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VALMONTE VS. BELMONTE FACTS: Ricardo Valmonte wrote Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on 4 June 1986, requesting to be "furnished with the list of names of the opposition members of (the) Batasang Pambansa who were able to secure a clean loan of P2 million each on guaranty (sic) of Mrs. Imelda Marcos" and also to "be furnished with the certified true copies of the documents evidencing their loan. Expenses in connection herewith shall be borne by" Valmonte, et. al. Due to serious legal implications, President & General Manager Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. referred the letter to the Deputy General Counsel of the GSIS, Meynardo A. Tiro. Tiro replied that it is his opinion "that a confidential relationship exists between the GSIS and all those who borrow from it, whoever they may be; that the GSIS has a duty to its customers to preserve this confidentiality; and that it would not be proper for the GSIS to breach this confidentiality unless so ordered by the courts." On 20 June 1986, apparently not having yet received the reply of the Government Service and Insurance System (GSIS) Deputy General Counsel, Valmonte wrote Belmonte another letter, saying that for failure to receive a reply "(W)e are now considering ourselves free to do whatever action necessary within the premises to pursue our desired objective in pursuance of public interest." On 26 June 1986, Ricardo Valmonte, Oswaldo Carbonell, Doy Del Castillo, Rolando Bartolome, LeoObligar, Jun Gutierrez, Reynaldo Bagatsing, Jun "Ninoy" Alba, Percy Lapid, Rommel Corro, and Rolando Fadul filed a special civil action for mandamus with preliminary injunction invoke their right to information and pray

that Belmonte be directed: (a) to furnish Valmonte, et. al. the list of the names of the Batasang Pambansa members belonging to the UNIDO and PDP Laban who were able to secure clean loans immediately before the February 7 election thru the intercession/marginal note of the then First Lady Imelda Marcos; and/or (b) to furnish petitioners with certified true copies of the documents evidencing their respective loans; and/or (c) to allow petitioners access to the public records for the subject information. ISSUE: Whether Valmonte, et. al. are entitled as citizens and taxpayers to inquire upon GSIS records on behest loans given by the former First Lady Imelda Marcos to Batasang Pambansa members belonging to the UNIDO and PDP-Laban political parties. HELD: The GSIS is a trustee of contributions from the government and its employees and the administrator of various insurance programs for the benefit of the latter. Undeniably, its funds assume a public character. More particularly, Secs. 5(b) and 46of PD 1146, as amended (the Revised Government Service Insurance Act of 1977),provide for annual appropriations to pay the contributions, premiums, interest and other amounts payable to GSIS by the government, as employer, as well as the obligations which the Republic of the Philippines assumes or guarantees to pay. Considering the nature of its funds, the GSIS is expected to manage its resources with utmost prudence and in strict compliance with the pertinent laws or rules and regulations. Thus, one of the reasons that prompted the revision of the old GSIS law(CA 186, as amended) was the necessity "to preserve at all times the actuarial solvency of the funds

administered by the Systems [Second Whereas Clause, PD1146.] Consequently, as Feliciano Belmonte himself admits, the GSIS "is not supposed to grant 'clean loans.'" It is therefore the legitimate concern of the public to ensure that these funds are managed properly with the end in view of maximizing the benefits that accrue to the insured government employees. Moreover, the supposed borrowers were Members of the defunct Batasang Pambansa who themselves appropriated funds for the GSIS and were therefore expected to be the first to see to it that the GSIS performed its tasks with the greatest degree of fidelity and that all its transactions were above board. In sum, the public nature of the loanable funds of the GSIS and the public office held by the alleged borrowers make the information sought clearly a matter of public interest and concern. Still, Belmonte maintains that a confidential relationship exists between the GSIS and its borrowers. It is argued that a policy of confidentiality restricts the indiscriminate dissemination of information. Yet, Belmonte has failed to cite any law granting the GSIS the privilege of confidentiality as regards the documents subject of the present petition. His position is apparently based merely on considerations of policy. The judiciary does not settle policy issues. The Court can only declare what the law is, and not what the law should be. Under our system of government, policy issues are within the domain of the political branches of the government, and of the people themselves as the repository of all State power. AQUINO SARMIENTO VS. MORATO FACTS: At issue in this petition is the citizen's right of access to official records as guaranteed by the constitution.

