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G.R. No.

82585 November 14, 1988 was still under review by the Secretary of Justice and, witnesses he may produce, and
subsequently, by the President; (2) whether or not the particularly describing the place to be
constitutional rights of Beltran were violated when searched and the persons or things to
MAXIMO V. SOLIVEN, ANTONIO V. ROCES, FREDERICK K.
respondent RTC judge issued a warrant for his arrest be seized.
AGCAOLI, and GODOFREDO L. MANZANAS, petitioners,
without personally examining the complainant and the
vs.
witnesses, if any, to determine probable cause; and (3)
THE HON. RAMON P. MAKASIAR, Presiding Judge of the The addition of the word "personally" after the word
whether or not the President of the Philippines, under the
Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 35, "determined" and the deletion of the grant of authority by
Constitution, may initiate criminal proceedings against the
UNDERSECRETARY SILVESTRE BELLO III, of the the 1973 Constitution to issue warrants to "other
petitioners through the filing of a complaint-affidavit.
Department of Justice, LUIS C. VICTOR, THE CITY FISCAL responsible officers as may be authorized by law," has
OF MANILA and PRESIDENT CORAZON C. apparently convinced petitioner Beltran that the
AQUINO, respondents. Subsequent events have rendered the first issue moot and Constitution now requires the judge to personally examine
academic. On March 30, 1988, the Secretary of Justice the complainant and his witnesses in his determination of
denied petitioners' motion for reconsideration and upheld probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest. This
G.R. No. 82827 November 14, 1988
the resolution of the Undersecretary of Justice sustaining is not an accurate interpretation.
the City Fiscal's finding of a prima facie case against
LUIS D. BELTRAN, petitioner, petitioners. A second motion for reconsideration filed by
What the Constitution underscores is the exclusive and
vs. petitioner Beltran was denied by the Secretary of Justice
personal responsibility of the issuing judge to satisfy
THE HON. RAMON P. MAKASIAR, Presiding Judge of on April 7, 1988. On appeal, the President, through the
himself of the existence of probable cause. In satisfying
Branch 35 of the Regional Trial Court, at Manila, THE Executive Secretary, affirmed the resolution of the
himself of the existence of probable cause for the issuance
HON. LUIS VICTOR, CITY FISCAL OF MANILA, PEOPLE OF Secretary of Justice on May 2, 1988. The motion for
of a warrant of arrest, the judge is not required to
THE PHILIPPINES, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE WESTERN reconsideration was denied by the Executive Secretary on
personally examine the complainant and his witnesses.
POLICE DISTRICT, and THE MEMBERS OF THE PROCESS May 16, 1988. With these developments, petitioners'
Following established doctrine and procedure, he shall: (1)
SERVING UNIT AT THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF contention that they have been denied the administrative
personally evaluate the report and the supporting
MANILA, respondents. remedies available under the law has lost factual support.
documents submitted by the fiscal regarding the existence
of probable cause and, on the basis thereof, issue a
G.R. No. 83979 November 14, 1988. It may also be added that with respect to petitioner warrant of arrest; or (2) if on the basis thereof he finds no
Beltran, the allegation of denial of due process of law in probable cause, he may disregard the fiscal's report and
the preliminary investigation is negated by the fact that require the submission of supporting affidavits of witnesses
LUIS D. BELTRAN, petitioner,
instead of submitting his counter- affidavits, he filed a to aid him in arriving at a conclusion as to the existence of
vs.
"Motion to Declare Proceedings Closed," in effect waiving probable cause.
EXECUTIVE SECRETARY CATALINO MACARAIG, SECRETARY
his right to refute the complaint by filing counter-
OF JUSTICE SEDFREY ORDOEZ, UNDERSECRETARY OF
affidavits. Due process of law does not require that the
JUSTICE SILVESTRE BELLO III, THE CITY FISCAL OF Sound policy dictates this procedure, otherwise judges
respondent in a criminal case actually file his counter-
MANILA JESUS F. GUERRERO, and JUDGE RAMON P. would be unduly laden with the preliminary examination
affidavits before the preliminary investigation is deemed
MAKASIAR, Presiding Judge of Branch 35 of the Regional and investigation of criminal complaints instead of
completed. All that is required is that the respondent be
Trial Court, at Manila, respondents. concentrating on hearing and deciding cases filed before
given the opportunity to submit counter-affidavits if he is
their courts.
so minded.
Angara, Abello, Concepcion, Regala and Cruz for
petitioners in G.R. No. 82585. On June 30, 1987, the Supreme Court unanimously adopted
The second issue, raised by petitioner Beltran, calls for an
Circular No. 12, setting down guidelines for the issuance of
interpretation of the constitutional provision on the
warrants of arrest. The procedure therein provided is
Perfecto V. Fernandez, Jose P. Fernandez and Cristobal P. issuance of warrants of arrest. The pertinent provision
reiterated and clarified in this resolution.
Fernandez for petitioner in G.R. Nos. 82827 and 83979. reads:

