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1 In re: Laureta

Gonzales v. COMELEC
Petitioners assail the constitutionality of RA 4880 on the grounds that it
violates their rights such as freedom of speech, of assembly, to form
associations or societies. More so, they question the forms of election
campaigns enumerated in the act.
Facts:
1. Congress passed a statute (RA 4880) which was designed to
maintain the purity and integrity of the electoral process and
calling a halt to the undesirable practice of prolonged political
campaigns, bringing in their wake serious evils not the least of
which is the ever-increasing cost of seeking public office.
2. Cabigao was an incumbent council in the 4th district of Manila and
the official candidate of the Nacionalista Party for the position of
Vice Mayor. He was subsequently elected to that position.
Meanwhile, Gonzales is a private individual, a registered voter in
the City, and a political leader.
3. They claim that the enforcement of RA 4880 would prejudice their
basic rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and
right to form associations or societies for purposes not contrary to
law. Specifically, they challenge the validity of two new sections
included in the Revised Election Code under RA 4880 which was
approved and took effect on June 17, 1967. The said sections
prohibit the too early nomination of candidates and limit the period
of election campaign and political activity. More so, after defining
the terms candidates and election campaign/partisan political
activity, the acts which constitute election campaign were
specified, and that simple expression of opinion and thoughts
concerning the election was not to be considered as part of an
election campaign. This prohibition was furthered by a proviso
which provided that nothing stated in the Act shall be understood
to prevent any person from expressing his views on current
political problems or issues, or from mentioning the names of the
candidates for public office whom he supports.
4. The acts deemed included in the terms election campaign of
partisan political activity are: (a) forming organizations,
associations, clubs, committees or other groups of persons for the
purpose of soliciting votes and/or undertaking any campaign or
propaganda for or against a party or candidate; (b) holding political
conventions, caucuses, conferences, meetings, rallies, parades or
other similar assemblies for the purpose of soliciting votes and/or

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undertaking any campaign or propaganda for or against a


candidate; (c) making speeches, announcements or commentaries
or holding interviews for or against the election of any party or
candidate for public office; (d) publishing or distributing campaign
literature or materials; (e) directly or indirectly soliciting votes
and/or undertaking any campaign or propaganda for or against any
candidate or party; (f) giving, soliciting, or receiving contribution
for election campaign purposes, either directly or indirectly.
Ruling:
1.

2.

3.

The Court held that the challenged statute cannot be declared


unconstitutional on several grounds. First, it is premature to
challenge the statutes validity. Second, the required number of
votes was not met when the Court deliberated on the scope of
election campaigns or partisan political activities. Precisely, the
Court declared that RA 4880 could have been narrowly drawn and
practices prohibited be more precisely delineated to satisfy the
constitutional requirements as to a valid limitation under the clear
and present danger doctrine.
The primacy, the high estate accorded freedom of expression is a
fundamental postulate of our constitutional system. No law shall
be passed abridging the freedom of speech or of the press. What
does it embrace? At the very least, free speech and free press may
be identified with the liberty to discuss publicly and truthfully any
matter of public interest without censorship or punishment. There
is to be then to previous restraint on the communication of views
or subsequent liability whether in libel suits, prosecution for
sedition, or action for damages or contempt proceedings unless
there be a clear and present danger of substantive evil that
Congress has a right to prevent.
The vital need in a constitutional democracy for freedom of
expression is undeniable whether as a means of assuring individual
self-fulfillment, of attaining the truth, of securing participation by
the people in social including political decision-making, and of
maintaining the balance between stability and change. The trend
as reflected in Philippine and American decisions is to recognize
the broadest scope and assure the widest latitude to this
constitutional guaranty. It represents a profound commitment to
the principle that debate of public issue should be uninhibited,

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4.

5.

6.

7.
8.

