Wednesday, October 29, 2014

case digest

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 It was based mainly on the copyrighted but unpublished book of Atty.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 recognition.
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.

Writ of Habeas Corpus
COURT OF APPEALS (Seventh Division) and ANGELITA DIAMANTE, respondents.

G.R. No. 125901
March 8, 2001

            Petitioners are husband and wife.  They have six children.  The youngest is Edgardo Tijing, Jr., who was born on April 27, 1989.
Petitioner Bienvenida served as the laundrywoman of private respondent Angelita Diamante.
According to Bienvenida in August 1989, Angelita went to her house to fetch her for an urgent laundry job.  Since Bienvenida was on her way to do some marketing, she asked Angelita to wait until she returned.  She also left her four-month old son, Edgardo, Jr., under the care of Angelita as she usually let Angelita take care of the child while Bienvenida was doing laundry. When Bienvenida returned from the market, Angelita and Edgardo, Jr., were gone.
On October 1993, Bienvenida allegedly saw her son Edgardo, Jr., for the first time after four years in Hagonoy, Bulacan. She claims that the boy, who was pointed out to her by Benjamin Lopez, a brother of the late Tomas Lopez (who was the common-law husband of Angelita) was already named John Thomas Lopez. She avers that Angelita refused to return to her the boy despite her demand to do so.
Petitioners filed a petition for habeas corpus in order to recover their son from respondent and presented witnesses to substantiate their petition. Respondent claimed on the other hand that she is the natural mother of the child.
The trial court held in favor of the petitioners and granted the petition for habeas corpus. On appeal, the CA reversed and set aside the decision rendered by the trial court. The appellate court expressed its doubts on the propriety of the habeas corpus.
Whether or not habeas corpus is the proper remedy to regain custody of a minor.

     Yes. The writ of habeas corpus extends to all cases of illegal confinement or detention by which any person is deprived of his liberty, or by which the rightful custody of any person is withheld from the person entitled thereto. Thus, it is the proper legal remedy to enable parents to regain the custody of a minor child even if the latter be in the custody of a third person of his own free will.  It may even be said that in custody cases involving minors, the question of illegal and involuntary restraint of liberty is not the underlying rationale for the availability of the writ as a remedy.  Rather, it is prosecuted for the purpose of determining the right of custody over a child. It must be stressed too that in habeas corpus proceedings, the question of identity is relevant and material, subject to the usual presumptions including those as to identity of the person.
A close scrutiny of the records of this case reveals that the evidence presented by Bienvenida is sufficient to establish that John Thomas Lopez is actually her missing son, Edgardo Tijing, Jr.

Right against Self-incrimination
RICARDO SUMMERS, sheriff of the City of Manila, respondent.

G.R. No. 16444
September 8, 1920

            In a criminal case pending before the Court of First Instance of the city of Manila, EmeteriaVillaflor and FlorentinoSouingco are charged with the crime of adultery. On trial before the Hon. Pedro Concepcion, Judge of First Instance, upon the petitioner of the assistant fiscal for the city of Manila, the court ordered the defendant EmeteriaVillaflor, to submit her body to the examination of one or two competent doctors to determine if she was pregnant or not. The accused refused to obey the order on the ground that such examination of her person was a violation of the constitutional provision relating to self-incrimination. Thereupon she was found in contempt of court and was ordered to be committed to Bilibid Prison until she should permit the medical examination required by the court.


            Whether or not compelling EmeteriaVillaflorto submit her body to the examination to determine if she is pregnant violates her constitutional right against self-incrimination.


            No. The constitutional guaranty, that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, is limited to a prohibition against compulsory testimonial self-incrimination. The corollary to the proposition is that, an ocular inspection of the body of the accused is permissible. The proviso is that torture of force shall be avoided.
            It is a reasonable presumption that in an examination by reputable and disinterested physicians due care will be taken not to use violence and not to embarass the patient any more than is absolutely necessary. Indeed, no objection to the physical examination being made by the family doctor of the accused or by doctor of the same sex can be seen.

Right to Information (Access to Public Records)
DOMINADOR C. BALDOZA, complainant, 

A.M. No. 1120-MJ
May 5, 1976

            In a verified letter-complaint dated September 9, 1975, the Municipal Secretary of Taal, Batangas, charges Municipal Judge Rodolfo B. Dimaano, of the same municipality, with abuse of authority in refusing to allow employees of the Municipal Mayor to examine the criminal docket records of the Municipal Court to secure data in connection with their contemplated report on the peace and order conditions of the said municipality.

            Respondent answered that there has never been an intention to refuse access to official court records but that the same is always subject to reasonable regulation as to who, when, where and how they may be inspected. He further asserted that a court has the power to prevent an improper use or inspection of its records and furnishing copies may be refuse when the motivation is not serious and legitimate interest, out of whim or fancy or mere curiosity or to gratify private site or promote public scandal.

The case was thereupon referred to Judge Francisco Mat. Riodique for investigation and report. At the preliminary hearing on October 16, 1975, Taal Mayor Corazon A. Caniza filed a motion to dismiss the complaint but the motion was denied by the Investigating Judge. After formal investigation, he recommended the exoneration of respondent.