It has not been shown that respondent judge has deviated


RESOLUTION Art. III, Sec. 2. The right of the people
from the prescribed procedure. Thus, with regard to the
to be secure in their persons, houses,
issuance of the warrants of arrest, a finding of grave abuse
papers and effects against
of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction
unreasonable searches and seizures of
cannot be sustained.
whatever nature and for any purpose
PER CURIAM: shall be inviolable, and no search
warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue Anent the third issue, petitioner Beltran argues that "the
except upon probable cause to be reasons which necessitate presidential immunity from suit
In these consolidated cases, three principal issues were
determined personally by the judge impose a correlative disability to file suit." He contends
raised: (1) whether or not petitioners were denied due
after examination nder oath or that if criminal proceedings ensue by virtue of the
process when informations for libel were filed against them
affirmation of the complainant and the President's filing of her complaint-affidavit, she may
although the finding of the existence of a prima facie case
subsequently have to be a witness for the prosecution, Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Cruz, Paras, I believe that this Court should have acted on this issue
bringing her under the trial court's jurisdiction. This, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Cortes, now instead of leaving the matter to fiscals and defense
continues Beltran, would in an indirect way defeat her Grio-Aquino Medialdea and Regalado, JJ., concur. lawyers to argue before a trial judge.
privilege of immunity from suit, as by testifying on the
witness stand, she would be exposing herself to possible
There is always bound to be harassment inherent in any
contempt of court or perjury.
criminal prosecution. Where the harassment goes beyond
the usual difficulties encountered by any accused and
The rationale for the grant to the President of the privilege results in an unwillingness of media to freely criticize
of immunity from suit is to assure the exercise of government or to question government handling of
Presidential duties and functions free from any hindrance Separate Opinions sensitive issues and public affairs, this Court and not a
or distraction, considering that being the Chief Executive lower tribunal should draw the demarcation line.
of the Government is a job that, aside from requiring all of
the office holder's time, also demands undivided attention.
As early as March 8, 1918, the decision in United States v.
Bustos (37 Phil. 731) stated that "(c)omplete liberty to
GUTIERREZ, JR., J., concurring:
But this privilege of immunity from suit, pertains to the comment on the conduct of public men is a scalpel in the
President by virtue of the office and may be invoked only case of free speech. The sharp incision of its probe relieves
by the holder of the office; not by any other person in the I concur with the majority opinion insofar as it involves the the abscesses of officialdom. Men in public life may suffer
President's behalf. Thus, an accused in a criminal case in three principal issues mentioned in its opening statement. under a hostile and unjust accusation; the wound can be
which the President is complainant cannot raise the However, as to the more important issue on whether or not assuaged with the balm of a clear conscience." The Court
presidential privilege as a defense to prevent the case from the prosecution of the libel case would produce a "chilling pointed out that while defamation is not authorized,
proceeding against such accused. effect" on press freedom, I beg to reserve my vote. I criticism is to be expected and should be borne for the
believe this is the more important issue in these petitions common good.
and it should be resolved now rather that later.
Moreover, there is nothing in our laws that would prevent
the President from waiving the privilege. Thus, if so In People v. Perfecto (43 Phil. 887 [1922]), the Court
minded the President may shed the protection afforded by Consistent with our decision in Salonga v. Cruz Pano (134 stated:
the privilege and submit to the court's jurisdiction. The SCRA 438 [1985]), the Court should not hesitate to quash a
choice of whether to exercise the privilege or to waive it is criminal prosecution in the interest of more enlightened
xxx xxx xxx
solely the President's prerogative. It is a decision that and substantial justice where it is not alone the criminal
cannot be assumed and imposed by any other person. liability of an accused in a seemingly minor libel case which
