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Freedom of Expression and Right to Privacy

MANUEL LAGUNZAD, petitioner,


G.R. No. L-32066

August 6, 1979

Sometime in August, 1961, petitioner Manuel Lagunzad, began the production of a movie
entitled "The Moises Padilla Story". It was based mainly on the copyrighted but unpublished book
of Atty. Ernesto Rodriguez, Jr., entitled "The Long Dark Night in Negros" subtitled "The Moises
Padilla Story".
The book narrates the events which culminated in the murder of Moises Padilla who was then a
mayoralty candidate of the Nacionalista Party for the Municipality of Magallon, Negros
Occidental, during the November, 1951 elections. Governor Rafael Lacson, a member of the
Liberal Party then in power and his men were tried and convicted for that murder. In the book,
Moises Padilla is portrayed as "a martyr in contemporary political history."
Although 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 Vda. de Gonzales, private respondent herein, and of one "Auring" as his girlfriend.
On October 5, 1961, Mrs. Nelly Amante, half-sister of Moises Padilla, for and in behalf of her
mother, private respondent, demanded in writing for certain changes, corrections and deletions in
the movie.
On the same date, October 5, 1961, after some bargaining, the petitioner and private
respondent executed a “Licensing Agreement” where the petitioner agreed to pay the private
respondent the sum of P20,000.00 payable without need of further demand, as follows: P5,000.00
on or before Oct. 10, 1961; P10,000.00 on or before Oct. 31, 1961; and P5,000.00 on or before
November 30, 1961. Also the Licensor (private respondent) grants authority and permission to
Licensee (Petitioner) to exploit, use, and develop the life story of Moises Padilla for purposes of
producing the PICTURE, and in connection with matters incidental to said production, such as
advertising and the like, as well as authority and permission for the use of LICENSOR's name in
the PICTURE and have herself portrayed therein, the authority and permission hereby granted, to
retroact to the date when LICENSEE first committed any of the acts herein authorized.
After its premier showing on October 16, 1961, the movie was shown in different theaters
all over the country.
Because petitioner refused to pay any additional amounts pursuant to the Agreement, on
December 22, 1961, private respondent instituted the present suit against him praying for judgment
in her favor ordering petitioner 1) to pay her the amount of P15,000.00, with legal interest from
the filing of the Complaint; 2) to render an accounting of the proceeds from the picture and to pay
the corresponding 2-1/2% royalty therefrom; 3) to pay attorney's fees equivalent to 20% of the
amounts claimed; and 4) to pay the costs.
Petitioner contended in his Answer that the episodes in the life of Moises Padilla depicted
in the movie were matters of public knowledge 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 that he signed the same only because of the coercion and threat employed
upon him. As a counterclaim, petitioner sought for the nullification of the Licensing Agreement as
it constitutes an infringement on the constitutional right of freedom of speech and of the press.
Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals ruled in favour of the private respondent.


1. Whether or not private respondent have any property right over the life of Moises Padilla
since the latter was a public figure.
2. Whether or not the Licensing Agreement infringes on the constitutional right of freedom
of speech and of the press.

1. Yes. While it is true that petitioner had purchased the rights to the book entitled "The
Moises Padilla Story," that did not 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."
Being a public figure ipso facto does not automatically destroy in toto a person's right to privacy.
The right to invade a 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.
2. No. From the language of the specific constitutional provision, it would appear that the
right is not susceptible of any limitation. No law may be passed abridging the freedom of speech
and of the press. It would be too much to insist that at all times and under all circumstances it
should remain unfettered and unrestrained. There are other societal values that press for
The prevailing doctrine is that the clear and present danger rule is such a limitation. Another
criterion for permissible limitation on freedom of speech and of the press, which includes such
vehicles of the mass media as radio, television and the movies, 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 interests 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, we hold that under the particular circumstances presented, 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.
Soliven v Makasiar Nov 14, 1988 G.R. No. 82585
Per Curiam

(Topic on Warrant Issued by RTC)


Soliven broadcasted the statement that President Aquino hid under her bed during a coup d' etat.
The President sued for libel. Soliven claimed that he can't be sued because the President was
immune from suit.

Issue: WON Beltran's rights were violated when the RTC issued a warrant of arrest without
personally examining the complainant and the witnesses to determine probable cause.

Held: No


In satisfying himself of the existence of probable cause to issue a warrant of arrest, the judge isn't
required to examine the complainant and the witnesses.

