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 March 8, 2010cc

Right to Information, access to public documents

CHAVEZ vs PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON GOOD GOVERNMENT

Facts:
-Petitioner Francisco I Chavez (in his capacity as taxpayer, citizen and a former government
official) initiated this original action seeking (1) to prohibit and ͞enjoin respondents [PCGG and its
chairman] from privately entering into, perfecting and/or executing any agreement with the heirs of
the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos . . . relating to and concerning the properties and assets of
Ferdinand Marcos located in the Philippines and/or abroad Ͷ including the so-called Marcos gold
hoard"; and (2) to ͞compel respondent[s] to make public all negotiations and agreement, be they
ongoing or perfected, and all documents related to or relating to such negotiations and
agreement between the PCGG and the Marcos heirs."
-Chavez is the same person initiated the prosecution of the Marcoses and their cronies who
committed unmitigated plunder of the public treasury and the systematic subjugation of the
country's economy; he says that what impelled him to bring this action were several news
reports 2 bannered in a number of broadsheets sometime in September 1997. These news items
referred to (1) the alleged discovery of billions of dollars of Marcos assets deposited in various coded
accounts in Swiss banks; and (2) the reported execution of a compromise, between the government
(through PCGG) and the Marcos heirs, on how to split or share these assets.
-PETITIONER DEMANDS that respondents make public any and all negotiations and agreements
pertaining to PCGG's task of recovering the Marcoses' ill-gotten wealth. He claims that any
compromise on the alleged billions of ill-gotten wealth involves an issue of "paramount public
interest," since it has a "debilitating effect on the country's economy" that would be greatly
prejudicial to the national interest of the Filipino people. Hence, the people in general have a
right to know the transactions or deals being contrived and effected by the government.
-RESPONDENT ANSWERS that they do not deny forging a compromise agreement with the
Marcos heirs. They claim, though, that petitioner's action is premature, because there is no
showing that he has asked the PCGG to disclose the negotiations and the Agreements. And even if he
has, PCGG may not yet be compelled to make any disclosure, since the proposed terms and
conditions of the Agreements have not become effective and binding.
-PETITIONER INVOKES Sec. 7 [Article III]. 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.
Sec. 28 [Article II]. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and
implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.
-RESPONDENT ANSWERS that the above constitutional provisions refer to completed and
operative official acts, not to those still being considered.

Whether or not the Court could require the PCGG to disclose to the public the details ofcc
any agreement, perfected or not, with the Marcoses.
c
cWHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The General and Supplemental Agreementcc
dated December 28, 1993, which PCGG and the Marcos heirs entered into are hereby declared
NULL AND VOID for being contrary to law and the Constitution. Respondent PCGG, its officers and
all government functionaries and officials who are or may be directly ot indirectly involved in the
recovery of the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their associates are DIRECTED to
disclose to the public the terms of any proposed compromise settlment, as well as the final
agreement, relating to such alleged ill-gotten wealth, in accordance with the discussions
embodied in this Decision. No pronouncement as to cost.͟
c