9.

robust and wide-open. It is not going too far, according to another


American decision, to view the function of free speech as inviting
dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces
a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as
they are, or even stirs people to anger.
Freedom of speech and of the press thus means something more
than the right to approve existing political beliefs or economic
arrangements, to lend support to official measures, to take refuge
in the existing climate of opinion on any matter of public
consequence.
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.
The realities of life in a complex society preclude however a literal
interpretation. Freedom of expression is not an absolute. 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.
As for freedom of assembly, the Bill of Rights as thus noted
prohibits abridgment by law of freedom of speech or of the press.
The Bill of Rights likewise extends the same protection to the rights
of people peaceably to assemble. As pointed in US v. Bustos, this
right is a necessary consequence of our republican institution and
complements the right of free speech.
Assembly means a right on the part of citizens to meet peaceably
for consultation in respect to public affairs.
To paraphrase the opinion of Justice Rutledge, speaking for the
majority in Thomas v. Collins, it was not accident or coincidence
that the rights to freedom of speech and of the press were coupled
in a single guaranty with the rights of the people peaceably to
assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances.
All these rights, while not identical, are inseparable. They are
cognate rights and assurance afforded by the clause of this section
of the Bill of Rights, wherein they are contained, applies to all. As
in the case of freedom of expression, this right (right of people
peaceably to assemble) is not to be limited, much less denied,
except on a showing of a clear and present danger of a substantive
evil that Congress has a right to prevent.
Our Constitution likewise recognizes the freedom to form
association for purposes not contrary to law. With or without a

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10.

11.

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constitutional provision of this character, it may be assumed that


the freedom to organize or to be a member of any group or society
exists. With the explicit provision, whatever doubts there may be
on the matter are dispelled. Unlike the cases of other guarantees,
which are mostly American in origin, this particular freedom has an
indigenous cast and could be traced to the Malolos Constitution.
In a sense, however, the stress on this freedom of association
should be on its political significance. If such a right were nonexistent, then the likelihood of a one-party government is more
than a possibility. Authoritarianism may become unavoidable.
Political opposition will simply cease to exist; minority groups may
be outlawed, constitutional democracy as intended by the
Constitution may well become a thing of the past.
Nonetheless, the Constitution limits this particular freedom in the
sense that there could be an abridgment of the right to form
associations or societies when their purposes are contrary to law.
It is submitted that the phrase for purposes not contrary to law is
another way of expressing the clear and present danger rule for
unless an association or society could be shown to create an
imminent danger to public safety, there is no justification for
abridging the right to form associations or societies.
In considering whether Republic 4880 is violative of the rights of
free speech, free press, freedom of assembly and freedom of
association, the Court cannot ignore the legislative declaration
that its enactment was in response to a serious substantive evil
affecting the electoral process, not merely in danger of happening,
but actually in existence, and likely to continue unless curbed or
remedied. To asset otherwise would be to close ones eyes to the
realities of the situation. Nor can we ignore the express legislative
purpose apparent in the proviso that simple expressions of
opinion and thoughts concerning the elections shall not be
considered as part of an election campaign, and in the other
proviso that nothing herein stated shall be understood to prevent
any person from expressing his views on current political problems
or issues, or from mentioning the names of the candidates for
public office whom he supports. Such limitations qualify the
entire provision restricting the period of an election campaign or
partisan political activity.
According to the act, [i]t shall be unlawful for any political party,
political committee or political group to nominate candidates for

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15.

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any elective public office voted for at large earlier than 150 days
immediately preceding an election, and for any other elective
public office earlier than 90 days immediately preceding an
election. This provision affects the right of association. Political
parties have less freedom as to the time during which they
nominate candidates; the curtailment is not such, however, as to
render meaningless such a basic right. Their scope of legitimate
activities, save the above cited, is not unduly narrowed. Neither is
there such an infringement of their freedom to assemble. They
can do so, but not for such purpose. Thus, the Court sustained its
validity unanimously.
On the one hand, it cannot be denied that the limitations thus
imposed on the constitutional rights of free speech and press, of
assembly, and of associations cut deeply into their substance. On
the other, it cannot be denied either that evils, substantial in
character, taint the purity of the electoral process. The justification
alleged by the proponents of the measures weighs heavily with the
members of the Court, though in varying degrees, in the appraisal
of the aforesaid restrictions to which such precious freedoms are
subjected. They are not unaware of the clear and present danger
that calls for measures that may bear heavily on the exercise of
the cherished rights of expression, of assembly and of association.
The Court, with five justices unable to agree, is of the view that no
unconstitutional infringement exists insofar as the formation of
organizations, associations, clubs, committees, or other groups of
persons for the purpose of soliciting votes or undertaking any
campaign or propaganda or both for or against a candidate or
party is restricted and that the prohibition against giving, soliciting
or receiving contribution for election purposes, either directly or
indirectly, is equally free from constitutional infirmity.
The restriction on freedom of assembly as confined to holding
political conventions, caucuses, conferences, meetings, rallies,
parades or other similar assemblies for the purpose of soliciting
votes or undertaking any campaign or propaganda or both for or
against a candidate or party, leaving untouched all other legitimate
exercise of such poses a more difficult question. Nevertheless, the
Court rejected the contention that this should be annulled.
The other acts, likewise deemed included in election campaign or
partisan political activity tax, to the utmost, the judicial
predisposition to view with sympathy legislative efforts to regulate

