You are on page 1of 15

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 130716. December 9, 1998]

FRANCISCO I. CHAVEZ, petitioner, vs. PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON GOOD GOVERNMENT (PCGG) and MAGTANGGOL GUNIGUNDO, (in his capacity as chairman of the PCGG), respondents. GLORIA A. JOPSON, CELNAN A. JOPSON, SCARLET A. JOPSON, and TERESA A. JOPSON,petitioners-in-intervention. DECISION PANGANIBAN, J: Petitioner asks this Court to define the nature and the extent of the people‟s constitutional right to information on matters of public concern. Does this right include access to the terms of government negotiations priorto their consummation or conclusion? May the government, through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), be required to reveal the proposed terms of a compromise agreement with the Marcos heirs as regards their alleged ill-gotten wealth? More specifically, are the “General Agreement” and “Supplemental Agreement,” both dated December 28, 1993 and executed between the PCGG and the Marcos heirs, valid and binding?

The Case These are the main questions raised in this original action seeking (1) to prohibit and “[e]njoin 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 x x x relating to and concerning the properties and assets of Ferdinand Marcos located in the Philippines and/or abroad -- including the so-called Marcos gold hoard”; and (2) to “[c]ompel 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.”[1]

The Facts Petitioner Francisco I. Chavez, as “taxpayer, citizen and former government official who 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,” alleges 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, invoking his constitutional right to information[3] and the correlative duty of the state to disclose publicly all its transactions involving the national interest,[4] 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

Ramos.and -Estate of Ferdinand E. and Irene Marcos Araneta. Jr. They claim. by and between The Republic of the Philippines. Ferdinand E. do not deny forging a compromise agreement with the Marcos heirs. 0165. and their desire to set up a foundation and finance impact projects like installation of power plants in selected rural areas and initiation of other community projects for the empowerment of the people.. in his May 4. hereinafter collectively referred to as the PRIVATE PARTY. particularly the collation and submission of an inventory of their assets.. represented by its Chairman referred to as the FIRST PARTY. “The Full Powers of Attorney of March 1994 and July 4. And even if he has. Metro Manila. and would have disapproved them had they been submitted to me. Metro Manila. 1993. in which the Sandiganbayan dismissed a similar petition filed by the Marcoses‟ attorney-in-fact. Furthermore. 2 and 14. Hence. Respondents. Jr. which I reserve for myself as President of the Republic of the Philippines. all of legal age.” The assailed principal Agreement[6] reads: “GENERAL AGREEMENT KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS: This Agreement entered into this 28th day of December.. entitled Republic v. that petitioner‟s action is premature. 1. Heirs of Ferdinand E. represented by Imelda Romualdez Marcos and Ferdinand R. though. pursuant to Item No. 8 of the General Agreement. since the proposed terms and conditions of the Agreements have not become effective and binding. Marcos. the people in general have a right to know the transactions or deals being contrived and effected by the government. Marcos. and with address at c/o No. W I T N E S S E T H: WHEREAS. The Republic also cited an April 11. Marcos.national interest of the Filipino people. and that the Republic opposed such move on the principal grounds that (1) said Agreements have not been ratified by or even submitted to the President for approval. 1994. Pasig. and Imelda Romualdez Marcos. with offices at the Philcomcen Building. on the other hand. 154 Lopez Rizal St. Mandaluyong. . the PRIVATE PARTY has been impelled by their sense of nationalism and love of country and of the entire Filipino people. did not authorize you to approve said Agreements. -. PCGG may not yet be compelled to make any disclosure. because there is no showing that he has asked the PCGG to disclose the negotiations and the Agreements. 1995 Resolution in Civil Case No. a governmental agency vested with authority defined under Executive Orders Nos. categorically stated: “This is to reiterate my previous position embodied in the Palace Press Release of 6 April 1995 that I have not authorized you to approve the Compromise Agreements of December 28. Imee Marcos Manotoc. then President Fidel V. 141. Marcos. and (2) the Marcos heirs have failed to comply with their undertakings therein. through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). 1998 Memorandum [5] to then PCGG Chairman Magtanggol Gunigundo. Respondents further aver that the Marcos heirs have submitted the subject Agreements to the Sandiganbayan for its approval in Civil Case No. 1993 or any agreement at all with the Marcoses.