He shall only personally evaluate the report and supporting documents submitted by the fiscal
regarding the existence of probable cause and issue a warrant of arrest on the basis thereof.

Also, if he finds no probable cause, he may disregard the fiscal's report and required the submission
of supporting affidavits of witnesses to aid him in arriving at a conclusion as to the existence of
probable cause.

Otherwise, judges would be burdened with preliminary investigation instead of hearing cases.

FACTS: Luis Beltran is among the petitioners in this case. He, together with others, was charged
with libel by the then president Corzaon Aquino. Cory herself filed a complaint-affidavit against
him and others. Makasiar averred that Cory cannot file a complaint affidavit because this would
defeat her immunity from suit. He grounded his contention on the principle that a president
cannot be sued. However, if a president would sue then the president would allow herself to be
placed under the court’s jurisdiction and conversely she would be consenting to be sued back.
Also, considering the functions of a president, the president may not be able to appear in court to
be a witness for herself thus she may be liable for contempt.

ISSUE: Whether or not such immunity can be invoked by Beltran, a person other than the

HELD: No. The rationale for the grant to the President of the privilege of immunity from suit is
to assure the exercise of Presidential duties and functions free from any hindrance or distraction,
considering that being the Chief Executive of the Government is a job that, aside from requiring
all of the office-holder’s time, also demands undivided attention.

But this privilege of immunity from suit, pertains to the President by virtue of the office and may
be invoked only by the holder of the office; not by any other person in the President’s behalf.
Thus, an accused like Beltran et al, in a criminal case in which the President is the complainant
cannot raise the presidential privilege as a defense to prevent the case from proceeding against
such accused.

Moreover, there is nothing in our laws that would prevent the President from waiving the
privilege. Thus, if so minded the President may shed the protection afforded by the privilege and
submit to the court’s jurisdiction. The choice of whether to exercise the privilege or to waive it is
solely the President’s prerogative. It is a decision that cannot be assumed and imposed by any
other person.
Guinguing vs. Court of Appeals G.R. No. 128959

Cirse Choy Torralba, a broadcast journalist with two radio programs airing in Visayas and
Mindanao, filed a criminal complaint for libel against Segundo Lim and petitioner, Guinguing for
causing the publication of records of his criminal cases as well as photographs of his arrest. The
criminal records and photos were published by means of a one-page advertisement paid for by Lim
in the Sunday Post, a weekly publication edited and published by petitioner.
Choy Torralba asserted that he has been acquitted and that the cases referred to in the publication
had already been settled. He sought the conviction of Lim and Guinguing for libel and claims that
such publication placed him in public contempt and ridicule and was designed to degrade and
malign his person and destroy him as a broadcast journalist.
The trial court and the Court of Appeals found the publication indeed libelous declaring that
malice, the most important element of libel, was present in this case every defamatory publication
prima facie implies malice on the part of the author and publisher towards the person subject
thereof. The lower courts also ruled that publication of calumny even against public officers or
candidates for public office, according to the trial court, is an offense most dangerous to the people.
It deserves punishment because the latter may be deceived thereby and reject the best and
deserving citizens to their great injury.
Thus, petitioner prayed for reversal of the judgment against him contending that his conviction by
the lower courts constitutes an infringement of his constitutional right to freedom of speech and of
the press.

Whether or not the publication in the instant case is indeed libelous

The lower courts applied the strict letter of the law. However, this Court is compelled to delve
deeper into the issue considering that changes in the factual milieu evoked a change in the
judgment applicable.
Under the law, criminal libel is defined as a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a
vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending
to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the
memory of one who is dead. Thus, the elements of libel are: (a) imputation of a discreditable act
or condition to another; (b) publication of the imputation; (c) identity of the person defamed; and,
(d) existence of malice.
However, in order to protect the constitutional guarantee of free speech, additional rules were
applied to libel cases involving public figures.
Ayer Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Capulong defined a public figure as a person who, by his
accomplishments, fame, or mode of living, or by adopting a profession or calling which gives the
public a legitimate interest in his doings, his affairs, and his character, has become a 'public
The citizens have a legitimate and substantial interest in the conduct of such public figures, and
freedom of the press to engage in uninhibited debate about their involvement in public issues and
events is as crucial as it is in the case of public officials. Public opinion may be the only instrument
by which society can attempt to influence their conduct.
Thus, in libel cases involving public figures, actual malice standard rule applies. As held in New
York Times vs. Sullivan and reiterated in Agiong vs. Comelec, even if the defamatory statement
is false, no liability can attach if it relates to official conduct, unless the public official concerned
proves that the statement was made with actual malice that is, with knowledge that it was false
or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.
Therefore, in order to justify a conviction for criminal libel against a public figure, it must be
established beyond reasonable doubt that the libelous statements were made or published with
actual malice.
In the present case, Torralba was a public figure, being a broadcast journalist who hosts a public
affairs program. By entering into this line of work, complainant in effect gave the public a
legitimate interest in his life. He likewise gave them a stake in finding out if he himself had the
integrity and character to have the right to criticize others for their conduct.
Aside from the fact that the information contained in said publication was true, the intention to let
the public know the character of their radio commentator can at best be subsumed under the mantle
of having been done with good motives and for justifiable ends. Since Torralba failed to establish
actual malice against Lim and Guingguing, the petition for reversal of the judgment of libel against
petitioner was granted.