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election practices deemed inimical because of their collision with


the preferred right of freedom of expression. From the outset, such
provisions did occasional divergence of views among the members
of the Court. Originally, only a minority was for their being
adjudged as invalid. It is not so any more. This is merely to
emphasize that the scope of the curtailment to which freedom of
expression may be subjected is not foreclosed by the recognition of
the existence of a clear and present danger of a substantive evil,
the debasement of the electoral process.
18. The majority of the Court is of the belief that the ban on the
solicitation or undertaking of any campaign or propaganda,
whether directly or indirectly, by an individual, the making of
speeches, announcements or commentaries or holding interview
for or against the election for any party or candidate for public
office, or the publication or distribution of campaign literature or
materials, suffers from the corrosion of invalidity. However, to call
for a declaration of unconstitutionality, it lacks one more
affirmative vote to that effect.
19. It is understandable for Congress to believe that without the
limitations set forth in the challenged legislation, the laudable
purpose of RA 4880 would be frustrated and nullified. Whatever
persuasive force such approach may command failed to elicit the
assert of a majority of the Court. This is not to say that the
conclusion reached by the minority that the above portions of the
statute now assailed has passed the constitutional test is devoid of
merit. It only indicates that for the majority, the prohibition of any
speeches, announcements or commentaries, or the holding of
interviews for or against the election of any party or candidate for
public office and the prohibition of the publication or distribution of
campaign literature or materials, against the solicitation of votes
whether directly or indirectly, or that undertaking of any campaign
or propaganda for or against any candidate or party, is repugnant
to a constitutional command. To that extent, the challenged
statute prohibits what under the Constitution cannot by any law be
abridged.
20. In terms of the permissible scope of legislation that otherwise
could be justified under the clear and present danger doctrine, it is
considered opinion of the majority, though lacking the necessary
vote for an adjudication of invalidity, that the challenged statute
could have been more narrowly drawn and the practices prohibited

4 In re: Laureta
more precisely delineated to satisfy the constitutional requirements
as to a valid limitation under the clear and present danger
doctrine.
21. It is undeniable, therefore, that even though the governmental
purpose be legitimate and substantial, they cannot be pursued by
means that broadly stifle fundamental personal liberties when the
end can be more narrowly achieved. For precision of
regulation is the touchstone in an area so closely related to
our most precious freedoms.
22. It is of the opinion that it would be premature, to say at least, for a
judgment of nullity of any provision found in RA 4880. The need
for adjudication arises only if in the implementation of the Act,
there is in fact an unconstitutional application of its provisions.

1.

2.

Santiago v. Far East Broadcasting

It is clear from the laws and the regulations adverted to that the
respondent had the right to require the petitioner to submit the
manuscript of the speeches which he intended to broadcast.
The Court failed to perceive the cogency of such argument. It does
not bolster up the case for the petitioner. It impliedly admits that a
speech that may endanger public safety may be censored and
disapproved for broadcasting. How could the censor verify the
petitioners claim that the speeches he intended to broadcast
offered no danger to public safety or pubic morality, if the
petitioner refused to submit the manuscript or even its gist? If the
petitioner had complied with respondents requirement and the
respondent had arbitrarily and unreasonably refused to permit said
speeches to be broadcasted, he might have reason to complain.