cc
 The "information" and the "transactions" referred to in the subject provisions of the Constitutionc c
have as yet no defined scope and extent. There are no specific laws prescribing the exact
limitations within which the right may be exercised or the correlative state duty may be obliged.
However, the following are some of the recognized restrictions:
(1) national security matters and intelligence information
- there is a governmental privilege against public disclosure with respect to state secrets
regarding military, diplomatic and other national security matters. 24 But where there is
no need to protect such state secrets, the privilege may not be invoked to withhold
documents and other information, 25 provided that they are examined "in strict
confidence" and given "scrupulous protection." (2) trade secrets and banking transactions
-trade or industrial secrets (pursuant to the Intellectual Property Code 27 and other related
laws) as well as banking transactions (pursuant to the Secrecy of Bank Deposits Act 28)
are also exempted from compulsory disclosure (3) criminal matters
- Also excluded are classified law enforcement matters, such as those relating to the
apprehension, the prosecution and the detention of criminals, which courts neither may
nor inquire into prior to such arrest, detention and prosecution. Efforts at effective law
enforcement would be seriously jeopardized by free public access to, for example, police
information regarding rescue operations, the whereabouts of fugitives, or leads on covert
criminal activities.(4) other confidential information.
- The Ethical Standards Act 31 further prohibits public officials and employees from using
or divulging "confidential or classified information officially known to them by reason of
their office and not made available to the public." Other acknowledged limitations to
information access include diplomatic correspondence, closed door Cabinet meetings and
executive sessions of either house of Congress, as well as the internal deliberations of the
Supreme Court.
 In Valmonte v. Belmonte Jr., the Court emphasized that the information sought must bec c
"matters of public concern," access to which may be limited by law. Similarly, the state policy of
full public disclosure extends only to "transactions involving public interest" and may also be
"subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law."
- As to the meanings of the terms "public interest" and "public concern," the Court, in Legaspi v.
Civil Service Commission, elucidated: ͞In determining whether or not a particular information is
of public concern there is no rigid test which can be applied. ͞ ͞Public concern" like "public
interest" is a term that eludes exact definition. Both terms embrace a broad spectrum of subjects
which the public may want to know, either because these directly affect their lives, or simply because
such matters naturally arouse the interest of an ordinary citizen. In the final analysis, it is for the
courts to determine on a case by case basis whether the matter at issue is of interest or importance,
as it relates to or affects the public.͟
-As to whether or not the above cited constitutional provisions guarantee access to information
regarding ongoing negotiations or proposals prior to the final agreement, this same clarification was
sought and clearly addressed by the constitutional commissioners during their deliberations, MR.
SUAREZ. And when we say "transactions" which should be distinguished from contracts, agreements,
or treaties or whatever, does the Gentleman refer to the steps leading to the consummation of the
contract, or does he refer to the contract itself?
MR. OPLE. The "transactions" used here, I suppose, is generic and, therefore, it can cover both
steps leading to a contract, and already a consummated contract, Mr. Presiding Officer.
MR. SUAREZ. This contemplates inclusion of negotiations leading to the consummation of the
transaction?
MR. OPLE. Yes, subject to reasonable safeguards on the national interest.
- Considering the intent of the Constitution, the Court believes that it is incumbent upon the
PCGG and its officers, as well as other government representatives, to disclose sufficient public
information on any proposed settlement they have decided to take up with the ostensible owners
and holders of ill-gotten wealth. Such information, though, must pertain to definite propositions of
the government, not necessarily to intra-agency or inter-agency recommendations or
communications during the stage when common assertions are still in the process of being
formulated or are in the "exploratory" stage. There is a need, of course, to observe the same
restrictions on disclosure of information in general, as discussed aboveͶ such as on matters
involving national security, diplomatic or foreign relations, intelligence and other classified
information.
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RA 1265 is a law that makes a flag ceremony compulsory for schools. The implementing rules (Department Order 8)says
that the anthem must be played while the flag is raised. It also says that everyone must salute the flag and no one is to do
anything while the ceremony is being held. After the flag everyone is to recite the patriotic pledge (panatang
makabayan). Petitioners children attending the Buenavista Community School in Uson, Masbate refused to salute the
flag, sing the anthem and recite the pledge. They did not do so out of religious belief. They are Jehovah's Witnesses. They
followed Exodus 20:4-5 'thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven
above, or that is in earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth. They consider the flag to be an image in this
context. Because of this they were expelled from the school in Sep 1955.
Petitioners thru counsel petitione SecEd that their children be exempt from the law and just be allowed to remain silent
and stand at attention. SecEd denied petition. Writ of preliminary injunction was petitioned and issued.
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WON Dep Order 8 is unconstitutional
,
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Flag salute ceremony is secular and the dep order non- discriminatory Therefore it is constitutional
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The freedom of belief is limitless and boundless but it's exercise is not. If the belief clashes with law then the former must
yield.
What is the nature of the flag? Petitioners maintain that it is an image but that is not so. It is the symbol of Republic of
the Philippines. It is not a religious symbol. Saluting it is not therefore a religious ceremony. The determination whether a
ceremony is religious or not is left to the courts not to any religious group.
Petitioners are willing to remain silent and stand during flag ceremony. Petiotners salute the flag during boy scout
activities. Their objection then rests on the singing of anthem and recitation of pledge. The pledge is judged to be
completely secular. It does not even pledge allegiance to the flag or to the Republic. The anthem is also secular. It talks
about patriotism. It does not speak of resorting to force, military service, or duty to defend the country.
There was no compulsion involved in the enforcement of the flag salute. They were not criminally prosecuted under a
penal sanction. If they chose not to obey the salute regulation they merely lost the benefits of public education. Take it or
leave it. Hamilton vs Univ of California: Apellants were members of Methodist Episcopal Church who believed that war
and preparations for war are gainst God's wishes. They did not take required military service training which was
requirement to graduate. Court said that they were not being drafted to attend university. University did not violate due
process when it required the mil service. Minersville School District vs Gobitis: two Jehovahs Witness children were
expelled from school for refusing to salute flag. Requirement of participation of all pupils in flag ceremony did not
infringe due process. West Virginia State Board of Education. vs. Barnette: reversed the former decision at a divided
court. This court leans towards Gobitis decision. Special circumstance of Barnette case was that it expelled the students
although attendance in schools is mandatory turnimg them all into truants headed for reformatories. Fortunately, the
law requiring compulsory enrollment here in the Philippines is so riddled with exceptions and exemptions that there is no
crisis if the children didn't attend school. There is no penal sanction for failing to attend school. Whenever a man enjoys
the benefits of society and community life he becomes a member and must give up some of his rights for the general
welfare just like everybody else. The practice of religion is subject to reasonable and non-discrimantory regulation by the
state.
Prince vs. Commonwealth of Massachusets: Sarah Prince (Jehovahs Witness again)was convicted under the Child Labor
law because her hiece distributed religious pamphlets. Court said that state can limit control of parent/guardian. The
right of practice religion freelydoes not include liberty to expose child to ill health. This case was decided after Barnette,
supra.
SecEd was not imposing a religious belief with the flag salute. It was Merely enforcing a non-discriminatory regulation
applicable to members of all religions. State carried out duty to supervise educational institutions and teach civic duty.
Petitioners do not question the right of the school to conduct the flag Salute ceremony but question the attempt to
compel them. The trouble of exempting the petioners is that it would disrupt school discipline and demoralize the greater
student population.
There are exemptions for cases of religiious belief like an understanding that anti-war religious believers will not be made
to fight but help war effort in other non-combat ways. But that is for the legislature to decide, not the courts.