nominees. this Agreement settles all claims and counterclaims which the parties may have against one another. The list shall be based on the full disclosure of the PRIVATE PARTY to insure its accuracy. Ramos. and/or any other account. 2. (f) precious metals. safekeepers.WHEREAS. and which shall be assigned to/retained by the PRIVATE PARTY. 1990. WHEREAS. NOW. or future. administrators. (e) funds on deposit. President Fidel V. For this purpose. (d) securities. the parties agree as follows: 1. The assets of the PRIVATE PARTY shall be net of. over which the PRIVATE PARTY waives any right. as proven by the past 7 years. custodians. and other urgent needs. WHEREAS. or held by other parties for the benefit of. 4. for and in consideration of the mutual covenants set forth herein. that the $356 million belongs in principle to the Republic of the Philippines provided certain conditionalities are met. nominees. However. The parties will collate all assets presumed to be owned by. but even after 7 years. but shall be valid and binding against said PARTY for use by the FIRST PARTY in withdrawing any account and/or recovering any asset. present. (c) paintings and other works of art. The trustees. whether past. the FIRST PARTY has obtained a judgment from the Swiss Federal Tribunal of December 21. Foreign assets which the PRIVATE PARTY shall fully disclose but which are held by trustees. agents or foundations are hereby waived over by the PRIVATE PARTY in favor of the FIRST PARTY. any withdrawal or release of any account aforementioned by the FIRST PARTY shall be made in the presence of any authorized representative of the PRIVATE PARTY. and (g) miscellaneous assets or assets which could not appropriately fall under any of the preceding classification. His Excellency. considering the unavailability of all pertinent and relevant documents and information as to balances and ownership. the FIRST PARTY has not been able to procure a final judgment of conviction against the PRIVATE PARTY. tax or administrative case. interest or participation in favor of the FIRST PARTY. the parties shall cooperate in taking the appropriate action. if any. the PRIVATE PARTY for purposes of determining the totality of the assets covered by the settlement. lawyers. However. the actual specification of assets to be retained by the PRIVATE PARTY shall be covered by supplemental agreements which shall form part of this Agreement. THEREFORE. (b) jewelry. depositaries. any form of taxes due the Republic of the Philippines. to recover the same for the FIRST PARTY. The subject assets shall be classified by the nature thereof. time and effort. All disclosures of assets made by the PRIVATE PARTY shall not be used as evidence by the FIRST PARTY in any criminal. and is counter-productive and ties up assets which the FIRST PARTY could otherwise utilize for its Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. namely: (a) real estate. matured or inchoate. Based on the inventory. 5. the FIRST PARTY is desirous of avoiding a long-drawn out litigation which. 3. and exempt from. civil. The PRIVATE PARTY withdraws any objection to the withdrawal by and/or release to the FIRST PARTY by the Swiss banks and/or Swiss authorities of the $356 million. or any other party acting in similar capacity in behalf of the PRIVATE PARTY are hereby informed through this General Agreement to insure that it is fully implemented and this shall serve as absolute authority from both parties for full disclosure to the FIRST PARTY of said assets and for . judicial and/or extrajudicial. has adopted a policy of unity and reconciliation in order to bind the nation‟s wounds and start the process of rebuilding this nation as it goes on to the twenty-first century. its accrued interests. is consuming money. agents. WHEREAS. the FIRST PARTY shall determine which shall be ceded to the FIRST PARTY.

waives any right thereto. Simeon M. JR.the FIRST PARTY to withdraw said account and/or assets and any other assets which the FIRST PARTY on its own or through the help of the PRIVATE PARTY/their trustees.] MA. MARCOS. GUNIGUNDO Chairman ESTATE OF FERDINAND E. and inure to the benefit of. 7. For purposes of this Agreement. 6. MARCOS.. the PRIVATE PARTY shall provide the FIRST PARTY assistance by way of testimony or deposition on any information it may have that could shed light on the cases being pursued by the FIRST PARTY against other parties.. the PRIVATE PARTY shall be represented by Atty. MARCOS. successors and assigns and shall supersede any other prior agreement. may discover. MA. 4 above. MARCOS. IMELDA R. PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON GOOD GOVERNMENT By: [Sgd. as their only Attorney-in-Fact. IN WITNESS WHEREOF. IMELDA MARCOS-MANOTOC FERDINAND R. JR. and the PRIVATE PARTY in accordance with No. Metro Manila.]IMELDA ROMUALDEZ-MARCOS [Sgd. The FIRST PARTY shall desist from instituting new suits already subject of this Agreement against the PRIVATE PARTY and cause the dismissal of all other cases pending in the Sandiganbayan and in other courts. the PARTIES shall be restored automatically to the status quo ante the signing of this Agreement.. IMELDA MARCOS-MANOTOC. FERDINAND R. in Makati. & IRENE MARCOS-ARANETA By: [Sgd. Jr. 9. The PARTIES shall submit this and any other implementing Agreements to the President of the Philippines for approval. the parties and their respective legal representatives. 8.] IRENE MARCOS-ARANETA Assisted by: . the parties have signed this instrument this 28th day of December. In case of violation by the PRIVATE PARTY of any of the conditions herein contained. Any asset which may be discovered in the future as belonging to the PRIVATE PARTY or is being held by another for the benefit of the PRIVATE PARTY and which is not included in the list per No.[7] [Sgd. This Agreement shall be binding on. etc. In the same manner.] MAGTANGGOL C. 1 for whatever reason shall automatically belong to the FIRST PARTY. Mesina. 1993.

