibility arising from the publication of the original article o Correction = Mitigating circumstance not a justifying circumstance! PEOPLE’S JOURNAL et. al. vs. FRANCIS THOENEN G.R. No. 143372 December 13, 2005 Facts: On 30 September 1990, a news item appeared in the People’s Journal claiming that a certain Francis Thoenen, a Swiss national who allegedly shoots wayward neighbors’ pets that he finds in his domain. It also claimed that BF Homes residents, in a letter through lawyer Atty. Efren Angara, requested for the deportation of Thoenen to prevent the recurrence of such incident in the future. Thoenen claimed that the article destroyed the respect and admiration he enjoyed in the community. He is seeking for damages. The petitioners admitted publication of the news item, ostensibly out of a “social and moral duty to inform the public on matters of general interest, promote the public good and protect the moral public (sic) of the people,” and that the story was published in good faith and without malice. Issue:
Whether or not the news report fall under privileged communication and therefore protected by the constitutional provision on freedom of speech.
The right of free speech is not absolute. Libel is not protected speech. In the instant case, even if we assume that the letter written by Atty. Angara is privileged communication, it lost its character when the matter was published in the newspaper and circulated among the general population, especially since the individual alleged to be defamed is neither a public official nor a public figure. Moreover, the news item contained falsehoods on two levels. First, the BF Homes residents did not ask for the deportation of Thoenen, more so because the letter of the Atty. Anagara was a mere request for verification of Thoenen’s status as a foreign resident. The article is also untrue because the events she reported never happened. Worse, the main source of information, Atty. Efren Angara, apparently either does not exist, or is not a lawyer. There is no constitutional value in false statements of fact. Neither the intentional lie nor the careless error materially advances society’s interest in ‘uninhibited, robust, and wide-open’ debate. Calculated falsehood falls into that class of utterances which “are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality… The knowingly false statement and the false statement made with reckless disregard of the truth, do not enjoy constitutional protection”
TEXAS VS JOHNSON 1989 Facts
Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag outside of the convention center where the 1984 Republican National Convention was being held in Dallas, Texas. Johnson burned the flag to protest the policies of President Ronald Reagan. He was arrested and charged with violating a Texas statute that prevented the desecration of a venerated object, including the American flag, if such action were likely to incite anger in others. A Texas court tried and convicted Johnson. He appealed, arguing that his actions were "symbolic speech" protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court agreed to hear his case. Issue Whether flag burning constitutes "symbolic speech" protected by the First Amendment. Ruling Yes. Reasoning (5-4) The majority of the Court, according to Justice William Brennan, agreed with Johnson and held that flag burning constitutes a form of "symbolic speech" that is protected by the First Amendment. The majority noted that freedom of speech protects actions that society may find very offensive, but society's outrage alone is not justification for suppressing free speech. In particular, the majority noted that the Texas law discriminated upon viewpoint, i.e., although the law punished actions, such as flag burning, that might arouse anger in others, it specifically exempted from prosecution actions that were respectful of venerated objects, e.g., burning and burying a worn-out flag. The majority said that the government could not discriminate in this manner based solely upon viewpoint.
Borjal vs CA A civil action for damages based on libel was filed before the court against Borjal and Soliven for writing and publishing articles that are allegedly derogatory and offensive against Francisco Wenceslao, attacking among others the solicitation letters he send to support a conference to be launch concerning resolving matters on transportation crisis that is tainted with anomalous activities. Wenceslao however was never named in any of the articles nor was the conference he was organizing. The lower court ordered petitioners to indemnify the private respondent for damages which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. A petition for review was filed before the SC contending that private respondent was not sufficiently identified to be the subject of the published articles. In a 20-page Decision promulgated 25 March 1996, the appellate court ruled inter alia that private respondent was sufficiently identifiable, although not named, in the questioned articles; that private respondent was in fact defamed by petitioner Borjal by describing him variously as a "self-proclaimed hero," "a conference organizer associated with shady deals who has a lot of trash tucked inside his closet," "thick face," and "a person with dubious ways;" that petitioner's claim of privilege communication was unavailing since the privileged character of the articles was lost by their publication in a newspaper of general circulation; that petitioner could have performed his officer as a newspaperman without necessarily transgressing the rights of Wenceslao by calling the attention of the government offices concerned to examine the authority by which Wenceslao acted, warning the public against contributing to a conference that, according to his perception, lacked the univocal indorsement of the responsible government officials, or simply informing the public of the letters Wenceslao wrote and the favors he requested or demanded; and, that when he imputed dishonesty, falsehood and misrepresentation, shamelessness and intellectual pretentions to Wenceslao, petitioner Borjal crossed the thin but clear line that separated fair comment from actionable defamation.
ISSUE WON there is sufficient ground to conclude that borjal and soliven are guilty of libel and could be liable for damages? HELD No. The complaint for damages against petitioners is dismissed. In order to maintain a libel suit, it is essential that the victim be identifiable although it is not necessary that he be named. It is also not sufficient that the offended party recognized himself as the person attacked or defamed, but it must be shown that at least a third person could identify him as the object of the libelous publication. 10 Regrettably, these requisites have not been complied with in the case at bar. We hold otherwise. These conclusions are at variance with the evidence at hand. The questioned articles written by Borjal do not identify private respondent Wenceslao as the organizer of the conference. The first of the Jaywalker articles which appeared in the 31 May 1989 issue of The Philippine Star yielded nothing to indicate that private respondent was the person referred to therein. Surely, as observed by petitioners, there were millions of "heroes" of the EDSA Revolution and anyone of them could be "self-proclaimed" or an "organizer of seminars and conferences." As a matter of fact, in his 9 June 1989 column petitioner Borjal wrote about the "so-called First National Conference on Land Transportation whose principal organizers are not specified". Neither did the FNCLT letterheads 12 disclose the identity of the conference organizer since these contained only an enumeration of names where private respondent Francisco Wenceslao was described as Executive Director and Spokesman and not as a conference organizer. 13 The printout 14 and tentative program 15 of the conference were devoid of any indication of Wenceslao as organizer. The printout which contained an article entitled "Who Organized the NCLT?" did not even mention private respondent's
name, while the tentative program only denominated private respondent as "Vice Chairman and Executive Director," and not as organizer.