In February 1989, petitioner, herself a member of respondent Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), wrote its records officer requesting that she be allowed to examine the board's records pertaining to the voting slips accomplished by the individual board members after a review of the movies and television productions. It is on the basis of said slips that films are either banned, cut or classified accordingly. Acting on the said request, the records officer informed petitioner that she has to secure prior clearance from respondent Manuel Morato, as chairman of MTRCB, to gain access to the records sought to be examined. Petitioner's request was eventually denied by respondent Morato on the ground that whenever the members of the board sit in judgment over a film, their decisions as reflected in the individual voting slips partake the nature of conscience votes and as such, are purely and completely private and personal. It is the submission of respondents that the individual voting slips is the exclusive property of the member concerned and anybody who wants access thereto must first secure his (the member's) consent, otherwise, a request therefore may be legally denied. Petitioner argues, on the other hand, that the records she wishes to examine are public in character and other than providing for reasonable conditions regulating the manner and hours of examination, respondents Morato and the classification board have no authority to deny any citizen seeking examination of the board's records. On February 27, 1989, respondent Morato called an executive meeting of the MTRCB to discuss, among

others, the issue raised by petitioner. In said meeting, seventeen (17) members of the board voted to declare their individual voting records as classified documents which rendered the same inaccessible to the public without clearance from the chairman. Thereafter, respondent Morato denied petitioner's request to examine the voting slips. However, it was only much later, i.e., on July 27, 1989, that respondent Board issued Resolution No. 10-89 which declared as confidential, private and personal, the decision of the reviewing committee and the voting slips of the members. Respondent Morato told the board that he has ordered some deletions on the movie "Mahirap ang Magmahal" notwithstanding the fact that said movie was earlier approved for screening by the Board with classification "R-18 without cuts". He explained that his power to unilaterally change the decision of the Review Committee is authorized by virtue of MTRCB Resolution No. 88-1-25 (dated June 22,1988) which allows the chairman of the board "to downgrade a film (already) reviewed especially those which are controversial." Petitioner informed the Board, however, that respondent Morato possesses no authority to unilaterally reverse a decision of the review committee under PD 1986 (Creating the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board). After the matter was referred by the Deputy Executive Secretary to the Justice Secretary, the latter opined that PD 1896 does not vest respondent Morato any authority to unilaterally reverse the decision of the review committee but declined to comment on the constitutionality of Res. No. 10-89 on the ground that the resolution thereof is a judicial prerogative

Petitioner therefore seeks the nullification of 1) MTRCB Resolution No. 88-1-25 which allows the Chairman of the Board to unilaterally downgrade a film (already) reviewed especially those which are controversial and 2) MTRCB RESOLUTION No. 10-89 (dated July 27, 1989) declaring as strictly confidential, private and personal a) the decision of a reviewing committee which previously reviewed a certain film and b) the individual voting slips of the members of the committee that reviewed the film. RULING: WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. Resolution Nos. 10-89 and 88-1-25 issued by the respondent Board are hereby declared null and void. SO ORDERED. As may be gleaned from the decree (PD 1986) creating the respondent classification board, there is no doubt that its very existence is public is character; it is an office created to serve public interest. It being the case, respondents can lay no valid claim to privacy. The right to privacy belongs to the individual acting in his private capacity and not to a governmental agency or officers tasked with, and acting in, the discharge of public duties (See Valmonte v. Belmonte, Jr., supra.) There can be no invasion of privacy in the case at bar since what is sought to be divulged is a product of action undertaken in the course of performing official functions. MTRCB, pertaining to the decisions of the review committee as well as the individual voting slips of its members, as violative of petitioner's constitutional right of access to public records. More specifically, Sec. 7, Art. III of the Constitution provides that:

The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law. Individual voting slip is their individual vote of conscience on the motion picture or television program and as such, makes the individual voting slip purely private and personal; an exclusive property of the member concerned. The term private has been defined as "belonging or concerning, an individual person, company, interest"; whereas, public means "pertaining to, belonging to, or affecting a nation, state, community at large" CHAVEZ VS. PCGG FACTS: Petitioner, instituted a case against public respondent to make public any negotiations and/or agreements pertaining to the latter's task of recovering the Marcoses' ill-gotten wealth. The respondents argued that the action was premature since he has not shown that he had asked the respondents to disclose the negotiations and agreements before filing the case. ISSUE: Does the petitioner have the personality or legal standing to file the instant petition? HELD: The instant petition is anchored on the right of the people to information and access to government records, documents and papers- a right guaranteed under section 7, article III of the Philippine Constitution. The petitioner a former solicitor general, is a Filipino citizen, and because of to or or or

the satisfaction of the two basic requisites laid down by decisional law to sustain petitioner's standing i.e (1) ENFORCEMENT OF A LEGAL RIGHT (2) ESPOUSED BY A FILIPINO CITIZEN we rule, that the petition at bar be allowed. SENATE VS. ERMITA FACTS: This is a petition for certiorari and prohibition proffer that the President has abused power by issuing E.O. 464 Ensuring Observance of the Principles of Separation of Powers, Adherence to the Rule on Executive Privilege and Respect for the Rights of Public Officials Appearing in Legislative Inquiries in Aid of Legislation Under the Constitution, and for Other Purposes. Petitioners pray for its declaration as null and void for being unconstitutional. In the exercise of its legislative power, the Senate of the Philippines, through its various Senate Committees, conducts inquiries or investigations in aid of legislation which call for, inter alia, the attendance of officials and employees of the executive department, bureaus, and offices including those employed in Government Owned and Controlled Corporations, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Philippine National Police (PNP). The Committee of the Senate issued invitations to various officials of the Executive Department for them to appear as resource speakers in a public hearing on the railway project, others on the issues of massive election fraud in the Philippine elections,

wiretapping, and the role of military in the so-called Gloriagate Scandal. Said officials were not able to attend due to lack of consent from the President as provided by E.O. 464, Section 3 which requires all the public officials enumerated in Section 2(b) to secure the consent of the President prior to appearing before either house of Congress. ISSUE: Is Section 3 of E.O. 464, which requires all the public officials, enumerated in Section 2(b) to secure the consent of the President prior to appearing before either house of Congress, valid and constitutional? HELD: No. The enumeration in Section 2 (b) of E.O. 464 is broad and is covered by the executive privilege. The doctrine of executive privilege is premised on the fact that certain information must, as a matter of necessity, be kept confidential in pursuit of the public interest. The privilege being, by definition, an exemption from the obligation to disclose information, in this case to Congress, the necessity must be of such high degree as to outweigh the public interest in enforcing that obligation in a particular case. Congress undoubtedly has a right to information from the executive branch whenever it is sought in aid of legislation. If the executive branch withholds such information on the ground that it is privileged, it must so assert it and state the reason therefor and why it must be respected. The infirm provisions of E.O. 464, however, allow the executive branch to evade congressional requests for information without need of clearly

asserting a right to do so and/or proffering its reasons therefor. By the mere expedient of invoking said provisions, the power of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation is frustrated. HILADO VS. REYES Facts: Julita Campos Benedicto, the surviving spouse of the deceased Roberto S. Benedicto, was appointed Administratrix of the estate of Benedicto, and letters of administration were thereafter issued in her favor. Herein petitioners had, during the lifetime of Benedicto, filed two complaints for damages or collection of sums of money, against Roberto Benedicto et al. In the initial inventory of the estate which private respondent submitted in the case before the Manila RTC, she listed, among other liabilities of the estate, the claims of petitioners subject of the above-said Bacolod RTC cases. From January 2002 until November 2003, the Branch Clerk of Court of Branch 21 of the Manila RTC allowed petitioners through counsel Sedigo and Associates to regularly and periodically examine the records of the case and to secure certified true copies thereof. By December 2003, however, Atty. Grace Carmel Paredes, an associate of petitioners counsel, was denied access to the last folder-record of the case which, according to the courts clerical staff, could not be located and was probably inside the chambers of public respondent for safekeeping. In their petition, petitioners contend that the records of the case are public records to which the public has the right to access, inspect and obtain official copies thereof, recognition of which right is enjoined under Section 7, Article III of the