is involved but broader considerations of governmental ... No longer is there a Minister of the
power versus a preferred freedom. Crown own or a person in authority of
As regards the contention of petitioner Beltran that he
such exalted position that the citizen
could not be held liable for libel because of the privileged
must speak of him only with bated
character or the publication, the Court reiterates that it is We have in these four petitions the unusual situation where
breath. "In the eye of our Constitution
not a trier of facts and that such a defense is best left to the highest official of the Republic and one who enjoys
and laws, every man is a sovereign, a
the trial court to appreciate after receiving the evidence of unprecedented public support asks for the prosecution of a
ruler and a freeman, and has equal
the parties. newspaper columnist, the publisher and chairman of the
rights with every other man." (at p.
editorial board, the managing editor and the business
900)
manager in a not too indubitable a case for alleged libel.
As to petitioner Beltran's claim that to allow the libel case
to proceed would produce a "chilling effect" on press
In fact, the Court observed that high official position,
freedom, the Court finds no basis at this stage to rule on I am fully in accord with an all out prosecution if the effect
instead of affording immunity from slanderous and libelous
the point. will be limited to punishing a newspaperman who, instead
charges, would actually invite attacks by those who desire
of observing accuracy and fairness, engages in unwarranted
to create sensation. It would seem that what would
personal attacks, irresponsible twisting of facts, of
The petitions fail to establish that public respondents, ordinarily be slander if directed at the typical person
malicious distortions of half-truths which tend to cause
through their separate acts, gravely abused their discretion should be examined from various perspectives if directed
dishonor, discredit, or contempt of the complainant.
as to amount to lack of jurisdiction. Hence, the writs of at a high government official. Again, the Supreme Court
However, this case is not a simple prosecution for libel. We
certiorari and prohibition prayed for cannot issue. should draw this fine line instead of leaving it to lower
have as complainant a powerful and popular President who
tribunals.
heads the investigation and prosecution service and
WHEREFORE, finding no grave abuse of discretion appoints members of appellate courts but who feels so
amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction on the part of terribly maligned that she has taken the unorthodox step of This Court has stressed as authoritative doctrine in Elizalde
the public respondents, the Court Resolved to DISMISS the going to court inspite of the invocations of freedom of the v. Gutierrez (76 SCRA 448 [1977]) that a prosecution for
petitions in G. R. Nos. 82585, 82827 and 83979. The Order press which would inevitably follow. libel lacks justification if the offending words find
to maintain the status quo contained in the Resolution of sanctuary within the shelter of the free press guaranty. In
the Court en banc dated April 7, 1988 and reiterated in the other words, a prosecution for libel should not be allowed
Resolution dated April 26, 1988 is LIFTED. to continue, where after discounting the possibility that
the words may not be really that libelous, there is likely to supposed grievances and proposed consequences to their careers to stand in the way of public
be a chilling effect, a patently inhibiting factor on the remedies; and that the fitting remedy duty. But why should we subject them to this problem? And
willingness of newspapermen, especially editors and for evil counsel is good ones. Believing why should we allow the possibility of the trial court
publishers to courageously perform their critical role in in the power of reason as applied treating and deciding the case as one for ordinary libel
society. If, instead of merely reading more carefully what a through public discussion, they without bothering to fully explore the more important
columnist writes in his daily column, the editors tell their eschewed silence coerced by lawthe areas of concern, the extremely difficult issues involving
people to lay off certain issues or certain officials, the argument of force in its worst form. ... government power and freedom of expression.
effect on a free press would be highly injurious.
Thus we consider this case against the However, since we have decided to defer the "chilling
Because many questions regarding press freedom are left background of a profound national effect" issue for a later day, I limit myself to reiterating