The doctrine of fair comment means that while in general every discreditable imputation publicly made is deemed false, because every man is presumed innocent until his guilt is judicially proved, and every false imputation is deemed malicious, nevertheless, when the discreditable imputation is directed against a public person in his public capacity, it is not necessarily actionable. In order that such discreditable imputation to a public official may be actionable, it must either be a false allegation of fact or a comment based on a false supposition. If the comment is an expression of opinion, based on established facts, then it is immaterial that the opinion happens to be mistaken, as long as it might reasonably be inferred from the facts.
BAGUIO MIDLAND COURIER & CECILLE AFABLE VS. COURT OF APPEALS & RAMON LABO, JR., 444 SCRA 28 [November 25, 2004] Freedom of Expression; the public has the right to be informed on the mental, moral and physical fitness of candidates for public office. FACTS: 1. In the January 3, 1988 issue of the Baguio Midland Courier (BMC), Cecille Afable, the Editor-in-Chief, in her column “In and Out of Baguio” made the following comments: “Of all the candidates for Mayor of Baguio City), Labo has the most imponderables about him. People would ask: “can he read and write”? Why is he always talking about his Japanese father-in-law? Is he really a Japanes Senator or a barrio Kapitan? Is it true that he will send P18M aid to Baguio? Somebody wanted to put an advertisement of Labo in the Midland Courier but was refused because he has not yet paid his account of the last time he was a candidate for Congress.
We will accept all advertisements for him if he pays his old account first.” 2. In the same column, Cecille Afable wrote the following comments in her January 10, 1988 column at the Courier: “I heard that the ‘Dumpty in the Egg’ is campaigning for Cortes. Not fair. Some real doctors are also busy campaigning against Labo because he has not also paid their medical services with them. Since he is donating millions he should also settle his small debts like the reportedly insignificant amount of P27,000 only. If he wins, several teachers were signifying to resign and leave Baguio forever, and Pangasinan will be the franca-liqua of Baguio.” 3. As a result of the above articles, Ramon Labor, Jr. filed a complaint for Damages before the regional trial Court of Baguio City as he claimed said articles were libelous. He likewise filed a separate criminal complaint before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Baguio but was dismissed; 4. Labo claimed that the said articles were tainted with malice because he was allegedly described as “Dumpty in the Egg” or one “who is a failure in his business” which is false because he is a very successful businessman or to mean “zero or a big lie”; that he is a “balasubas” due to his alleged failure to pay his medical expenses; The petitioners, however, were able to prove that Labo has an unpaid obligation to the Courier in the amount of P27,415.00 for the ads placed by his campaigners for the 1984 Batasang Pambansa elections; The Regional Trial Court, Branch 6, Baguio City, in its Decision dated June 14, 1990 dismissed Labo’s complaint for damages on the ground that the article of petitioner Afable was privileged and constituted fair comment on matters of public interest as it dealt with the integrity, reputation and honesty of private respondent Labo who was a candidate for Mayor of Baguio City;
On January 7, 1992, the Court of Appeals reversed the RTC Decision and ordered the petitioners to pay Ramon Labo, Jr. damages in the total amount of P350,000.00 after concluding that the “Dumpty in the Egg” refers to no one but Labo himself. Hence, the Petition to the Supreme Court. ISSUES: 1. Was Labo the “Dumpty in the Egg” described in the questioned article/ 2.
Were the articles subject of the case libelous or privileged/
HELD: 1. The Court of Appeals is wrong when it held that Labo is the “Dumpty in the Egg” in the questioned article. This is so because the article stated that “The Dumpty in the Egg is campaigning for Cortes”, another candidate for mayor and opponent of Labo himself. It is unbelievable that Labo campaigned for his opponent and against himself. Although such gracious attitude on the part of Labo would have been commendable, it is contrary to common human experience. As pointed out by the petitioners, had he done that, it is doubtful whether he could have won as City Mayor of Baguio in the 1988 elections, which he actually did. In line with the doctrine in BORJAL VS. CA, 310 SCRA 1, that ‘it is also not sufficient that the offended party recognized himself as the person attacked or defamed, but it must be shown that at least a 3rd person could identify him as the object of the libelous publication’, the case should be dismissed since Labo utterly failed to dispose of this responsibility. 2. Labo claims that the petitioners could not invoke “public interest” to justify the publication since he was not yet a public official at that time. This argument is without merit since he was already a candidate for City mayor of Baguio. As such, the article is still within the mantle of protection guaranteed by the freedom of expression provided in the Constitution since it is the public’s right to be informed
of the mental, moral and physical fitness of candidates for public office. This was recognized as early as the case of US VS. SEDANO, 14 Phil. 338  and the case of NEW YORK TIMES VS. SULLIVAN, 376 U.S. 254 where the US Supreme Court held: “…it is of the utmost consequence that the people should discuss the character and qualifications of candidates for their suffrages. The importance to the State and to society of such discussions is so vast, and the advantages derived so great, that they more than counterbalance the inconvenience of private persons whose conduct may be involved, and occasional injury to the reputations of individuals must yield to the public welfare, although at times such injury may be great. The public benefit from publicity is so great and the chance of injury to private character so small, that such discussion must be privileged. “ Clearly, the questioned articles constitute fair comment on a matter of public interest as it dealt with the character of the private respondent who was running for the top elective post in Baguio City at that time.
FREEDOMOF EXPRESSION AND ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE CABANSAG VS FERNANDEZ Facts: This is a contempt proceeding which arose in Civil Case No. 9564 of the Court of First Instance of Pangasinan wherein Apolonio Cabansag and his lawyers Roberto V. Merrera were found guilty and sentenced the first to pay a fine of P20 and the last two P50 each with the warning that a repetition of the of offense will next time be heavily dealt with.
Cabansag wrote a letter to the Presidential Complaints and Action Commission seeking for the fast resolution of his case pending at the
CFI of Pangasinan. Fernandez prayed that Cabansag be declared in contempt of court for a line in his letter.
Petitioner (Apolonio Cabansag) sought for the ejectment of Geminiana Fernandez from a parcel of land who, on the other end, filed their answer and a motion to dismiss. Even though pleadings were submitted, the hearings were suspended several times from 1947 to 1952. Upon President Magsaysay’s assumption in office and creation of Presidential Complaints and Action Commission (PCAC), Cabansag wrote the PCAC, a letter copy which he furnished the Secretary of Justice and the Executive Judge of the CFI of Pangasinan. He claimed that the case which had been long been pending be decided already. The Secretary of Justice indorsed the said letter to the Clerk of CFI Pangasinan.