Constitution and Section 2, Rule 135 and Section 11, Rule 136 of the Rules of Court. Issue: WON the petitioners right to information was violated? Held: Insofar as the right to information relates to judicial records, the term "judicial record" or "court record" does not onlyrefer to the orders, judgment or verdict of the courts. It comprises the official collection of all papers, exhibits and pleadings filed by the parties, all processes issued and returns made thereon, appearances, and word-for-word testimony which took place during the trial and which are in the possession, custody, or control of the judiciary or of the courts for purposes of rendering court decisions. It has also been described to include any paper, letter, map, book, other document, tape, photograph, film, audio or video recording, court reporters notes, transcript, data compilation, or other materials, whether in physical or electronic form, made or received pursuant to law or in connection with the transaction of any official business by the court, and includes all evidence it has received in a case. It bears emphasis that the interest of the public hinges on its right to transparency in the administration of justice, to the end that it will serve to enhance the basic fairness of the judicial proceedings, safeguard the integrity of the factfinding process, and foster an informed public discussion of governmental affairs. Decisions and opinions of a court are of course matters of public concern or interest for these are the authorized expositions and interpretations of the laws, binding upon all citizens, of which every citizen is charged with knowledge. Justice thus requires that all should have free access to the opinions of judges and

justices, and it would be against sound public policy to prevent, suppress or keep the earliest knowledge of these from the public. Unlike court orders and decisions, however, pleadings and other documents filed by parties to a case need not be matters of public concern or interest. For they are filed for the purpose of establishing the basis upon which the court may issue an order or a judgment affecting their rights and interests. In thus determining which part or all of the records of a case may be accessed to, the purpose for which the parties filed them is to be considered. In intestate proceedings, the heirs file pleadings and documents for the purpose of establishing their right to a share of the estate. As for the creditors, their purpose is to establish their claim to the estate and be paid therefore before the disposition of the estate. Information regarding the financial standing of a person at the time of his death and the manner by which his private estate may ultimately be settled is not a matter of general, public concern or one in which a citizen or the public has an interest by which its legal rights or liabilities maybe affected. Granting unrestricted public access and publicity to personal financial information may constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy to which an individual may have an interest in limiting its disclosure or dissemination. If the information sought then is not a matter of public concern or interest, denial of access thereto does not violate a citizens constitutional right to information. The accessory right to access public records may, however, be restricted on a showing of good cause. How "good cause" can be determined, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in Republican

Company v. Appeals Court teaches: The publics right of access to judicial records, including transcripts, evidence, memoranda, and court orders, maybe restricted, but only on a showing of "good cause." "To determine whether good cause is shown, a judge must balance the rights of the parties based on the particular facts of each case." In so doing, the judge "must take into account all relevant factors, including, but not limited to, the nature of the parties and the controversy, the type of information and the privacy interests involved, the extent of community interest, and the reason for the request. And even then, the right is subject to inherent supervisory and protective powers of every court over its own records and files. In fine, this Court finds the petition for mandamus meritorious, petitioners being "interested persons" who have a legitimate reason or purpose for accessing the records of the case. NERI VS. SENATE

Neri, the head of NEDA, was then invited to testify before the Senate Blue Ribbon. He appeared in one hearing wherein he was interrogated for 11 hrs and during which he admitted that Abalos of COMELEC tried to bribe him with P200M in exchange for his approval of the NBN project. He further narrated that he informed President Arroyo about the bribery attempt and that she instructed him not to accept the bribe. However, when probed further on what they discussed about the NBN Project, petitioner refused to answer, invoking executive privilege. In particular, he refused to answer the questions on: (a) whether or not President Arroyo followed up the NBN Project, (b) whether or not she directed him to prioritize it, and (c) whether or not she directed him to approve.