In consideration of the foregoing. Imee Marcos Manotoc. IN WITNESS WHEREOF. represented by Imelda Romualdez Marcos and Ferdinand R. Ferdinand E. Metro Manila.. PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON GOOD GOVERNMENT By: [Sgd..] MAGTANGGOL C. Metro Manila.] ATTY. through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). 1993. agents‟ fees. JR. the parties have signed this instrument this 28th day of December. GUNIGUNDO Chairman ESTATE OF FERDINAND E. FERDINAND R. W I T N E S S E T H: The parties in this case entered into a General Agreement dated Dec. all of legal age. Pasig.and -Estate of Ferdinand E. MARCOS. and Imelda Romualdez Marcos. hereinafter collectively referred to as the PRIVATE PARTY. IMELDA R.[Sgd. the parties hereby agree that the PRIVATE PARTY shall be entitled to the equivalent of 25% of the amount that may be eventually withdrawn from said $356 million Swiss deposits. Mandaluyong. -. and Irene Marcos Araneta. SIMEON M. Counsel & Attorney-in-Fact” Petitioner also denounces this supplement to the above Agreement: [8] “SUPPLEMENTAL AGREEMENT This Agreement entered into this 28th day of December. MA. nominees‟ service fees.. The parties hereby agree that all expenses related to the recovery and/or withdrawal of all assets including lawyers‟ fees. in Makati. IMELDA MARCOS-MANOTOC. Marcos. Jr. 28. JR. 154 Lopez Rizal St. Gunigundo. a governmental agency vested with authority defined under Executive Orders Nos. Jr. Marcos. 1. hereinafter referred to as the FIRST PARTY.] IMELDA ROMUALDEZ-MARCOS .. represented by its Chairman Magtanggol C. bank charges. MARCOS. 1993. traveling expenses and all other expenses related thereto shall be for the account of the PRIVATE PARTY. by and between -The Republic of the Philippines. MESINA. MARCOS. & IRENE MARCOS-ARANETA By: [Sgd. 1993. and with address at c/o No. Metro Manila. Marcos. with offices at the Philcomcen Building. The PRIVATE PARTY expressly reserve their right to pursue their interest and/or sue over local assets located in the Philippines against parties other than the FIRST PARTY. 2 and 14.

Celnan. 92-15526. Counsel & Attorney-in-Fact” Acting on a motion of petitioner. attaching thereto their Petition in Intervention. The September 25. IMELDA MARCOS-MANOTOC FERDINAND R.” Issues The Oral Argument. Human Rights Litigation. the Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order[10] dated March 23. enjoining respondents. perfected or not. 1997.. U. (b) Substantive: (1) Whether or not this Court could require the PCGG to disclose to the public the details of any agreement. they claim to have personal and direct interest in the subject matter of the instant case. MESINA. Gloria.[13] The Court’s Ruling . 1998. On August 19. the parties filed their respective memoranda. They aver that they are “among the 10.S.] MA. MARCOS. Marcos relating to and concerning their illgotten wealth. 1994 and the Decision of the Swiss Supreme Court of December 10. SIMEON M. with the Marcoses. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit US App. JR. and (2) Whether or not this Court is the proper court before which this action may be filed. JR. 1998 Comment[12] of the solicitor general on said motion merely reiterated his aforecited arguments against the main petition. held on March 16.000 claimants whose right to claim from the Marcos Family and/or the Marcos Estate is recognized by the decision in In re Estate of Ferdinand Marcos. 1998. Scarlet and Teresa. focused on the following issues: “(a) Procedural: (1) Whether or not the petitioner has the personality or legal standing to file the instant petition.”[11] After their oral presentations. and (2) Whether or not there exist any legal restraints against a compromise agreement between the Marcoses and the PCGG relative to the Marcoses‟ ill-gotten wealth. the Court granted their motion to intervene and required the respondents to comment thereon.” As such.] ATTY. Lexis 14796. since a distribution or disposition of the Marcos properties may adversely affect their legitimate claims. In a minute Resolution issued on August 24. 1998.[9] [Sgd. et al. Maximo Hilao.] IRENE MARCOS-ARANETA Assisted by: [Sgd. their agents and/or representatives from “entering into. Class Plaintiffs No. filed before the Court a Motion for Intervention. all surnamed Jopson. or perfecting and/ or executing any agreement with the heirs of the late President Ferdinand E. 1998. June 16.[Sgd.