Counsel for defendants (Atty. Manuel Fernandez) filed a motion before Judge Morfe praying that Cabansag be declared in contempt of court for an alleged scurrilous remark he made in his letter to the PCAC: x x x “The undersigned has long since been deprived of his land thru the careful maneuvers of a tactical lawyer. The said case which had long been pending could not be decided due to the fact that the transcript of the records has not, as yet, been transcribed by the stenographers who took the stenographic notes. The new Judges could not proceed to hear the case before the transcription of the said notes. The stenographers who took the notes are now assigned in another courts. It seems that the undersigned will be deprived indefinitely of his right of possession over the land he owns. He has no other recourse than to ask the help of the ever willing PCAC to help him solve his predicament at an early date.”
Issue/s: WON petitioner should be liable for indirect contempt.
Held: NO. Wherefore, the decision appealed from is reversed, without pronouncement as to costs.
Ratio: The very idea of a government, republican in form, implies a right on the part of its citizens to meet peaceably for consultation in respect affairs and to petition for a redress of grievances. The First Amendments of the Federal expressly guarantees that right against abridgment by Congress. But mention does not argue exclusion elsewhere. For the right is one that cannot be denied without violating those fundamental principles of liberty and justice which lie at the base of all civil and political institutions principles which the Amendment embodies in the general terms of its due process clause.
The freedom of the press in itself presupposes an independent judiciary through which that freedom may, if necessary, be vindicated. And one of the potent means of assuring judges their independence is a free press. It is a fundamental principle, long established, that the freedom of speech and of the press, which is secured by the Constitution does not confer an absolute right to speak or publish, without responsibility, whatever one may choose, or an unrestricted and unbridled license that gives immunity for every possible use of language, and prevents the punishment of those who abuse this freedom. Reasonably limited, it was said by story in the passage cited, this freedom is an inestimable privilege in a free government; without such limitation, it might become the scourge of the Republic.
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES v. SALVADOR ALARCON, ET AL.
Facts: As an aftermath of the decision rendered by the Court of first Instance of Pampanga in criminal case No. 5733, The People of the Philippines vs. Salvador Alarcon, et al., convicting the accused therein — except one — of the crime of robbery committed in band, a denunciatory letter, signed by Luis M. Taruc, was addressed to His Excellency, the President of the Philippines. A copy of said letter found its way to the herein respondent, Federico Mañgahas who, as columnist of the Tribune, a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines, quoted the letter in an article published by him in the issue of that paper of September 23, 1937.
On 29 September 1937, the provincial fiscal of Pampanga filed with the Court of First Instance of that province to cite Federico Mangahas for contempt. On the same date, the lower court ordered Mangahas to appear and show cause. Mangahas appeared and filed an answer, alleging, among others, that “the publication of the letter in question is in line with the constitutional Narratives (Berne Guerrero) guarantee of freedom of the press.”
Issue: Whether the trial court properly cited Mangahas for contempt inasmuch as the robbery-in-band case is still pending appeal.
Held: Newspaper publications tending to impede, obstruct, embarrass, or influence the courts in administering justice in a pending suit or proceeding constitutes criminal contempt, which is summarily punishable by the courts. The rule is otherwise after the cause is ended. It must, however, clearly appear that such
publications do impede, interfere with, and embarrass the administration of justice before the author of the publications should be held for contempt. What is thus sought to be shielded against the influence of newspaper comments is the all-important duty of the court to administer justice in the decision of a pending case. Contempt of court is in the nature of a criminal offense (Lee Yick Hon vs. Collector of Customs, 41 Phil., 548), and in considering the probable effects of the article alleged to be contemptuous, every fair and reasonable inference consistent with the theory of defendant's innocence will be indulged (State v. New Mexican Printing Co., 25 N. M., 102, 177 p. 751), and where a reasonable doubt in fact or in law exists as to the guilt of one of constructive contempt for interfering with the due administration of justice the doubt must be resolved in his favor, and he must be acquitted.
Column of Ramon Tulfo Facts:In Oct. 13, 1989, Tulfo wrote an article in his column in PDI 'On Target' stating that the Supreme Court rendered an idiotic decision in legalizing checkpoints, and again on Oct. 16, 1989, where he called the Supreme Court stupid and "sangkatutak na mga bobo justices of the Philippine Supreme Court". Tulfo was required to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt. Tulfo said that he was just reacting emotionally because he had been a victim of harassmen in the checkpoints, and "idiotic" meant illogical and unwise, and "bobo" was just quoted from other attorneys, and since the case had been decided and terminated, there was not contempts. Lastly, the article does not pose any clear and present danger to the Supreme court. Issue:Wheter or not Tulfo is in contempt Held:Yes.