HELD: The communications are covered by executive privilege. The revocation of EO 464 (advised executive officials and employees to follow and abide by the Constitution, existing laws and jurisprudence, including, among others, the case of Senate v. Ermita when they are invited to legislative inquiries in aid of legislation.), does not in any way diminish the concept of executive privilege. This is because this concept has Constitutional underpinnings. The claim of executive privilege is highly recognized in cases where the subject of inquiry relates to a power textually committed by the Constitution to the President, such as the area of military and foreign relations. Under our Constitution, the President is the repository of the commander-inchief, appointing, pardoning, and diplomatic powers. Consistent with the doctrine of separation of powers, the information relating to these powers may enjoy greater confidentiality than others. Several jurisprudence cited provide the elements of presidential communications privilege: 1) The protected communication must relate to a quintessential and non-delegable presidential power. 2) The communication must be authored or solicited and received by a close advisor of the President or the President himself. The judicial test is that an advisor must be in operational proximity with the President. 3) The presidential communications privilege remains a qualified privilege that may be overcome by a showing of adequate need, such that the

FACTS: On April 21, 2007, the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) entered into a contract with Zhong Xing Telecommunications Equipment (ZTE) for the supply of equipment and services for the National Broadband Network (NBN) Project in the amount of U.S. $ 329,481,290 (approximately P16 Billion Pesos). The Project was to be financed by the Peoples Republic of China. The Senate passed various resolutions relative to the NBN deal. In the September 18, 2007 hearing Jose de Venecia III testified that several high executive officials and power brokers were using their influence to push the approval of the NBN Project by the NEDA.

He later refused to attend the other hearings and Ermita sent a letter to the senate averring that the communications between GMA and Neri are privileged and that the jurisprudence laid down in Senate vs Ermita be applied. He was cited in contempt of respondent committees and an order for his arrest and detention until such time that he would appear and give his testimony. ISSUE: Are the communications elicited by the subject three (3) questions covered by executive privilege?

information sought likely contains important evidence and by the unavailability of the information elsewhere by an appropriate investigating authority. In the case at bar, Executive Secretary Ermita premised his claim of executive privilege on the ground that the communications elicited by the three (3) questions fall under conversation and correspondence between the President and public officials necessary in her executive and policy decision-making process and, that the information sought to be disclosed might impair our diplomatic as well as economic relations with the Peoples Republic of China. Simply put, the bases are presidential communications privilege and executive privilege on matters relating to diplomacy or foreign relations. Using the above elements, we are convinced that, indeed, the communications elicited by the three (3) questions are covered by the presidential communications privilege. First, the communications relate to a quintessential and non-delegable power of the President, i.e. the power to enter into an executive agreement with other countries. This authority of the President to enter into executive agreements without the concurrence of the Legislature has traditionally been recognized in Philippine jurisprudence. Second, the communications are received by a close advisor of the President. Under the operational proximity test, petitioner can be considered a close advisor, being a member of President Arroyos cabinet. And third, there is no adequate showing of a compelling need that would justify the limitation of the privilege and of the unavailability of the information elsewhere by an appropriate investigating authority.

Respondent Committees further contend that the grant of petitioners claim of executive privilege violates the constitutional provisions on the right of the people to information on matters of public concern.50 We might have agreed with such contention if petitioner did not appear before them at all. But petitioner made himself available to them during the September 26 hearing, where he was questioned for eleven (11) hours. Not only that, he expressly manifested his willingness to answer more questions from the Senators, with the exception only of those covered by his claim of executive privilege. The right to public information, like any other right, is subject to limitation. Section 7 of Article III provides: The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law. CPEG VS. COMELEC This case concerns the duty of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to disclose the source code for the Automated Election System (AES) technologies it used in the 2010 national and local elections. On May 26, 2009 petitioner Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), a nongovernment organization, wrote respondent COMELEC, requesting a copy of the source code of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) programs,

