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CASE DIGEST: VALMONTE vs BELMONTE

February 13 1989
Ricardo Valmonte, Oswaldo Carbonell, Doy del Castillo, Rolado Bartolome, Leo Obligar, Jun Gutierrez, Reynaldo
Bagatsing, Jun Ninoy Alba, Percy Lapid, Rommel Corro and Rolando Fadul petitioners,
Vs.
Feliciano Belmonte JR., respondent.

FACTS: Petitioner Valmonte wrote a letter to the respondent Feliciano Belmonte, then GSIS General Manager, requesting
to be furnished with the list of names of the defunct interim and regular Batasang Pambansa including the ten (10)
opposition members who were able to secure a clean loan of P 2 million each on guaranty of Mrs. Imelda Marcos. And if
such is not possible, an access to those said documents. Apart from Valmontes letter, he is stressing the premise of the
request on the present provision of the Freedom constitution at that time which is Art. IV, Sec. 6, that emphasizes the right
of the people to information on matters of public concern. Mr. Belmonte, aware that such request contains serious legal
implications seek the help of Mr. Meynardo A. Tiro, a deputy General Counsel. In Mr. Tiros reply letter, 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 June 26, 1986, apparently not having yet received the reply of the GSIS Deputy General Counsel, Petitioner Valmonte
wrote another letter saying that for failure to receive a reply, they are now considering themselves free to do whatever
action necessary within the premises to pursue their desired objective in pursuance of public interest.
Separate comments were filed by respondent Belmonte and the Solicitor General. After petitioners filed a consolidated
reply, the petition was given due course and the parties were required to file their memoranda. The parties having
complied, the case was deemed submitted for decision.
In his comment, respondent raise procedural objection to the issuance of a writ of mandamus, among which is that
petitioners have failed to exhaust administrative remedies. Respondent claims that actions of the GSIS General Manager
are reviewable by the Board of Trustees of the GSIS petitioners. However, did not seek relief from the GSIS Board of
Trustees, It is therefore asserted that since administrative remedies were not exhausted, then petitioners have no cause
of action.
ISSUE: Whether or not that Mr. Valmonte, together with his co-petitioners, are entitled to the documents sought, by virtue
of their constitutional right to information.
RULING: The cornerstone of this republican system of government is delegation of power by the people to the state.
Governmental agencies and institutions operate within the limits of the authority conferred by the people. Yet, like all
constitutional guarantees, the right to information is not absolute. Peoples right to information is limited to matters of
public concern and is further subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.
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 46
of P.D 1146, as amended (the Revised Government Service Insurance act of 1977 provide for annual appropriations for to
pay for 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 rules and
regulations. It is therefore the legitimate concern of the public to ensure that these funds are managed properly with 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 its
transactions were above board.
Respondent 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. He further contends that in view of the right to
privacy, which is equally protected by the Constitution and by existing laws, the documents, evidencing loan transactions
of the GSIS must be deemed outside the ambit of the right to information.
There can be no doubt that the right to privacy is constitutionally protected. In the landmark case of Morfe vs. Mutuc,
speaking through then Mr. Justice Fernando stated that ultimate and pervasive control of the individual, in all aspects of
his life, is the hallmark of the absolute state. In contrast, a system of limited government safeguards a private sector,
which belongs to the individual, firmly distinguishing it from the public sector, which the state can control.
Apparent from the above-quoted statement of the court in Morfe is that the right to privacy belongs to the individual in his
private capacity, and not to public and the government agencies like the GSIS. Moreover, the right cannot be invoked by
juridical entities like the GSIS. A corporation has no right of privacy in its name since the entire basis of the right to privacy
is an injury to the feelings and sensibilities of the party and a corporation would have no such ground for relief.
Neither can the GSIS through its General manager, the respondent, invoke the right to privacy of its borrowers. The right
is purely personal in nature, and hence, may be invoked only by the person whose privacy is claimed to be violated.

Respondent next asserts that the documents evidencing the loan transactions are private in nature and hence, are not
covered by the Constitutional right to information on matters of public concern which guarantees access to official
records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions only. Further, they argued that
GSIS, is a governmental corporation performing proprietary functions, are outside the coverage of the peoples right to
access to official records.
This Dichotomy characterizing government function has long been repudiated in ACCFA v. Confederation of Unions and
Government Corporations and Offices, the Court said that the government, WHETHER carrying out its sovereign
attributes or running some business, discharges the SAME FUNCTION of service to the people. Consequently, that the
GSIS , in granting the loans, was exercising proprietary function would NOT justify the exclusion of transactions from the
coverage and scope of right to information.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby granted, and the respondent General Manager of the Government Service
Insurance System is ORDERED to allow petitioners access to documents and records evidencing loans granted to
members of the former Batasang Pambansa, as petitioners may specify, subject to reasonable regulations as to time and
manner of inspection, not incompatible with the decision, as the GSIS may deem necessary. SO ORDERED.