1. At the time Tulfo wrote the article, the checkpoints case had not yet been decided upon, and the Supreme Court was still acting on an MR filed from the CA. 2. Power to punish is inherent as it is essential for self-preservation. Contempt of ocurt is defiance of the authority, justice and dignity of the courts. It brings disrepute to the court. There are two kinds of publications which can be punished for contempt: a. those whose object is to affect the decision in a pending case. b. those whose object is to bring courts to discredit. Tulfo's article constituted both. 3. It should have been okay to criticize if respectful language was used, but if its object is only to degrade and ridicule, then it is clearly an obstruction of justice. Nothing constructive can be gained from them. Being emotional is no excuse for being insulting. Quoting is not an excuse also, because at the end of his article, Tulfo said, "So you bobo justices, watch out!" Also, he said he was not sorry for having written the articles. Tulfo is found in contempt of court and is gravely censured. Nestle Philippines vs. Sanchez [GR 75209, 30 September 1987]; Kimberly Independent Labor Union for Solidarity, Activism and Nationalism-Olalia [GR 78791] En Banc, Per Curiam: 13 concur, 1 on leave Facts: During the period July 8-10, 1987, Union of Filipro Employees, and Kimberly Independent Labor Union for Solidarity, Activism and Nationalism-Olalia, intensified the intermittent pickets they had been conducting since 17 June 1981 in front of the Padre Faura gate of the Supreme Court building. They set up pickets' quarters on the pavement in front of the Supreme Court building, at times obstructing access to and egress from the Court's premises and offices of justices, officials and employees. They constructed provisional
shelters along the sidewalks, set up a kitchen and littered the place with food containers and trash in utter disregard of proper hygiene and sanitation. They waved their red streamers and placards with slogans, and took turns haranguing the court all day long with the use of loudspeakers. These acts were done even after their leaders had been received by Justices Pedro L. Yap and Marcelo B. Fernan as Chairmen of the Divisions where their cases are pending, and Atty. Jose C. Espinas, counsel of the Union of Filipro Employees, had been called in order that the pickets might be informed that the demonstration must cease immediately for the same constitutes direct contempt of court and that the Court would not entertain their petitions for as long as the pickets were maintained. Thus, on 10 July 1987, the Court en banc issued a resolution giving the said unions the opportunity to withdraw graciously and requiring Messrs. Tony Avelino, Lito Payabyab, Eugene San Pedro, Dante Escasura, Emil Sayao and Nelson Centeno, union leaders of Union of Filipro Employees in the Nestle case and their counsel of record, Atty. Jose C. Espinas; and Messrs. Ernesto Facundo, Fausto Gapuz, Jr. and Antonio Gonzales, union leaders of Kimberly Independent Labor Union for Solidarity, Activism and Nationalism-Olalia in the Kimberly case to appear before the Court on 14 July 1987 at 10:30 a.m. and then and there to show cause why they should not be held in contempt of court. Atty. Jose C. Espinas was further required to show cause why he should not be administratively dealt with. On the appointed date and time, the individuals appeared before the Court, represented by Atty. Jose C. Espinas, in the absence of Atty. Potenciano Flores, who was still recuperating from an operation. Atty. Espinas, for himself and in behalf of the union leaders concerned, apologized to the Court for the acts, together with an assurance that they will not be repeated. He likewise manifested to the Court that he had explained to the picketers why their actions were wrong and that the cited persons were willing to suffer such penalty as may be warranted under the circumstances. He, however, prayed for the Court's leniency considering that the picket was actually spearheaded
by the leaders of the "Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalogan" (PAMANTIK), an unregistered loose alliance of about 75 unions in the Southern Tagalog area, and not by either the Union of Filipro Employees or the Kimberly Independent Labor Union. To confirm for the record that the person cited for contempt fully understood the reason for the citation and that they will abide by their promise that said incident will not be repeated, the Court required the respondents to submit a written manifestation to this effect, which respondents complied with on 17 July 1987.
Issue: Whether the respondents should be cited for contempt for their continued picketing at the Supreme Court’s premises. Held: The right of petition is conceded to be an inherent right of the citizen under all free governments. However, such right, natural and inherent though it may be, has never been invoked to shatter the standards of propriety entertained for the conduct of courts. For "it is a traditional conviction of civilized society everywhere that courts and juries, in the decision of issues of fact and law should be immune from every extraneous influence; that facts should be decided upon evidence produced in court; and that the determination of such facts should be uninfluenced by bias, prejudice or sympathies." Moreover, "parties have a constitutional right to have their causes tried fairly in court by an impartial tribunal, uninfluenced by publication or public clamor. Every citizen has a profound personal interest in the enforcement of the fundamental right to have justice administered by the courts, under the protection and forms of law free from outside coercion or interference." The acts of the respondents are therefore not only an affront to the dignity of the Court, but equally a violation of the right of the adverse parties and the citizenry at large. Still, the individuals cited, who are non-lawyers, are not knowledgeable in the intricacies of substantive and adjective laws. They are not aware that even as the rights of free speech and of assembly are protected by the Constitution, any attempt to pressure or influence courts of justice
through the exercise of either right amounts to an abuse thereof, is no longer within the ambit of constitutional protection, nor did they realize that any such efforts to influence the course of justice constitutes contempt of court. The duty and responsibility of advising them, therefore, rest primarily and heavily upon the shoulders of their counsel of record. Atty. Jose C. Espinas, when his attention was called by this Court, did his best to demonstrate to the pickets the untenability of their acts and posture. The incident should therefore serve as a reminder to all members of the legal profession that it is their duty as officers of the court to properly apprise their clients on matters of decorum and proper attitude toward courts of justice, and to labor leaders of the importance of a continuing educational program for their members. In Re Emil P. Jurado | 243 SCRA 299 (1995) FACTS: Emiliano P. Jurado, a lawyer and a journalist who writes in a newspaper of general circulation (Manila Standard) wrote about alleged improprieties and irregularities in the judiciary over several months (from about October 1992 to March 1993). Other journalists had also been making reports or comments on the same subject. At the same time, anonymous communications were being extensively circulated, by hand and through the mail, about alleged venality and corruption in the courts. What was particularly given attention by the Supreme Court was his column entitled “Who will judge the Justices?” referring to a report that six justices, their spouses and children and grandchildren (a total of 36 persons) spent a vacation in Hong Kong, and that luxurious hotel accommodations and all their other expenses were paid by a public utility firm and that the trip was arranged by the travel agency patronized by this public utility firm. This column was made amidst rumors that a Supreme Court decision favorable to the public utility firm appears to have been authored by a
lawyer of the public utility firm. The seed of the proceeding at bar was sown by the decision promulgated by this Court on August 27, 1992, in the so-called “controversial case” of “Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company v. Eastern Telephone Philippines, Inc. (ETPI),” G.R. No, 94374. In that decision the Court was sharply divided; the vote was 9 to 4, in favor of the petitioner PLDT. Mr. Justice Hugo E. Gutierrez, Jr., wrote the opinion for the majority. The Chief Justice issued an administrative order creating an ad hoc committee to investigate the said reports of corruption in the judiciary. A letter affidavit was also received from the public utility, denying the allegations in Jurado's column. The Supreme Court then issued a resolution ordering that the matter dealt with in the letter and affidavit of the public utility company be docketed and acted upon as an official Court proceeding for the determination of whether or not the allegations made by Jurado are true.
ISSUE #1: WON Jurado can invoke the principles of press freedom to justify the published writings.