the Board of Canvassers Consolidation/Canvassing System (BOC CCS) programs for the municipal, provincial, national, and congressional canvass, the COMELEC server programs, and the source code of the in-house COMELEC programs called the Data Capturing System (DCS) utilities. CenPEG invoked the following pertinent portion of Section 12 of Republic Act (R.A.) 9369, which provides: Once an AES technology is selected for implementation, the Commission shall promptly make the source code of that technology available and open to any interested political party or groups which may conduct their own review thereof. Section 2(12) of R.A. 9369 describes the source code as the "human readable instructions that define what the computer equipment will do." The source code in voting machines is in some ways analogous to the procedures provided to election workers. Procedures are instructions that are provided to people; for instance, the procedures provided to poll workers list a sequence of steps that poll workers should follow to open the polls on election morning. Source code contains instructions, not for people, but for the computers running the election; for instance, the source code for a voting machine determines the steps the machine will take when the polls are opened on election morning. On June 24, 2009 the COMELEC granted the request3 for the source code of the PCOS and the CCS, but denied that for the DCS, since the DCS was a "system used in processing the Lists of Voters which is not part of the voting, counting and canvassing systems contemplated by R.A. 9369."

According to COMELEC, if the source code for the DCS were to be divulged, unscrupulous individuals might change the program and pass off an illicit one that could benefit certain candidates or parties. Still, the COMELEC apparently did not release even the kinds of source code that it said it was approving for release. Consequently, on July 13, 2009, CenPEG once more asked COMELEC for the source code of the PCOS, together with other documents, programs, and diagrams related to the AES. CenPEG sent follow-up letters on July 17 and 20 and on August 24, 2009. On August 26, 2009 COMELEC replied that the source code CenPEG wanted did not yet exist for the reasons: 1) that it had not yet received the baseline source code of the provider, Smartmatic, since payment to it had been withheld as a result of a pending suit; 2) its customization of the baseline source code was targeted for completion in November 2009 yet; 3) under Section 11 of R.A. 9369, the customized source code still had to be reviewed by "an established international certification entity," which review was expected to be completed by the end of February 2010; and 4) only then would the AES be made available for review under a controlled environment. Rejecting COMELECs excuse, on October 5, 2009 CenPEG filed the present petition for mandamus, seeking to compel COMELEC to immediately make its source codes available to CenPEG and other interested parties. COMELEC claimed in its comment that CenPEG did not have a clear, certain, and well-defined right that was enforceable by mandamus because COMELECs duty to make the source code available presupposed

that it already had the same. COMELEC restated the explanation it gave in its August 26, 2009 letter to CenPEG. In its manifestation and omnibus motion, CenPEG did not believe that the source code was still unavailable considering that COMELEC had already awarded to an international certification entity the review of the same and that COMELEC had already been field testing its PCOS and CCS machines. On June 21, 2010 CenPEG filed a manifestation and omnibus motion, reiterating its prayer for the issuance of a writ of mandamus in this case notwithstanding the fact that the elections for which the subject source code was to be used had already been held. It claimed that the source code remained important and relevant "not only for compliance with the law, and the purpose thereof, but especially in the backdrop of numerous admissions of errors and claims of fraud." The Court finds the petition manifestation meritorious. and this last

WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the petition for mandamus and DIRECTS the COMELEC to make the source codes for the AES technologies it selected for implementation pursuant to R.A. 9369 immediately available to CenPEG and all other interested political parties or groups for independent review. SO ORDERED.


Sources: Googleeeee & friends

The pertinent portion of Section 12 of R.A. 9369 is clear in that "once an AES technology is selected for implementation, the Commission shall promptly make the source code of that technology available and open to any interested political party or groups which may conduct their own review thereof." The COMELEC has offered no reason not to comply with this requirement of the law. Indeed, its only excuse for not disclosing the source code was that it was not yet available when CenPEG asked for it and, subsequently, that the review had to be done, apparently for security reason, "under a controlled environment." The elections had passed and that reason is already stale.