unanswered by our resolution, I must call attention to our commitment to the principle that the dissenting words of Mr. Justice Jackson in the American
decisions which caution that "no inroads on press freedom debate on public issues should be case of Beaurnhais v. Illinois (343 U. S. 250) when he said:
should be allowed in the guise of punitive action visited on uninhibited, robust, and wide open,
what otherwise should be characterized as libel." (Lopez v. and that it may well include vehement,
If one can claim to announce the
Court of Appeals, 34 SCRA 117 [1970]; See also the citations caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly
judgment of legal history on any
in Elizalde v. Gutierrez, supra). sharp attacks on government and public
subject, it is that criminal libel laws
officials. ... (at pp. 700-701)
are consistent with the concept of
The United States Supreme Court is even more emphatic, ordered liberty only when applied with
to wit: Shunting aside the individual liability of Mr. Luis Beltran, is safeguards evolved to prevent their
there a prima facie showing that Messrs. Maximo Soliven, invasion of freedom of expression.
Antonio V. Roces, Frederick K. Agcaoili, and Godofredo L.
In deciding the question now, we are
Manzanas knowingly participated in a wilful purveying of
compelled by neither precedent nor In the trial of the libel case against the petitioners, the
falsehood? Considering the free speech aspects of these
policy to give any more weight to the safeguards in the name of freedom of expression should be
petitions, should not a differentiated approach to their
epithet "libel" than we have to other faithfully applied.
particular liabilities be taken instead of lumping up
"mere labels" of state law. N. A. A. C.
everybody with the offending columnist? I realize that the
P. v. Button, 371 US 415, 429, 9L ed 2d
law includes publishers and editors but perhaps the Separate Opinions
405, 415, 83 S Ct 328. Like
"chilling effect" issue applies with singular effectivity to
insurrection, contempt, advocacy of
publishers and editors vis-a-vis newspaper columnists.
unlawful acts, breach of the peace, GUTIERREZ, JR., J., concurring:
There is no question that, ordinarily, libel is not protected
obscenity, solicitation of legal business,
by the free speech clause but we have to understand that
and the other various other formulae
some provocative words, which if taken literally may I concur with the majority opinion insofar as it involves the
for the repression of expression that
appear to shame or disparage a public figure, may really be three principal issues mentioned in its opening statement.
have been challenged in this Court,
intended to provoke debate on public issues when uttered However, as to the more important issue on whether or not
libel can claim no talismanic immunity
or written by a media personality. Will not a criminal the prosecution of the libel case would produce a "chilling
from constitutional limitations. It must
prosecution in the type of case now before us dampen the effect" on press freedom, I beg to reserve my vote. I
be measured by standards that satisfy
vigor and limit the variety of public debate? There are believe this is the more important issue in these petitions
the First Amendment.
many other questions arising from this unusual case which and it should be resolved now rather that later.
have not been considered.
xxx xxx xxx
Consistent with our decision in Salonga v. Cruz Pano (134
I, of course, concur with the Court's opinion because it has SCRA 438 [1985]), the Court should not hesitate to quash a
Those who won our independence decided to limit the issues to narrowly drawn ones. I see no criminal prosecution in the interest of more enlightened
believed ... that public discussion is a reason to disagree with the way the Court has resolved and substantial justice where it is not alone the criminal
political duty; and that this should be a them. The first issue on prematurity is moot. The second liability of an accused in a seemingly minor libel case which
fundamental principle of the American issue discusses a procedure now embodied in the recently is involved but broader considerations of governmental
government. They recognized the risk amended Rules of Court on how a Judge should proceed power versus a preferred freedom.
to which all human institutions are before he issues a warrant of arrest. Anent the third issue,
subject. But they knew that order considerations of public policy dictate that an incumbent
We have in these four petitions the unusual situation where
cannot be secured merely through fear President should not be sued. At the same time, the
the highest official of the Republic and one who enjoys
of punishment for its infraction; that it President cannot stand by helplessly bereft of legal