HELD: NO. Although honest utterances, even if inaccurate, may further the fruitful exercise of the right of free speech, it does not follow that the lie, knowingly and deliberately published about a public official, should enjoy a like immunity. The knowingly false statement and the false statement made with reckless disregard of the truth, do not enjoy constitutional protection. The Civil Code, in its Article 19 lays down the norm for the proper exercise of any right, constitutional or otherwise, viz.: “ARTICLE 19. Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and
observe honesty and good faith.” The provision is reflective of the universally accepted precept of “abuse of rights,” “one of the most dominant principles which must be deemed always implied in any system of law.” Requirement to exercise bona fide care in ascertaining the truth of the statements when publishing statements which are clearly defamatory to identifiable judges or other public officials.
Judges, by becoming such, are rightly regarded as voluntarily subjecting themselves to norms of conduct which embody more stringent standards of honesty, integrity, and competence than are commonly required from private persons. Nevertheless, persons who seek or accept appointment to the Judiciary cannot reasonably be regarded as having forfeited any right to private honor and reputation. For to so rule will be to discourage all save those who feel no need to maintain their self-respect from becoming judges. The public interest involved in freedom of speech and the individual interest of judges (and for that matter, all other public officials) in the maintenance of private honor and reputation need to be accommodated one to the other. And the point of adjustment or accommodation between these two legitimate interests is precisely found in the norm, which requires those, who, invoking freedom of speech, publish statements which are clearly defamatory to identifiable judges or other public officials to exercise bona fide care in ascertaining the truth of the statements they publish. The norm does not require that a journalist guarantee the truth of what he says or publishes. But the norm does prohibit the reckless disregard of private reputation by publishing or circulating defamatory statements without any bona fide effort to ascertain the truth thereof. Note: In this case, Jurado failed to reliably confirmed that raw intelligence or reports he received surrounding the corruption in the Judiciary. Moreover, some of his reports were completely untrue because he did not bother to make any further verification.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, MOVIE CENSORSHIP, OBSCENITY, AND THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY
GONZALEZ VS KALAW KATIGBAK
FACTS: Petitioner was the producer of the movie Kapit sa Patalim which the Board of Review for Motion Pictures and Televisions allowed on condition that certain deletions were made and that it was shown on adults only. The petitioner brought an action, claiming violation of their freedom of expression.
HELD: Motion pictures are important both as a method for the communication of ideas and the expression of the artistic impulse. The power of the Board is limited to the classification of films. For freedom of expression is the rule and restrictions the exception. The power to impose prior restraint is not to be presumed, rather the presumption is against its validity. Censorship is allowable only under the clearest proof of a clear and present danger of a substantive evil to public safety, public morals, public health or any other legitimate public interest. The Board committed an abuse of discretion in subjecting petitioner to difficulty and travail before the movie was classified as "For adults only" without deletion. However there is not enough votes to consider the abuse of discretion grave as it explained that there were reasons for its action because of the scenes showing women erotically dancing naked and kissing and caressing each other like lesbians. VV.
Notes: The movie involved in this case was "Kapit sa Patalim" which the censors wanted to cut in some part and to label "For Adults". The SC rules that movies are within the constitutional protection of freedom of expression, so that censorship is presumed to be valid as constituting prior restraint. The only case whe the Board of Censors can order a deletion is when there is a clear and present danger of a substantive evil against national security or public morals or other public interest. In all other cases, the Board can only classify.
But a different standard must be followed in television because of the pervasive and intrusive influence of the medium on people who watch its programs without having to pay anything.
On the issue of obscenity, the SC held that sex along is not necessarily obscenity, the test being whether, using contemporary community standards, the dominant appeal us to the prurient interest. (Miller v. California). Thus on this score, it found abuse of discretion of the part of the Board for subjecting the producer to difficulty and for entertaining a narrow view of obscenity, but it lacked the votes to rules that the abuse was grave.
MANUEL LAGUNZAD, PETITIONER, VS.MARIA SOTO VDA. DE GONZALES AND THE COURT OF APPEALS, RESPONDENTS.G.R. NO. L-32066 AUGUST 6, 1979
FACTS Petitioner Manuel Lagunzad, a newspaperman, began the production of a movie entitled "The Moises Padilla Story" portraying the life of Moises Padilla, a mayoralty candidate of the Nacionalista Party for the
Municipality of Magallon, Negros Occidental and for whose murder, Governor Rafael Lacson, a member of the Liberal Party then in power and his men were tried and convicted. The emphasis of the movie was on the public life of Moises Padilla, there were portions which dealt with his private and family life including the portrayal in some scenes, of his mother, Maria Soto, private respondent herein, and of one "Auring" as his girl friend. Padilla’s half sister, for and in behalf of her mother, Vda.de Gonzales, objected to the "exploitation" of his life and demanded in writing for certain changes, corrections and deletions in the movie. After some bargaining as to the amount to be paid Lagunzad and Vda. de Gonzales, executed a "Licensing Agreement" whereby the latter as LICENSOR granted Lagunzad authority and permission to exploit, use, and develop the life story of Moises Padilla for purposes of producing the picture for consideration of P20,000.00.Lagunzad paid Vda. de Gonzales the amount of P5,000.00. Subsequently, the movie was shown indifferent theaters all over the country. Because petitioner refused to pay any additional amounts pursuant to the Agreement, Vda. de Gonzales instituted the present suit against him praying for judgment in her favor ordering petitioner 1) to pay her the balance of P15,000.00, with legal interest from of the Complaint; and 2) to render an accounting of the proceeds from the picture and to pay the corresponding 2-1/2% royalty there from, among others. Petitioner contended in his Answer that the episodes in life of Moises Padilla depicted in the movie were matters of public knowledge and occurred at or about the same time that the deceased became and was a public figure; that private respondent has no property right over those incidents; that the Licensing Agreement was without valid cause or consideration and constitutes an infringement on the constitutional right of freedom of speech and of the press; and that he paid private respondent the amount of P5,000.00 only because of the coercion and threat employed upon him. As a counterclaim, petitioner sought for the nullification of the Licensing Agreement, Both the trial court and the CA ruled in favor of Vda. deGonzales.
ISSUES Whether or not the fictionalized representation of Moises Padilla is an intrusion upon his right to privacy notwithstanding that he was a public figure. Whether or not Vda. de Gonzales., the mother, has any property right over the life of Moises Padilla considering that the latter was a public figure. Whether or not the Licensing Agreement constitutes an infringement on the constitutional right of freedom of speech and of the press.