On the other hand. the requirement of personal interest is satisfied by the mere fact that petitioner is a citizen and. Respondents further insist that the instant petition is premature.” and if they “immeasurably affect the social. he need not show that he has any legal or special interest in the result of the action.” He asserts that ordinary taxpayers have a right to initiate and prosecute actions questioning the validity of acts or orders of government agencies or instrumentalities. Tuvera. if the issues raised are “of paramount public interest. the Commission has refused to do so. when the subject of the case involved public interest. as a consequence.” any compromise in relation to it would constitute a diminution of the public funds.” Legaspi v. when the proceeding involves the assertion of a public right. He submits that since ill-gotten wealth “belongs to the Filipino people and [is]. which can be enjoined by a taxpayer whose interest is for a full.”[21] Further. on the one hand.” Moreover. and moral well-being of the people. further declared that “when a mandamus proceeding involves the assertion of a public right. or that. the disclosure provision in the Constitution would constitute sufficient authority for upholding the petitioner‟s standing. the matter of recovering the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses is an issue “of transcendental importance to the public. Civil Service Commission. because no expenditure of public funds is involved and said petitioner has no actual interest in the alleged agreement. petitioner emphasizes. the petitioners sought to enforce their right to be informed on matters of public concern. contends that petitioner has no standing to institute the present action. the people are regarded as the real parties in interest.[19] in connection with the rule that laws in order to be valid and enforceable must be published in the Official Gazette or otherwise effectively promulgated. First Procedural Issue: Petitioner’s Standing Petitioner. therefore. Reyes. if not substantial. part of the general „public‟ which possesses the right. Article IV of the 1973 Constitution. the arguments cited by petitioner constitute the controlling decisional rule as regards his legal standing to institute the instant petition.[14] such as in this case. the mere fact that he is a citizen satisfies the requirement of personal interest. part of the public treasury. recovery of such assets. In ruling for the petitioners‟ legal standing.” We concluded that. He invokes several decisions[15] of this Court which have set aside the procedural matter of locus standi. in truth and in fact. he has the legal personality to file the instant petition. Access to public documents and records is a public right. if he has.[22] we said that while expenditure of public funds may not have been involved under the questioned contract for the development. and because it is sufficient that petitioner is a citizen and as such is interested in the execution of the laws. and the real parties in interest are the people themselves. on behalf of respondents.[17] the Court asserted that when the issue concerns a public right and the object of mandamus is to obtain the enforcement of a public duty. explains that as a taxpayer and citizen. economic.The petition is imbued with merit.[18] In the aforesaid case. a right then recognized in Section 6. since there is no showing that petitioner has requested PCGG to disclose any such negotiations and agreements.[20] while reiterating Tañada. Besides. “public interest [was] definitely involved considering the important role [of the subject contract] x x x in the economic development of the country and the magnitude of the financial consideration involved. Indeed. in Albano v. the Court declared that the right they sought to be enforced “is a public right recognized by no less than the fundamental law of the land. .[16] In Tañada v. the solicitor general. the management and the operation of the Manila International Container Terminal.

its having been filed before this Court was proper. we rule that the petition at bar should be allowed. through respondents. petitioner is here seeking the public disclosure of “all negotiations and agreement. Perfected or Not . Petitioner. the question on the standing of Petitioner Chavez is rendered moot by the intervention of the Jopsons. is a Filipino citizen. Such opposition belies petitioner‟s claim that the government. this petition is premature. However. 0141. prohibition. Section 5. which confers upon the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over petitions for prohibition and mandamus. 0141. thus. for the approval of the subject Agreements. in terms of scope. quo warranto and habeas corpus.[23] Further. 0141. The solicitor general. has concluded a settlement with the Marcoses as regards their alleged ill-gotten assets. on the other hand. Indeed. Article VIII of the Constitution. particularly in Civil Case No. respondents themselves have opposed the Marcos heirs‟ motion. There may seem to be some merit in such argument. which has yet to dispose of the issue. documents and papers -. Because of the satisfaction of the two basic requisites laid down by decisional law to sustain petitioner‟s legal standing. Furthermore. if petitioner is merely seeking to enjoin the enforcement of the compromise and/or to compel the PCGG to disclose to the public the terms contained in said Agreements. In any event. (1) the enforcement of a public right (2) espoused by a Filipino citizen. Ineluctably.e. the instant petition is anchored on the right of the people to information and access to official records. He invokes Section 5. in which the enforcement of the compromise Agreements is pending resolution.” This broad and prospective relief sought by the instant petition brings it out of the realm of Civil Case No. In Tañada and Legaspi. seeking to enforce a public right as well as to compel performance of a public duty mandated by no less than the fundamental law. we upheld therein petitioners‟ resort to a mandamus proceeding. this petition is not confined to the Agreements that have already been drawn. Respondents argue that petitioner should have properly sought relief before the Sandiganbayan. who are among the legitimate claimants to the Marcos wealth. argues that the petition has been erroneously brought before this Court. He alleges that the assailed agreements are already the very lis mota in Sandiganbayan Civil Case No. said petitioners-intervenors have a legal interest in the subject matter of the instant case. since a distribution or disposition of the Marcoses‟ ill -gotten properties may adversely affect the satisfaction of their claims. i. Second Procedural Issue:The Court’s Jurisdiction Petitioner asserts that because this petition is an original action for mandamus and one that is not intended to delay any proceeding in the Sandiganbayan. expressly confers upon the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over petitions for certiorari. but likewise to any other ongoing or future undertaking towards any settlement on the alleged Marcos loot. The standing of the Jopsons is not seriously contested by the solicitor general. First Substantive Issue: Public Disclosure of Terms of Any Agreement. be they ongoing or perfected.a right guaranteed under Section 7. the core issue boils down to the precise interpretation. filed in the graft court. mandamus. Article III of the 1987 Constitution.” In other words. Article VIII of the Constitution. since there is neither a justiciable controversy nor a violation of petitioner‟s rights by the PCGG. of the twin constitutional provisions on “public transactions.Similarly. a former solicitor general. and documents related to or relating to such negotiations and agreement between the PCGG and the Marcos heirs.