FACTS: Oscar Castelo, was designated to act as Secretary of National Defense in addition to his
duties in the Justice Department. Due to his feud with Senator Claro M. Recto, resulting to various
charges against him, he told his bodyguard, Ben Ulo that Monroy, being the witness of Recto must
be killed. Thereafter, Ben Ulo gathered his "boys" and went to Pasay looking for Monroy.At the
time Ben Ulo was giving last-minute instructions to his "boys", Manuel P. Monroy was
unconcernedly playing "mahjong" athisapartment. After Ben Ulo had left and pursuant to his
instructions, Scarface, De Jesus, Gonzales, Enriquez and Realista walked along David Street.
Scarface who was supposed to be the triggerman, showed some hesitation, so De Jesus entered the
pasillo and went towards the apartment whereMonroy was playing. De Jesus suddenly fired three
successive shots at Monroy.He was taken to the hospital where he soon died. The NBI in
cooperation of Manila Police gathered confessions from the “boys” of Ben Ulo however, Ben Ulo
denied his involvement to the crime. All these statements or confessions relate, with some
variations as to minor details, the story of the assassination, the motives thereof and the names of
the raiding parties.

Appellants set up the defense of alibi, even as they claimed that the statements they gave to the
NBI and the Manila Police had been extorted from them by means of violence, and that the contents
thereof were not true.

ISSUE: Whether or not the accused-appellants shall be acquitted/their alibi be considered as


The defense of alibi set up by Miray, Gonzales, Enriquez, Hipolito and De Jesus deserves little
attention for its flimsiness, bearing in mind that Manila is just 15 to 20 minutes drive to the scene
of the crime. Besides, it contradicts their individual confessions wherein each mutually names one
another as his partner in crime, each describing his own participation therein, and each
corroboration or supplementing one another's narration of material facts, and all mentioning Ben
Ulo as their leader. Those confessions unfurl a picture of conspiracy amongst themselves and other
persons to snuff out the life of Monroy, De Jesus actually firing the fatal shots and the others
lending him support while posted at strategic places. In the absence of collusion among the
declarants, their confessions should be read together, in order to form a complete picture of the
whole situation, and to consider them collectively merely as corroborative and/or confirmatory of
the evidence independent therefrom. Henceforth, the accused are convicted for murder
—qualified by premeditation— all the herein accused-appellants is affirmed. There are
aggravating circumstances, like nighttime, aid of armedment, et
Senate of the Philippines vs Executive Secretary Ermita

In 2005, scandals involving anomalous transactions about the North Rail Project as well as the
Garci tapes surfaced. This prompted the Senate to conduct a public hearing to investigate the said
anomalies particularly the alleged overpricing in the NRP. The investigating Senate committee
issued invitations to certain department heads and military officials to speak before the committee
as resource persons. Ermita submitted that he and some of the department heads cannot attend the
said hearing due to pressing matters that need immediate attention. AFP Chief of Staff Senga
likewise sent a similar letter. Drilon, the senate president, excepted the said requests for they were
sent belatedly and arrangements were already made and scheduled. Subsequently, GMA issued
EO 464 which took effect immediately.

EO 464 basically prohibited Department heads, Senior officials of executive departments who in
the judgment of the department heads are covered by the executive privilege; Generals and flag
officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and such other officers who in the judgment of the
Chief of Staff are covered by the executive privilege; Philippine National Police (PNP) officers
with rank of chief superintendent or higher and such other officers who in the judgment of the
Chief of the PNP are covered by the executive privilege; Senior national security officials who in
the judgment of the National Security Adviser are covered by the executive privilege; and Such
other officers as may be determined by the President, from appearing in such hearings conducted
by Congress without first securing the president’s approval.