            Whether or not the rules and conditions imposed by Judge Dimaano on the inspection of the docket books infringe upon the right of individuals to information.

            No. As found by the Investigating Judge, the respondent allowed the complainant to open and view the docket books of respondent certain conditions and under his control and supervision. It has not been shown that the rules and conditions imposed by the respondent were unreasonable. The access to public records predicated on the right of the people to acquire information on matters of public concern.

            The incorporation of this right in the Constitution is a recognition of the fundamental role of free exchange of information in a democracy. Information is needed to enable the members of society to cope with the exigencies of the times. As has been aptly observed: "Maintaining the flow of such information depends on protection for both its acquisition and its dissemination since, if either process is interrupted, the flow inevitably ceases.”  However, restrictions on access to certain records may be imposed by law. Thus, access restrictions imposed to control civil insurrection have been permitted upon a showing of immediate and impending danger that renders ordinary means of control inadequate to maintain order. 

Rights of the Accused (Presumption of Innocence)
G.R. No. L-21325 October 29, 1971
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, 

            In the morning of January 9, 1964,the two accused, now appellants, PableoDramayo and PaternoEcubin, in the company of the deceased EstelitoNogaliza, all of Barrio Magsaysay, of the Municipality of Sapao, Surigaodel Norte, saw its chief of police. Their purpose was to shed light on a robbery committed in the house of the deceased five days before by being available as witnesses. The response was decidedly in the negative as they themselves were prime suspects, having been implicated by at least two individuals who had confessed. At about 7:00 o'clock of the same day, while they were in the house of their co-accused PrioloBillona, the accused Dramayo invited all those present including the other accused Francisco Billons, Modesto Ronquilla,Crescencio and SeveroSavandal, for a drinking session at a place at the back of the school house. It was on that occasion that Dramayo brought up the idea of killing EstelitoNogaliza so that he could not testify in the robbery case. The idea was for Dramayo and Ecubin to ambush Estelito, who was returning from Sapao. The others were to station themselves nearby.
            Soon the Nogaliza was sighted,Dramayostopped him with a request for a cigarette. It was then that Ecubin hit him with a piece of wood on the side of the head near the right ear. Dramayo's participation consisted of repeated stabs with a short pointed bolo as he lay prostrate from the blow of Ecubin. Dramayo then warned the rest of the group to keep their mouths sealed as to what had just happened.
Early the next morning, he went to the house of the deceased and informed the Estrelito’swidow Corazon that he had just seen the dead body of Estelito. The barrio lieutenant and the chief of police were duly notified. The latter, upon noticing blood stains on the trousers of Dramayo, asked him to explain. The answer was that a skin ailment of his daughter was the cause thereof.
The lower court found PableoDramayo and PaternoEcubin, guilty beyond reasonable doubt, of the crime of murder, qualified by thecircumstance of evident premeditation as aggravated by night time, and imposes upon each of the saidaccused the penalty of reclusion perpetua. The other accused were not convicted as, two of them, CrescencioSavandal and SeveroSavandal being utilized as state witnesses, and the other three, PrioloBillona, FranciscoBillona and Modesto Ronquilla acquitted. Dramayo and Ecubin appealed.

            Whether Dramayo and Ecubin should be acquitted inasmuch as the other co-accused have beenacquitted due to reasonable doubt.

            No. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the lower court.
            It is to be admitted that the starting point is the Presumption of innocence. So it must be, according to the Constitution.  That is a right safeguarded both appellants. Accusation is not, according to the fundamental law, synonymous with guilt.
            The judgment of conviction should not have occasioned any surprise on the part of the two appellants, as from the evidence deserving of the fullest credence, their guilt had been more than amply demonstrated. The presumption of innocence could not come to their rescue as it was more than sufficiently overcome by the proof that was offered by the prosecution. What would have been a blot on the law is that if, on the facts as established, no reasonable doubt being entertained, the two appellants would have been acquitted likewise just because the other five defendants, for the reasons above stated, were not similarly sentenced. The principal contention raised is thus clearly untenable. It must be stated likewise that while squarely advanced for the first time, there had been cases where this Court, notwithstanding a majority of the defendants being acquitted, the element of conspiracy likewise being allegedly present, did hold the party or parties, responsible for the offense guilty of the crime charged, a moral certainty having arisen as to their capability. 
            The fact that the two appellants were duly convicted of robbery, with the deceased as the offended party. It was understandable then why they would want to do away with the principal witness against them. There was thus a strong inducement for the appellants to have committed this crime of murder. With the testimony of record pointing to no other conclusion except the perpetration of the killing by them, the effort of their counsel, while to be expected from an advocate zealous in defense of his clients' rights, certainly should not be attended with success. It suffices to reiterate the well-settled principle that this Court has invariably respected the findings of facts of a trial judge who was in a position to weigh and appraise the testimony before him except when, as was not shown in this case, circumstances weight or influence were ignored or disregarded by him.


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