” Likewise. and the Marcos heirs have failed to fulfill their express undertaking therein. the privilege may not be invoked to withhold documents and other information. or decisions. diplomatic and other national security matters. this jurisdiction recognizes the common law holding that there is a governmental privilege against public disclosure with respect to state secrets regarding military. 7 [Article III]. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law. the Agreements have not become effective. and to documents.In seeking the public disclosure of negotiations and agreements pertaining to a compromise settlement with the Marcoses as regards their alleged ill-gotten wealth. Limitations to the Right: (1) National Security Matters At the very least. the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest. there is yet no right of action that has accrued. Respondents add that they are not aware of any ongoing negotiation for another compromise with the Marcoses regarding their alleged ill-gotten assets. As regards the assailed Agreements entered into by the PCGG with the Marcoses. Efforts at effective law enforcement would be seriously jeopardized by free public access to. The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. There are no specific laws prescribing the exact limitations within which the right may be exercised or the correlative state duty may be obliged. shall be afforded the citizen. Thus. information on inter-government exchanges prior to the conclusion of treaties and executive agreements may be subject to reasonable safeguards for the sake of national interest. . detention and prosecution. the following are some of the recognized restrictions: (1) national security matters and intelligence information.[30] which courts may not inquire into prior to such arrest.[24] But where there is no need to protect such state secrets. aside from national security matters and intelligence information. (3) criminal matters. subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.” Respondents‟ opposite view is that the above constitutional provisions refer to completed and operative official acts.” “Sec.[26] (2) Trade Secrets and Banking Transactions The drafters of the Constitution also unequivocally affirmed that. as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development.[29] (3) Criminal Matters Also excluded are classified law enforcement matters. the prosecution and the detention of criminals. petitioner invokes the following provisions of the Constitution: “Sec. because said Agreements have not been approved by the President. However. and (4) other confidential information. transactions. 28 [Article II]. The “information” and the “transactions” referred to in the subject provisions of the Constitution have as yet no defined scope and extent.[25] provided that they are examined “in strict confidence” and given “scrupulous protection. 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. and papers pertaining to official acts. Access to official records. not to those still being considered. such as those relating to the apprehension. (2) trade secrets and banking transactions.

the records pertaining to such official acts and decisions are within the ambit of the constitutional right of access to public records. either because these directly affect their lives.for example.” access to which may be limited by law. the whereabouts of fugitives.” In particular. police information regarding rescue operations.[33] Scope: Matters of Public Concern and Transactions Involving Public Interest In Valmonte v. as it relates to or affects the public. at reasonable hours. faithfully and competently performing their functions as public . [and] ensure openness of information.” the Court.[36] the Court also held that official acts of public officers done in pursuit of their official functions are public in character. as held in Tañada.[34] the Court emphasized that the information sought must be “matters of public concern.” except when “otherwise provided by law or when required by the public interest. hence. Belmonte Jr. Morato. it is for the courts to determine on a case by case basis whether the matter at issue is of interest or importance. or leads on covert criminal activities. 6713. „Public concern‟ like „public interest‟ is a term that eludes exact definition. or simply because such matters naturally arouse the interest of an ordinary citizen. Under Republic Act No. Civil Service Commission. 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. (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.[35] elucidated: “In determining whether or not a particular information is of public concern there is no rigid test which can be applied. and the statements of assets. This principle is aimed at affording the people an opportunity to determine whether those to whom they have entrusted the affairs of the government are honestly.[37] In general. to the annual performance reports of offices and agencies of government and government-owned or controlled corporations.” As to the meanings of the terms “public interest” and “public concern. public consultations and hearings whenever appropriate x x x. Both terms embrace a broad spectrum of subjects which the public may want to know.” Considered a public concern in the above-mentioned case was the “legitimate concern of citizens to ensure that government positions requiring civil service eligibility are occupied only by persons who are eligibles. liabilities and financial disclosures of all public officials and employees. Similarly.”[32] Other acknowledged limitations to information access include diplomatic correspondence. In Aquino-Sarmiento v. as well as the internal deliberations of the Supreme Court. in Legaspi v. closed door Cabinet meetings and executive sessions of either house of Congress. In the final analysis.. the law mandates free public access. writings coming into the hands of public officers in connection with their official functions must be accessible to the public. Likewise did the “public nature of the loanable funds of the GSIS and the public office held by the alleged borrowers (members of the defunct Batasang Pambansa)” qualify the information sought in Valmonte as matters of public interest and concern. consistent with the policy of transparency of governmental affairs. public officials and employees are mandated to “provide information on their policies and procedures in clear and understandable language.” So was the need to give the general public adequate notification of various laws that regulate and affect the actions and conduct of citizens.