HELD YES, being a public figure ipso facto does not automatically destroy in toto a person's right to privacy. The right to invade as person's privacy to disseminate public information does not extend to a fictional or novelized representation of a person, no matter how public a figure he or she may be. In the case at bar, while it is true that petitioner exerted efforts to present a true-to-life story of Moises Padilla, petitioner admits that he included a little romance in the film because without it, it would be a drab story of torture and brutality. YES, Lagunzad cannot dispense with the need for prior consent and authority from the deceased heirs to portray publicly episodes in said deceased's life and in that of his mother and the members of his family. As held in Schuyler v. Curtis" a privilege may be given the surviving relatives of a deceased person to protect his memory, but the privilege exists for the benefit of the living, to protect their feelings and to prevent a violation of their own rights in the character and memory of the deceased." NO, Lagunzad claims that as a citizen and as a newspaperman, he had the right to express his thoughts in film on the public life of Moises Padilla without prior restraint. The right of freedom of expression,
indeed, occupies a preferred position in the "hierarchy of civil liberties." It is not, however, without limitations. One criterion for permissible limitation on freedom of speech and of the press is the "balancing-of-interests test." The principle requires a court to take conscious and detailed consideration of the interplay of interests observable in a given situation or type of situation." In the case at bar, the interest’s observable are the right to privacy asserted by respondent and the right of -freedom of expression invoked by petitioner. Taking into account the interplay of those interests, and considering the obligations assumed in the Licensing Agreement entered into by petitioner, the validity of such agreement will have to be upheld particularly because the limits of freedom of expression are reached when expression touches upon matters of essentially private concern
Ayer Productions Pty. Ltd. Vs Capulong, 160 SCRA 861, G.R. NO. L82380; 29 APR 1988 Posted by Pius Morados on November 13, 2011 (Constitutional Law – Right to Free Speech, Public Figure) FACTS: Respondent Sen. Enrile files a case against private petitioners for the production and filming of the projected motion picture “The Four Day Revolution”, which relates to the non-bloody change of government that took place at EDSA, for its unlawful intrusion upon the former’s right to privacy. Petitioners contends that the freedom to produce and film includes in the freedom of speech and expression; and the subject matter of the motion picture is one of public interest and concern and not on the individual private life of respondent senator.
ISSUE: WON the projected motion picture is guaranteed under the right to free speech. HELD: Yes. The EDSA revolution where private respondent is a major character is one of public interest. Private respondent is a public figure due to his participation in the culmination of the change of government. The right of privacy of the a “public figure” is necessarily narrower than that of an ordinary citizen. KMU vs. NEDA , GR no. 167798 , April 19, 2006 FACTS: In April 13, 2005, President Gloria Macapagal – Arroyo issued Executive Order 420 requiring all government agencies and government-owned corporations to streamline and harmonize their Identification Systems. The purposes of the uniform ID data collection and ID format are to reduce costs, achieve efficiency and reliability and ensure compatibility and provide convenience to the people served by government entities. Petitioners allege that EO420 is unconstitutional because it constitutes usurpation of legislative functions by the executive branch of the government. Furthermore, they allege that EO420 infringes on the citizen’s rights to privacy. ISSUE: In issuing EO 420, did the president make, alter or repeal any laws? RULING: Legislative power is the authority to make laws and to alter or repeal them. In issuing EO 420, the President did not make, alter or repeal any law but merely implemented and executed existing laws. EO 420 reduces costs, as well as insures efficiency, reliability, compatibility and user-friendliness in the implementation of current ID systems of government entities under existing laws. Thus, EO 420 is simply an executive issuance and not an act of legislation.
MTRCB v. ABS-CBN and Loren Legarda (2005) Ponente: Sandoval-Gutierrez, J. ABS-CBN aired “Prosti-tuition,” an episode of The Inside Story produced and hosted by Loren Legarda. It depicted of female students moonlighting as prostitutes to enable them to pay for their tuition fees and interviewed student prostitutes, pimps, customers and some faculty members. Philippine Women’s University (PWU) was named as the school of some of the students involved and the façade of PWU served as the background of the episode. It caused uproar in the PWU community. Dr. Leticia de Guzman (Chancellor and Trustee of PWU) and PWU Parents and Teachers Association file letter complaints with petitioner MTRCB, alleging that the episode besmirched the name of the PWU and resulted in the harassment of some of its female students. MTRCB Legal Counsel initiated a formal complaint with the MTRCB Investigating Committee alleging that respondents: - did not submit The Inside Story to MTRCB for review - exhibited the same without its permission, violating Sec. 7 of PD 1986 and Sec. 3, Chapter III and Sec. 7, Chapter IV of MTRCB Rules and Regulations
Respondents: The Inside Story is a public affairs program, news documentary and socio-political editorial, the airing of which is protected by the constitutional provision on freedom of expression and of the press. MTRCB has no power, authority and jurisdiction to impose any form of prior restraint upon respondents.
MTRCB Investigating Committee ordered respondents to pay P20,000 for non-submission of the program and declared that all subsequent
programs of the The Inside Story and all other programs of the ABSCBN Ch 2 of the same category shall be submitted to the Board of Review and Approval before showing. On appeal, the Chairman of MTRCB issued a Decision affirming the ruling of the Investigating Committee.
Respondents filed a special civil action for certiorari with the RTC and sought to: - declare unconstitutional certain provisions of PD 1986 and MTRCB Rules and Regulations - (alternative) exclude the The Inside Story from the coverage of such provisions - annul and set aside MTRCB Decision and Resolution … because they constitute prior restraint on respondents’ exercise of freedom of expression and of the press, and those provisions do not apply to the The Inside Story because it falls under the category of “public affairs program, news documentary or socio-political editorials” governed by standards similar to those governing newspapers.
RTC decided in favor of ABSCBN: - annulled Decision and Resolution of the MTRCB - declared that assailed provisions do not cover The Inside Story and other similar programs for being public affairs programs which can be equated to newspapers Hence, this petition for review on certiorari by MTRCB. Issue: WON the MTRCB has the power/authority to review the “The Inside Story” prior to its exhibition or broadcast by television. YES
MTRCB/SG: (1) all tv programs including public affairs programs, news documentaries or socio-political editorials are subject to MTRCB’s power of review, (2) tv programs are more accessible to the public than newspapers, thus liberal regulation cannot apply, (3) power to review tv programs does not amount to prior restraint, (4) Sec. 3(b) of PD 1986 does not violate respondents’ constitutional freedom of expression and of the press.