The department heads and the military officers who were invited by the Senate committee then
invoked EO 464 to except themselves. Despite EO 464, the scheduled hearing proceeded with only
2 military personnel attending. For defying President Arroyo’s order barring military personnel
from testifying before legislative inquiries without her approval, Brig. Gen. Gudani and Col.
Balutan were relieved from their military posts and were made to face court martial proceedings.
EO 464’s constitutionality was assailed for it is alleged that it infringes on the rights and duties of
Congress to conduct investigation in aid of legislation and conduct oversight functions in the
implementation of laws.

ISSUE: Whether or not EO 464 is constitutional.

HELD: The SC ruled that EO 464 is constitutional in part. To determine the validity of the
provisions of EO 464, the SC sought to distinguish Section 21 from Section 22 of Art 6 of the 1987
Constitution. The Congress’ power of inquiry is expressly recognized in Section 21 of Article VI
of the Constitution. Although there is no provision in the Constitution expressly investing either
House of Congress with power to make investigations and exact testimony to the end that it may
exercise its legislative functions advisedly and effectively, such power is so far incidental to the
legislative function as to be implied. In other words, the power of inquiry – with process to enforce
it – is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function. A legislative body cannot
legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the
legislation is intended to affect or change; and where the legislative body does not itself possess
the requisite information – which is not infrequently true – recourse must be had to others who do
possess it.

Section 22 on the other hand provides for the Question Hour. The Question Hour is closely related
with the legislative power, and it is precisely as a complement to or a supplement of the Legislative
Inquiry. The appearance of the members of Cabinet would be very, very essential not only in the
application of check and balance but also, in effect, in aid of legislation. Section 22 refers only to
Question Hour, whereas, Section 21 would refer specifically to inquiries in aid of legislation, under
which anybody for that matter, may be summoned and if he refuses, he can be held in contempt of
the House. A distinction was thus made between inquiries in aid of legislation and the question
hour. While attendance was meant to be discretionary in the question hour, it was compulsory in
inquiries in aid of legislation. Sections 21 and 22, therefore, while closely related and
complementary to each other, should not be considered as pertaining to the same power of
Congress. One specifically relates to the power to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation, the aim
of which is to elicit information that may be used for legislation, while the other pertains to the
power to conduct a question hour, the objective of which is to obtain information in pursuit of
Congress’ oversight function. Ultimately, the power of Congress to compel the appearance of
executive officials under Section 21 and the lack of it under Section 22 find their basis in the
principle of separation of powers.

While the executive branch is a co-equal branch of the legislature, it cannot frustrate the power of
Congress to legislate by refusing to comply with its demands for information. When Congress
exercises its power of inquiry, the only way for department heads to exempt themselves therefrom
is by a valid claim of privilege. They are not exempt by the mere fact that they are department
heads. Only one executive official may be exempted from this power — the President on whom
executive power is vested, hence, beyond the reach of Congress except through the power of
impeachment. It is based on her being the highest official of the executive branch, and the due
respect accorded to a co-equal branch of government which is sanctioned by a long-standing
custom. The requirement then to secure presidential consent under Section 1, limited as it is only
to appearances in the question hour, is valid on its face. For under Section 22, Article VI of the
Constitution, the appearance of department heads in the question hour is discretionary on their
part. Section 1 cannot, however, be applied to appearances of department heads in inquiries in aid
of legislation. Congress is not bound in such instances to respect the refusal of the department
head to appear in such inquiry, unless a valid claim of privilege is subsequently made, either by
the President herself or by the Executive Secretary.

When Congress merely seeks to be informed on how department heads are implementing the
statutes which it has issued, its right to such information is not as imperative as that of the President
to whom, as Chief Executive, such department heads must give a report of their performance as a
matter of duty. In such instances, Section 22, in keeping with the separation of powers, states that
Congress may only request their appearance. Nonetheless, when the inquiry in which Congress
requires their appearance is ‘in aid of legislation’ under Section 21, the appearance is mandatory
for the same reasons stated in Arnault.

Senate vs. Ermita , GR 169777, April 20, 2006

Senate vs. Ermita , GR 169777, April 20, 2006

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, wire tapping, 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.

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
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.