be able to criticize as well as participate in the affairs of the government in a responsible. the new government headed by President Corazon C. promulgated on February 28.[38]Undeniably. 14) was issued giving additional powers to the PCGG which. Access to Information on Negotiating Terms . there is no doubt that the recovery of the Marcoses‟ alleged ill-gotten wealth is a matter of public concern and imbued with public interest. Upon the departure from the country of the Marcos family and their cronies in February 1986. relatives and close associates through or as a result of their improper or illegal use of government funds or properties. 1. Executive Order No. Certainly. thus. Another declared overriding consideration for the expeditious recovery of ill-gotten wealth is that it may be used for national economic recovery. We believe the foregoing disquisition settles the question of whether petitioner has a right to respondents‟ disclosure of any agreement that may be arrived at concerning the Marcoses‟ purported ill-gotten wealth. influences or relationships. 2. With such pronouncements of our government. or their use of powers.servants. transferring or dissipating them or from otherwise frustrating or obstructing the recovery efforts of the government. “ill-gotten wealth” refers to assets and properties purportedly acquired.” Clearly. To all intents and purposes. required it to achieve expeditiously and effectively its vital task of recovering ill-gotten wealth.[40] The Nature of the Marcoses’ Alleged Ill-Gotten Wealth We now come to the immediate matter under consideration. or their having taken undue advantage of their public office. the assets and properties referred to supposedly originated from the government itself. by former President Marcos. therefore. another directive (EO No. under pain of penalties prescribed by law. only two (2) days after the Marcoses fled the country. Based on the aforementioned Executive Orders. upon reconveyance they will be returned to the public treasury. subject only to the satisfaction of positive claims of certain persons as may be adjudged by competent courts. they belong to the people. whose authority emanates from the people.[42] We may also add that “ill-gotten wealth. his immediate family. assumes a public character. President Aquino‟s very first executive orders (which partook of the nature of legislative enactments) dealt with the recovery of these alleged ill-gotten properties. 1986. On May 7. prohibited from concealing. directly or indirectly. Aquino was specifically mandated to “[r]ecover ill-gotten properties amassed by the leaders and supporters of the previous regime and [to] protect the interest of the people through orders of sequestration or freezing of assets or accounts. reasonable and effective manner. 1986. it is by ensuring an unfettered and uninhibited exchange of ideas among a wellinformed public that a government remains responsive to the changes desired by the people. As such.”[41] Thus. the essence of democracy lies in the free flow of thought.” by its very nature. Under Executive Order No.[39] but thoughts and ideas must be well-informed so that the public would gain a better perspective of vital issues confronting them and. his immediate family. issued twelve (12) days later. “resulting in their unjust enrichment and causing grave damage and prejudice to the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines. taking into account the overriding considerations of national interest and national survival. created the PCGG which was primarily tasked to assist the President in the recovery of vast government resources allegedly amassed by former President Marcos. relatives and close associates both here and abroad. all persons and entities who had knowledge or possession of ill-gotten assets and properties were warned and.

Prohibited Compromises In general. not necessarily to intra-agency or inter-agency recommendations or communications[44] during the stage when common assertions are still in the process of being formulated or are in the “exploratory” stage. violence. of course. I suppose. (3) any ground for legal separation. fraud.[46] A compromise is binding and has the force of law between the parties. as well as other government representatives. In the latter instances. the law encourages compromises in civil cases. Mr. intimidation or undue influence -. though. morals. (5) the jurisdiction of courts. is generic and. intelligence and other classified information. and (6) future legitime. OPLE. (4) future support. good customs. 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. “MR. as discussed earlier -. provided the agreement does not violate any law. or treaties or whatever.[45] And like any other contract. Yes.such as by mistake. we believe that it is incumbent upon the PCGG and its officers. Such information. There is a need. Presiding Officer. agreements.such as on matters involving national security. (2) the validity of a marriage or a legal separation. except with regard to the following matters: (1) the civil status of persons. or if the terms of the settlement are so palpably unconscionable. does the Gentleman refer to the steps leading to the consummation of the contract. SUAREZ. as well as an unwarranted permission to commit graft and corruption. subject to reasonable safeguards on the national interest. This contemplates inclusion of negotiations leading to the consummation of the transaction? “MR.[48] Effect of Compromise on Civil Actions . to observe the same restrictions on disclosure of information in general.[47] unless the consent of a party is vitiated -. which we quote hereunder:[43] “MR. the agreement may be invalidated by the courts. And when we say „transactions‟ which should be distinguished from contracts. SUAREZ. Respondents. The „transactions‟ used here. Second Substantive Issue: Legal Restraints on a Marcos-PCGG Compromise Petitioner lastly contends that any compromise agreement between the government and the Marcoses will be a virtual condonation of all the alleged wrongs done by them.But does the constitutional provision likewise 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. and already a consummated contract. the terms and conditions of a compromise must not be contrary to law. assert that there is no legal restraint on entering into a compromise with the Marcos heirs.” Considering the intent of the framers of the Constitution. diplomatic or foreign relations. it can cover both steps leading to a contract. must pertain to definite propositions of the government. therefore.or when there is forgery. OPLE. public policy or public order. or does he refer to the contract itself? “MR. for their part.