SC: Rule in statutory construction: Ubi lex non distinguit nec distinguere debemos (where the law does not make any exception, courts may not except something therefrom, unless there is compelling reason apparent in the law to justify it). When the law says “all television programs,” the word “all” covers all tv programs, whether religious, public affairs, news documentary, etc. Since The Inside Story is a tv program, it is within the jurisdiction of the MTRCB over which it has power of review. There also has been no declaration by the framers of the Constitution that freedom of expression and of the press has a preferred status. If the SC did not exempt religious programs from the jurisdiction and review power of MTRCB, with more reason, there is no justification to exempt therefrom The Inside Story. The only exceptions are tv programs imprinted or exhibited by the Philippine Government and/or its departments and agencies, and newsreels.
WON The Inside Story falls under the category of Newsreels. Respondents: Yes. SC: NO. It is not defined in PD 1986 but Webster’s dictionary defines it as short motion picture films portraying or dealing with current events; mostly reenactments of events that had already happened. The MTRCB Rules and Regulations define it as straight news
reporting, as distinguished from news analyses, commentaries and opinions. The Inside Story is more of a public affairs program, a variety of news treatment; a cross between pure tv news and newsrelated commentaries, etc. within MTRCB’s review power.
MTRCB did not disapprove or ban the showing of the program nor did it cancel respondents’ permit. The latter was merely penalized for their failure to submit the program to MTRCB for its review and approval. Therefore, there is no need to resolve whether certain provisions of PD 1986 and MTRCB Rules and Regulations contravene the Constitution. No question involving the constitutionality or validity of a law or governmental act may be heard and decided by the court unless there is compliance with the legal requisites for judicial inquiry: - proper party - actual case or controversy - question raised at the earliest possible opportunity - the decision on the constitutional or legal question must be necessary to the determination of the case itself
Petition of MTRCB Granted. RTC Decision Reversed. MTRCB Decision Affirmed.
RENO VS ACLU- SEE PREVIOUS DIGEST
Facts of the case Miller, after conducting a mass mailing campaign to advertise the sale of "adult" material, was convicted of violating a California statute prohibiting the distribution of obscene material. Some unwilling
recipients of Miller's brochures complained to the police, initiating the legal proceedings. Question Is the sale and distribution of obscene materials by mail protected under the First Amendment's freedom of speech guarantee? Conclusion In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that obscene materials did not enjoy First Amendment protection. The Court modified the test for obscenity established in Roth v. United States and Memoirs v. Massachusetts, holding that "[t]he basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a) whether 'the average person, applying contemporary community standards' would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest. . . (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." The Court rejected the "utterly without redeeming social value" test of the Memoirs decision.
Fernando v CA G.R. No. 159751 December 6, 2006
Facts: Acting on reports of sale and distribution of pornographic materials, officers of the Philippine National Police CIDG conducted police surveillance on the store bearing the name of Gaudencio E. Fernando Music Fair (Music Fair).
On May 5, 1999, Judge Perfecto Laguio of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 19, issued Search Warrant No. 99-1216 for violation of Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code against petitioner Gaudencio E. Fernando and a certain Warren Tingchuy. The warrant ordered the search of the store for copies of New Rave, Hustler, IOU magazine, and VHS tapes. On the same day, police officers of the PNP-CIDG NCR served the warrant on Rudy Estorninos, who, according to the prosecution, introduced himself as the store attendant of Music Fair. The police searched the premises and confiscated twenty-five (25) VHS tapes and ten (10) different magazines, which they deemed pornographic. All appellants pled not guilty to the offenses charged. They waived their right to present evidence. The RTC acquitted Tingchuy for lack of evidence to prove his guilt, but convicted herein petitioners Fernando and Estorninos. The CA affirmed the decision. The petitioners sought for review in the SC on certiorari and assailed the CA decision. They assigned the following errors: I. Respondent court erred in convicting petitioner Fernando even if he was not present at the time of the raid II. Respondent erred in convicting petitioner Estorninos who was not doing anything illegal at the time of the raid. Petitioners contend that the prosecution failed to prove that at the time of the search, they were selling pornographic materials. Fernando contends that since he was not charged as the owner of an establishment selling obscene materials, the prosecution must prove that he was present during the raid and that he was selling the said materials. Estorninos, on the other hand, insists that he was not an attendant in Music Fair, nor did he introduce himself so. The Solicitor General counters that owners of establishments selling obscene publications are expressly held liable under Article 201, and
petitioner Fernando’s ownership was sufficiently proven. As the owner, according to the Solicitor General, Fernando was naturally a seller of the prohibited materials and liable under the Information. Issue: Whether the appellate court erred in affirming the petitioners’ conviction.
Held: No. Petition dismissed.
Ratio: As obscenity is an unprotected speech which the State has the right to regulate, the State in pursuing its mandate to protect, as parens patriae, the public from obscene, immoral and indecent materials must justify the regulation or limitation. One such regulation is Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code. To be held liable, the prosecution must prove that (a) the materials, publication, picture or literature are obscene; and (b) the offender sold, exhibited, published or gave away such materials. Necessarily, that the confiscated materials are obscene must be proved. People v. Kottinger-.obscenity as something which is offensive to chastity, decency or delicacy. The test to determine the existence of obscenity is, whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscene, is to deprave or corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences and into whose hands a publication or other article charged as being obscene may fall. Also, “that which shocks the ordinary and common sense of men as an indecency.” The disclaimer was whether a picture is obscene or indecent must depend upon the circumstances of the case, and that ultimately, the question is to be decided by the judgment of the aggregate sense of the community reached by it.