Primicias v. Fugoso

Santiago, the campaign manager of the Popular Front Sumulong, asked Far
East Broadcasting for the purchase of air time for the broadcast of the
political speeches delivered at the Opera House. However, respondent
would only do so if the party submits in advance the complete manuscript
of the speeches to be delivered.

The Coalesced Minority Party applied for a permit for the holding of a
public meeting at Plaza Miranda for purposes of petitioning the
government for redress to grievances. However, the City Mayor, founding
his actions on Section 1119 of the Revised Ordinances of 1927, did not
issue the permit.

Facts:

Facts:

1.

2.

Petitioner (Santiago), being the campaign manager of the political


party Popular Front Sumulong, asked respondent (Far East
Broadcasting) for the purchase of air time for the broadcast of the
partys political speeches at the Opera House on September 3,
1941.
However, respondent refused to do so except should the party
submit in advance the complete manuscript of contemplated
speeches. Because of this, petitioner questioned the act of
respondent in refusing to allow the use of its station for
broadcasting the speeches and constitutes unlawful censorship
and a violation of the freedom of speech guaranteed by our
Constitution.

Ruling:

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

1.

2.

3.

The Coalesced Minority Party applied for a permit for the holding of
a public meeting at Plaza Miranda on a Sunday afternoon,
November 16, 1947, for the purpose of petitioning the government
for redress to grievances.
However, the Mayor of the City of Manila (Valeriano Fugoso) did not
issue the permit. For this purpose, the campaign manager of the
party (Cipriano Primicias) instituted this action for mandamus.
Section 1119 of the Revised Ordinances of 1927 provides the
power of the City Mayor of Manila to grant or issue permits for the
holding of assembly or meeting, parade or procession. Moreover,
he would be able to determine where to hold such activities.

Ruling:
1.

The right to freedom of speech, and to peacefully assemble and


petition the government for redress of grievances, are fundamental
personal rights of the people recognized and guaranteed by the

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2.

3.

4.

constitutions of democratic countries. But, it is a settled principle


growing out of the nature of well-ordered civil societies that the
exercise of those rights is not absolute for it may be so regulated
that it shall not be injurious to the equal enjoyment of others
having equal rights, nor injurious to the rights of the community or
society. The power to regulate the exercise of such and other
constitutional rights is termed the sovereign police power, which
is the power to prescribe regulations, to promote the health,
morals, peace, education, good order or safety, and general
welfare of the people.
Under Section 1119 of the Revised Ordinances of 1927 of the City
of Manila, that the holding of athletic games, sports or exercises
during the celebration of national holidays in any streets or public
places of the city and on the patron saint day of any district may
be permitted provided that a permit be issued by the Mayor who
shall determine the streets, or public places or portions thereof
where said activities may be held. From the Revised Ordinance of
the City, there is no express and separate provision regulating the
holding of public meeting or assembly at any street or public
places.
As Section 1119 is susceptible to two constructions: one, that the
Mayor of the City is vested with unregulated discretion to grant or
refuse to grant permit for the holding of a lawful assembly or
meeting in the streets and other public places of the City, and
second, that the applicant has the right to a permit which shall be
granted by the Mayor, subject only to the latters reasonable
discretion to determine or specify the streets or public places to be
used for the purpose, the Court believed that it must adopt the
second construction. It means that the ordinance does not confer
upon the Mayor the power to refuse to grant the permit, but only
the discretion, in issuing the permit, to determine or specify the
streets or public places where the parade or procession may pass
or the meeting be held.
The other alternative when adopted because it would mean that
the Mayor has the power to grant or refuse to grant the permit,
which would be tantamount to authorizing him to prohibit the use
of the streets and other public places for holding of meetings,
parades or processions. Moreover, said construction would render
the ordinance invalid and void as it contravenes constitutional
limitations.

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5.