[49] In fact. defendant or accused. Thus. Marcos [--] to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines[. Sandiganbayan. the grant of criminal immunity to the Camposes and the Benedictos was limited to acts and omissions prior to February 25. Immunity from Criminal Prosecution However.[54] which ruled in favor of the validity of the PCGG compromise agreement with Roberto S. there is no similar general sanction as regards criminal liability. no criminal cases have yet been filed against them before the competent courts. 14. 14. particularly the just and expeditious recovery of ill-gotten wealth. Campos and family. which provides: “SECTION 5.[50] As an incentive. a court may mitigate damages to be paid by a losing party who shows a sincere desire to compromise. defendant or accused acquired or accumulated ill-gotten property. the Court held that in the absence of an express prohibition. The immunity thereby granted shall be continued to protect the witness who repeats such testimony before the Sandiganbayan when required to do so by the latter or by the Commission. Benedicto. Campos. defendant or accused has acquired or accumulated the property or properties in question in any case where such information or testimony is necessary to ascertain or prove the latter‟s guilt or his civil liability. The Presidential Commission on Good Government is authorized to grant immunity from criminal prosecution to any person who provides information or testifies in any investigation conducted by such Commission to establish the unlawful manner in which any respondent.] and his commitment to pay a sum of money as determined by the Philippine Government.” The above provision specifies that the PCGG may exercise such authority under these conditions: (1) the person to whom criminal immunity is granted provides information or testifies in an investigation conducted by the Commission.] his full. The authority must be specifically conferred.”[56] Moreover. Benedicto. the law urges courts to persuade the parties in a civil case to agree to a fair settlement. Board of Administrators of Television Stations RPN.[51] In Republic & Campos Jr. not the principal respondent. Validity of the PCGG-Marcos Compromise Agreements . as amended by EO No. and usually its primary object. it can be easily deduced that the person referred to is a witness in the proceeding. At the time such immunity was granted. his vo luntary surrender of the properties and assets [--] disclosed and declared by him to belong to deposed President Ferdinand E. so that it may be used to hasten economic recovery.[52] which affirmed the grant by the PCGG of civil and criminal immunity to Jose Y. in the case of Jose Y. 14-A. Such principle is pursuant to the objectives of EO No. the rule on compromises in civil actions under the Civil Code is applicable to PCGG cases.[55] While a compromise in civil suits is expressly authorized by law. Campos [with] this Commission. From the wording of the law. In the present case. (2) the information or testimony pertains to the unlawful manner in which the respondent. the power to grant criminal immunity was conferred on PCGG by Section 5 of EO No. any compromise relating to the civil liability arising from an offense does not automatically terminate the criminal proceeding against or extinguish the criminal liability of the malefactor. and (3) such information or testimony is necessary to ascertain or prove guilt or civil liability of such individual. BBC and IBC[53] and Republic v. 1996. Jose Y.One of the consequences of a compromise. the grant of both civil and criminal immunity to him and his family was “[i]n consideration of the full cooperation of Mr. is to avoid or to end a litigation. v. complete and truthful disclosures[. The same principle was upheld in Benedicto v.