Go Pin- If such pictures, sculptures and paintings are shown in art exhibits and art galleries for the cause of art, to be viewed and appreciated by people interested in art, there would be no offense committed. However, the pictures here in question were used not exactly for art’s sake but rather for commercial purposes. In other words, the supposed artistic qualities of said pictures were being commercialized so that the cause of art was of secondary or minor importance. Gain and profit would appear to have been the main, if not the exclusive consideration in their exhibition; and it would not be surprising if the persons who went to see those pictures and paid entrance fees for the privilege of doing so, were not exactly artists and persons interested in art and who generally go to art exhibitions and galleries to satisfy and improve their artistic tastes, but rather people desirous of satisfying their morbid curiosity and taste, and lust, and for love [of] excitement, including the youth who because of their immaturity are not in a position to resist and shield themselves from the ill and perverting effects of these pictures Padan- An actual exhibition of the sexual act, preceded by acts of lasciviousness, can have no redeeming feature. In it, there is no room for art. One can see nothing in it but clear and unmitigated obscenity, indecency, and an offense to public morals, inspiring and causing as it does, nothing but lust and lewdness, and exerting a corrupting influence specially on the youth of the land. Katigbak- the Court measures obscenity in terms of the “dominant theme” of the material taken as a “whole” rather than in isolated passages. Pita v. Court of Appeals, concerning alleged pornographic publications, the Court recognized that Kottinger failed to afforda conclusive definition of obscenity, and that both Go Pin and Padan y Alova raised more questions than answers such as, whether the absence or presence of artists and persons interested in art and who generally go to art exhibitions and galleries to satisfy and improve their artistic tastes, determine what art is; or that if they find inspiration
in the exhibitions, whether such exhibitions cease to be obscene. Go Pin and Padan y Alova gave too much latitude for judicial arbitrament, which has permitted ad lib of ideas and “two-cents worths” among judges as to what is obscene or what is art. The Court in Pita also emphasized the difficulty of the question and pointed out how hazy jurisprudence is on obscenity and how jurisprudence actually failed to settle questions on the matter. Significantly, the dynamism of human civilization does not help at all. It is evident that individual tastes develop, adapt to wideranging influences, and keep in step with the rapid advance of civilization. It seems futile at this point to formulate a perfect definition of obscenity that shall apply in all cases. There is no perfect definition of “obscenity” but the latest word is that of Miller v. California which established basic guidelines, to wit: (a) whether to the average person, applying contemporary standards would find the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. But, it would be a serious misreading of Miller to conclude that the trier of facts has the unbridled discretion in determining what is “patently offensive. No one will be subject to prosecution for the sale or exposure of obscene materials unless these materials depict or describe patently offensive “hard core” sexual conduct. Ie offensive descriptions of sex acts. What remains clear is that obscenity is an issue proper for judicial determination and should be treated on a case to case basis and on the judge’s sound discretion. In this case, the trial court found the confiscated materials obscene and the Court of Appeals affirmed such findings. Findings of fact of the Court of Appeals affirming that of the trial court are accorded great
respect, even by this Court, unless such findings are patently unsupported by the evidence on record or the judgment itself is based on misapprehension of facts. Did petitioners participate in the distribution and exhibition of obscene materials? We emphasize that mere possession of obscene materials, without intention to sell, exhibit, or give them away, is not punishable under Article 201, considering the purpose of the law is to prohibit the dissemination of obscene materials to the public. The offense in any of the forms under Article 201 is committed only when there is publicity. The mayor’s permit shows that Fernando was the owner of the store. Petitioner Estorninos is likewise liable as the store attendant actively engaged in selling and exhibiting the obscene materials. Prosecution witness Police Inspector Tababan, who led the PNP-CIDG NCR that conducted the search, identified him as the store attendant upon whom the search warrant was served. EASTERN BROADCASTING CORP (DYRE) V. DANS JR. [137 SCRA 628; L-59329; 19 JUL 1985] Facts: A petition was filed to reopen the Radio Station DYRE. DYRE was “summarily closed” on grounds of national security. The radio station was allegedly used to incite people to sedition. Petitioner, DYRE contends that they were denied due process. There was no hearing to establish factual evidence for the closure. Furthermore, the closure of the radio station violates freedom of expression. Before the court could even promulgate adecision upon the Issue raised, Petitioner, through its president Mr. Rene Espina, filed a motion to withdraw the petition. The rights of the station were sold to a new owner, Manuel Pastrana; who is no longer interested in pursuing the case. Despite the case becoming moot and academic, (because there are no longer interested parties, thus the dismissal of the case) the Supreme Court still finds that there is need to pass a “RESOLUTION” for the guidance of inferior courts and administrativetribunals in matters as this case.
Issues: (1) Whether or not due process was exercised in the case of DYRE. (2) Whether or not the closure of DYRE is a violation of the Constitutional Right of Freedom of Expression.
Held: The court finds that the closure of the Radio Station in 1980 as null and void. The absence of a hearing is a violation of Constitutional Rights. The primary requirements in administrative proceedings are laid down in the case of Ang Tibay v. Court of Industrial Relation (69 Phil.635). The Ang Tibay Doctrine should be followed before any broadcast station may be closed. The Ang Tibay Doctrine provides the following requirements: (1) The right to hearing, includes the right to present one’s case and submit evidence presented. (2) The tribunal must consider the evidence presented (3) The decision must have something to support itself. (4) Evidence must be substantial (reasonable evidence that is adequate to support conclusion) (5) Decision must be based on the evidence presented at hearing (6) The tribunal body must act on its own independent consideration of law and facts and not simply accept subordinate’s views (7) Court must render decision in such a manner that the proceeding can know the various issued involved and reasons for decisions rendered. The court stresses that while there is no controlling and precise definition of Due Process, it gives an unavoidable standard that government actions must conform in order that deprivation of life,
liberty and property is valid. The closure of the radio station is like wise a violation of the constitutional right of freedom of speech and expression. The court stresses that all forms of media, whether print or broadcast are entitled to this constitutional right. Although the government still has the right to be protected against broadcasts which incite the listeners to violently overthrow it. The test for the limitation of freedom of expression is the “clear and present danger” rule. If in the circumstances that the media is used in such nature as to create this danger that will bring in such evils, then the law has the right to prevent it. However, Radio and television may not be used to organize a rebellion or signal a start of widespread uprising. The freedom to comment on public affairs is essential to the vitality of a representative democracy. The people continues to have the right to be informed on public affairs and broadcast media continues to have the pervasive influence to the people being the most accessible form of media. Therefore, broadcast stations deserve the the special protection given to all forms of media by the due process and freedom of expression clauses of the Constitution.