unprecedented public support asks for the prosecution of a
is hazardous to discourage thought, remedies if somebody vilifies or maligns him or her.
newspaper columnist, the publisher and chairman of the
hope and imagination; that fear breeds
editorial board, the managing editor and the business
repression; that repression breeds
The Court has decided to defer the "chilling effect" issue manager in a not too indubitable a case for alleged libel.
hate; that hate menaces stable
for a later day. To this, I take exception. I know that most
government; that the path of safety
of our fiscals and judges are courageous individuals who
lies in the opportunity to discuss freely
would not allow any considerations of possible
I am fully in accord with an all out prosecution if the effect charges, would actually invite attacks by those who desire Those who won our independence
will be limited to punishing a newspaperman who, instead to create sensation. It would seem that what would believed ... that public discussion is a
of observing accuracy and fairness, engages in unwarranted ordinarily be slander if directed at the typical person political duty; and that this should be a
personal attacks, irresponsible twisting of facts, of should be examined from various perspectives if directed fundamental principle of the American
malicious distortions of half-truths which tend to cause at a high government official. Again, the Supreme Court government. They recognized the risk
dishonor, discredit, or contempt of the complainant. should draw this fine line instead of leaving it to lower to which all human institutions are
However, this case is not a simple prosecution for libel. We tribunals. subject. But they knew that order
have as complainant a powerful and popular President who cannot be secured merely through fear
heads the investigation and prosecution service and of punishment for its infraction; that it
This Court has stressed as authoritative doctrine in Elizalde
appoints members of appellate courts but who feels so is hazardous to discourage thought,
v. Gutierrez (76 SCRA 448 [1977]) that a prosecution for
terribly maligned that she has taken the unorthodox step of hope and imagination; that fear breeds
libel lacks justification if the offending words find
going to court inspite of the invocations of freedom of the repression; that repression breeds
sanctuary within the shelter of the free press guaranty. In
press which would inevitably follow. hate; that hate menaces stable
other words, a prosecution for libel should not be allowed
government; that the path of safety
to continue, where after discounting the possibility that
lies in the opportunity to discuss freely
I believe that this Court should have acted on this issue the words may not be really that libelous, there is likely to
supposed grievances and proposed
now instead of leaving the matter to fiscals and defense be a chilling effect, a patently inhibiting factor on the
remedies; and that the fitting remedy
lawyers to argue before a trial judge. willingness of newspapermen, especially editors and
for evil counsel is good ones. Believing
publishers to courageously perform their critical role in
in the power of reason as applied
society. If, instead of merely reading more carefully what a
There is always bound to be harassment inherent in any through public discussion, they
columnist writes in his daily column, the editors tell their
criminal prosecution. Where the harassment goes beyond eschewed silence coerced by lawthe
people to lay off certain issues or certain officials, the
the usual difficulties encountered by any accused and argument of force in its worst form. ...
effect on a free press would be highly injurious.
results in an unwillingness of media to freely criticize
government or to question government handling of
Thus we consider this case against the
sensitive issues and public affairs, this Court and not a Because many questions regarding press freedom are left
background of a profound national
lower tribunal should draw the demarcation line. unanswered by our resolution, I must call attention to our
commitment to the principle that
decisions which caution that "no inroads on press freedom
debate on public issues should be
should be allowed in the guise of punitive action visited on
As early as March 8, 1918, the decision in United States v. uninhibited, robust, and wide open,
what otherwise should be characterized as libel." (Lopez v.
Bustos (37 Phil. 731) stated that "(c)omplete liberty to and that it may well include vehement,
Court of Appeals, 34 SCRA 117 [1970]; See also the citations
comment on the conduct of public men is a scalpel in the caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly
in Elizalde v. Gutierrez, supra).<re||an1w>
case of free speech. The sharp incision of its probe relieves sharp attacks on government and public
the abscesses of officialdom. Men in public life may suffer officials. ... (at pp. 700-701)
under a hostile and unjust accusation; the wound can be The United States Supreme Court is even more emphatic,
assuaged with the balm of a clear conscience." The Court to wit:
Shunting aside the individual liability of Mr. Luis Beltran, is
pointed out that while defamation is not authorized,
there a prima facie showing that Messrs. Maximo Soliven,
criticism is to be expected and should be borne for the
In deciding the question now, we are Antonio V. Roces, Frederick K. Agcaoili, and Godofredo L.
common good.
compelled by neither precedent nor Manzanas knowingly participated in a wilful purveying of
policy to give any more weight to the falsehood? Considering the free speech aspects of these
In People v. Perfecto (43 Phil. 887 [1922]), the Court epithet "libel" than we have to other petitions, should not a differentiated approach to their
stated: "mere labels" of state law. N. A. A. C. particular liabilities be taken instead of lumping up
P. v. Button, 371 US 415, 429, 9L ed 2d everybody with the offending columnist? I realize that the
405, 415, 83 S Ct 328. Like law includes publishers and editors but perhaps the
xxx xxx xxx
insurrection, contempt, advocacy of "chilling effect" issue applies with singular effectivity to
unlawful acts, breach of the peace, publishers and editors vis-a-vis newspaper columnists.
... No longer is there a Minister of the obscenity, solicitation of legal business, There is no question that, ordinarily, libel is not protected
Crown own or a person in authority of and the other various other formulae by the free speech clause but we have to understand that
such exalted position that the citizen for the repression of expression that some provocative words, which if taken literally may
must speak of him only with bated have been challenged in this Court, appear to shame or disparage a public figure, may really be
breath. "In the eye of our Constitution libel can claim no talismanic immunity intended to provoke debate on public issues when uttered
and laws, every man is a sovereign, a from constitutional limitations. It must or written by a media personality. Will not a criminal
ruler and a freeman, and has equal be measured by standards that satisfy prosecution in the type of case now before us dampen the
rights with every other man." (at p. the First Amendment. vigor and limit the variety of public debate? There are
900) many other questions arising from this unusual case which
have not been considered.
xxx xxx xxx
In fact, the Court observed that high official position,
instead of affording immunity from slanderous and libelous
I, of course, concur with the Court's opinion because it has
decided to limit the issues to narrowly drawn ones. I see no
reason to disagree with the way the Court has resolved
them. The first issue on prematurity is moot. The second
issue discusses a procedure now embodied in the recently
amended Rules of Court on how a Judge should proceed
before he issues a warrant of arrest. Anent the third issue,
considerations of public policy dictate that an incumbent
President should not be sued. At the same time, the
President cannot stand by helplessly bereft of legal
remedies if somebody vilifies or maligns him or her.

The Court has decided to defer the "chilling effect" issue


for a later day. To this, I take exception. I know that most
of our fiscals and judges are courageous individuals who
would not allow any considerations of possible
consequences to their careers to stand in the way of public
duty. But why should we subject them to this problem? And
why should we allow the possibility of the trial court
treating and deciding the case as one for ordinary libel
without bothering to fully explore the more important
areas of concern, the extremely difficult issues involving
government power and freedom of expression.

However, since we have decided to defer the "chilling


effect" issue for a later day, I limit myself to reiterating
the dissenting words of Mr. Justice Jackson in the American
case of Beaurnhais v. Illinois (343 U. S. 250) when he said:

If one can claim to announce the


judgment of legal history on any
subject, it is that criminal libel laws
are consistent with the concept of
ordered liberty only when applied with
safeguards evolved to prevent their
invasion of freedom of expression.

In the trial of the libel case against the petitioners, the


safeguards in the name of freedom of expression should be
faithfully applied.