the matter of its dismissal or pursuance lies within the full discretion and control of the judge. a cursory perusal thereof reveals serious legal flaws. Any special grant of tax exemption in favor only of the Marcos heirs will constitute class legislation. particularly in regard to criminal jurisdiction. part of which they will be allowed to retain. neither requisite is present in the case of the Marcoses.[62] Third. While the General Agreement states that the Marcoses “shall provide the [government] assistance by way of testimony or deposition on any information [they] may have that could shed light on the cases being pursued by the [government] against other parties. is not lost despite a resolution. including the matter of whom to present as witnesses. The power to tax and to grant tax exemptions is vested in the Congress and.[63] This is a direct encroachment on judicial powers. even under the cover of its authority to compromise ill-gotten wealth cases. 2 of the General Agreement. the government binds itself to cause the dismissal of all cases against the Marcos heirs. We believe that criminal immunity under Section 5 cannot be granted to the Marcoses. may lie within the sound discretion of the government prosecutor. It will also violate the constitutional rule that “taxation shall be uniform and equitable.[65] The prosecution‟s motion to withdraw or to dismiss is not the least binding upon the court. Well-settled is the doctrine that once a case has been filed before a court of competent jurisdiction. based on the evidence proffered. pending before the Sandiganbayan and other courts. There is no indication whatsoever that any of the Marcos heirs has indeed provided vital information against any respondent or defendant as to the manner in which the latter may have unlawfully acquired public property. the Agreements do not conform to the above requirements of EO Nos. once acquired by the trial court. in the local legislative bodies. defendant or accused in an ill-gotten wealth case. As stated earlier. Nor can the PCGG grant of tax exemption fall within the power of the commissioner to abate or cancel a tax liability. or (2) the administration and collection costs involved do not justify the collection of the tax due.” The PCGG has absolutely no power to grant tax exemptions. because granting such motion is equivalent to effecting a disposition of the case itself. to withdraw the information or to dismiss the complaint. Even granting that Congress enacts a law exempting the Marcoses from paying taxes on their properties. because under the Agreement they are effectively conceding the validity of the claims against their properties.[66] Thus. This power can be exercised only when (1) the tax appears to be unjustly or excessively assessed.[64] but the court decides. the PCGG. such law will definitely not pass the test of the equal protection clause under the Bill of Rights. to a certain extent. decisional rules require the trial court to make its own evaluation of the merits of the case. the PCGG commits to exempt from all forms of taxes the properties to be retained by the Marcos heirs. In any event. . Such authority may be exercised only when (1) there is reasonable doubt as to the validity of the claim against the taxpayer. First. This is a clear violation of the Constitution. even by the justice secretary. On the contrary. for which legal actions have been filed in court or in which fraud is involved.”[59] Neither can the stipulation be construed to fall within the power of the commissioner of internal revenue to compromise taxes. Its inclusion in the Agreement may have been only an afterthought.Going now to the subject General and Supplemental Agreements between the PCGG and the Marcos heirs.”[57] the clause does not fully comply with the law. Article VI of the Constitution.[61] In this instance.[60] Definitely. for said dismissal is not within its sole power and discretion. specifically provides: “No law granting any tax exemption shall be passed without the concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress. the provision is applicable mainly to witnesses who provide information or testify against a respondent. as the government prosecutor of ill-gotten wealth cases. under Item No. 14 and 14-A. the cancellation of tax liability is done even before the determination of the amount due. as amended.[58] Section 28 (4). In a criminal case. cannot guarantee the dismissal of all such criminal cases against the Marcoses pending in the courts. 14. criminal violations of the Tax Code. Jurisdiction. Second. cannot be compromised. in what manner it will dispose of the case. and (2) the taxpayer‟s financial position demonstrates a clear inability to pay. who are the principal defendants in the spate of ill-gotten wealth cases now pending before the Sandiganbayan. the manner in which the prosecution is handled. conceived in pro forma compliance with Section 5 of EO No.

in violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. or future. the Agreements would still not be valid. this all-encompassing stipulation is contrary to law. No pronouncement as to costs. It may take a lifetime before the Marcoses submit an inventory of their total assets.Fourth. matured or inchoate. Fifth. Finally. it is crystal clear to the Court that the General and Supplemental Agreements. concur. [68] The stipulation in the Agreement does not specify the exact scope of future claims against the Marcoses that the government thereby relinquishes. 1993. Under the Civil Code. which PCGG and the Marcos heirs entered into are hereby declared NULL AND VOID for being contrary to law and the Constitution. anywhere in the Agreements.” against the Marcoses. “whether past. both dated December 28. 1993.. No similar splitting scheme is defined with respect to the other properties. renders the compromise incomplete and unenforceable. as well as the final agreement. in accordance with the discussions embodied in this Decision. Sixth. the Agreements do not state with specificity the standards for determining which assets shall be forfeited by the government and which shall be retained by the Marcoses. and Quisumbing JJ. (Chairman). as detailed above. the government also waives all claims and counterclaims. the absence of then President Ramos‟ approval of the principal Agreement. its officers and all government functionaries and officials who are or may be directly or 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 settlement. are violative of the Constitution and the laws aforementioned. It is a virtual warrant for public officials to amass public funds illegally. such sharing arrangement pertains only to the said deposits. C. Melo. the petition is GRANTED. relating to such alleged ill-gotten wealth. Public officers entering into an arrangement appearing to be manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government. an express condition therein. SO ORDERED. since there is an open option to compromise their liability in exchange for only a portion of their ill-gotten wealth. even if such approval were obtained. The General and Supplemental Agreements dated December 28. which the PCGG entered into with the Marcos heirs. From the foregoing disquisition. Vitug. a statement of the basis for the 25-75 percent sharing ratio. WHEREFORE. Nevertheless. an action for future fraud may not be waived. This is a palpable violation of the due process and equal protection guarantees of the Constitution. Neither is there. Respondent PCGG.[67] Again. It effectively ensconces the Marcoses beyond the reach of the law. please see separate opinion. the Agreements do not provide for a definite or determinable period within which the parties shall fulfill their respective prestations. It also sets a dangerous precedent for public accountability. Davide Jr.J. Such vague and broad statement may well be interpreted to include all future illegal acts of any of the Marcos heirs. J. practically giving them a license to perpetrate fraud against the government without any liability at all. present. .[69] invite their indictment for corruption under the said law.. While the Supplemental Agreement provides that the Marcoses shall be entitled to 25 per cent of the $356 million Swiss deposits (less government recovery expenses).