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decision affirmed. constitutional. writ of preliminary
injunction dissolved. No costs.
March 1, 1993
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All the petitioners in these two cases are school children who are members of Jehovah͛s Witnesses who
were expelled from their classes by the public school authorities in Cebu for refusing to salute the flag, sing the national
anthem and recite the patriotic pledge as required by R.A. No. 1265 (July 11, 1955) and by DECS Department Order No. 8
(July 21, 1955) which makes the flag ceremony compulsory in all educational institutions.
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Whether or not school children who are members of a religious sect known as Jehovah͛s Witnesses may be
expelled from school (both public and private) for refusing, on account of their religious beliefs, to take part in the flag
ceremony.
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It has been held previously in the case of
*#(c !c0*&(*)c#$c10(&#c 2343 Under acsystem of complete separation between church and state, the flag is
utterly devoid of any religious significance and therefore saluting it is not a religious ceremony. The requirement of the
flag ceremony, which seeks to develop reverence for the flag and love of c
country, etc., is a non-discriminatory school regulation applicable to students and teachers regardless of their religion.
While the necessity to develop such respect for the flag and respect for the country still persists until today,
there is recognition that religious freedom is a fundamental right which is entitled to the highest priority and the amplest
protection among human rights (Fernando separate opinion inc*'(c !c5(*(()
Two-fold aspect of religious profession:

Freedom to believe ʹ absolute as long as


confined to the realm of thought

Freedom to act on one͛s belief ʹ subject to regulation where the belief is translated into external acts affecting the public
welfare
Petitioners contend that while they did not participate in the flag ceremony, they did not engage in any disruptive
behavior that would offend those who choose to participate but rather they just quietly stood at attention during the flag
ceremony to show respect to their countrymen.c 6*$#*/cc&6c(70c#$c(c*( 
and present danger which is the sole justification for a prior restraint on the exercise of religious freedom, according to
Teehankee in his dissent in German vs. Barangan, there is no warrant to justify their expulsion.
What petitioners seek is only exemption from the flag ceremony and therefore the virtues (e.g. patriotism,
respect for human rights, love of country, etc.) they are supposed to imbibe from their participation in the flag ceremony,
they can get in their study of the Constitution, the democaratic way of life and form of government, the history and
culture of the Philippines, the life of our heroes, etc.
To force a small religious group through the iron hand of the law, to participate in a ceremony that violates
their religious beliefs, will hardly be conducive to love of country or respect for duly constituted authorities which are
precisely the values the court in Gerona feared will be lost by exempting some members of the Jehovah͛s Witnesses to
participate in the flag ceremonies.
let it be noted that coerced unity and loyalty even to
the country͙ is not a goal that is constitutionally obtainable at the expense of religious liberty. A desirable end cannot be
promoted by prohibited means. (Meyer vs. Nebraska)
expulsion of the members will violated their right as
citizens under the Constitution to receive free education which is the duty of the State to protect and promote the right
of all citizens to quality education and to make such education applicable to all.
in closing, the court hopes that it will not take
another foreign invasion of our country for our countrymen to appreciate and cherish the Philippine flag as what
happened during WWII.
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