The Mayor reasoned that, in granting the permit, the speeches


delivered in the meeting would undermine the faith and confidence
of the people in their government and in the duly constituted
authorities, which might threaten breaches of the peace and a
disruption of public order. In reiterating the pronouncements of the
US Supreme Court in Whitney v. California, [f]ear of serious injury
cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men
feared witches and burned women. It is the function of speech to
free men from the bondage of irrational fears. To justify
suppression of free speech, there must be reasonable ground to
fear that serious evil will result if free speech is practiced. There
must be reasonable ground to believe that the danger
apprehended is imminent.

Mutuc v. COMELEC
Mutuc seeks to be a delegate of the 1971 Constitutional Convention. In his
campaigns, he used political jingles in his mobile units equipped with
sound systems and loud speakers.
Facts:
1.

2.

3.

Amelito Mutuc is a candidate for delegate to the 1971


Constitutional Convention. In his making his candidacy known, he
used jingles in his mobile units equipped with sound systems and
loud speakers.
By a telegram sent to him on October 29, 1970, the COMELEC
informed Mutuc that his certificate of candidacy was given due
course, but prohibited him from using jingles in his mobile units.
However, according to Mutuc, the said order is violative of his
constitutional right especially his freedom to speech.
However, COMELEC contends that the justification for the
prohibition was premised on the provision of the Constitutional
Convention Act, which made it unlawful for candidates to
purchase, produce, request or distribute sample ballots, or
electoral propaganda gadgets such as pens, lighters, fans (of
whatever nature), flashlights, athletic goods or materials, wallets,
bandanas, shirts, hats, matches, cigarettes and the like whether of
domestic or foreign origin. More so, the contention was that the
jingle proposed to be used by petitioner is the recorded or taped

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voice of a singer and therefore a tangible propaganda material,
under the above statute subject to confiscation.

clearer and more imminent danger of public disorders, breaches of


the peace, criminal acts, and even bloodshed as an aftermath of
such assemblies, and petitioner has manifested that it has no
means of preventing such disorders.

Ruling:
1.

2.

3.

In unequivocal language, the Constitution prohibits an abridgment


of free speech or a free press. It has been our constant holding
that this preferred freedom calls all the more for the utmost
respect when what may be curtailed is the dissemination of
information to make more meaningful the equally vital right of
suffrage.
What the COMELEC did, in effect, was to impose censorship on
petitioner, an evil against which this constitutional right is directed.
Nor could COMELEC justify its action by the assertion that
petitioner, if he would not resort to taped jingle, would be free,
either by himself or through others, to use his mobile
loudspeakers. Precisely, the constitutional guarantee is not to be
emasculate by confining it to a speaker having his say, but not
perpetuating what is uttered by him through tape or other
mechanical contrivances. If this Court were to sustain respondent
Commission, then the effect would hardly be distinguishable from a
previous restraint. That cannot be validly done. It would negate
indirectly what the Constitution in express terms assures.
Mutuc was allowed to use political taped jingles.

Ruling:
1.

2.

Every time that such assemblies are announced, the community is


placed in such a state of fear and tension that offices are closed
early and employees dismissed, storefronts boarded up, classes
suspended, and transportation disrupted, to the general detriment
of the public.
Petitioner has failed to show a clear specific legal duty on the part
of Mayor to grant petitioners application for permit unconditionally.
Thus, the Court denied the writ prayed for by Navarro and
dismissed their petition.

Reyes v. Bagatsing
The Anti-Bases Coalition planned to hold a peaceful march and rally. It
would start in Luneta Park and end at the gates of the US Embassy. After
the march, a program would follow whereby two brief speeches were to be
delivered. However, the City Mayor did not act on the request of
organization for permit.
Facts:

Navarro v. Villegas
The City Mayor offered the Sunken Gardens, instead of Plaza Miranda, as
venue for an assembly.

1.

Facts:
1.

2.

The Mayor of the City of Manila (Villegas) expressly stated his


willingness to grant permits for peaceful assemblies at Plaza
Miranda during Saturdays, Sundays and holidays when they would
not cause unnecessarily great disruption of the normal activities of
the community and has further offered Sunken Gardens as an
alternative to Plaza Miranda as the site of demonstration sought to
be held that afternoon.
The Mayor believes that a public rally at Plaza Miranda, as to
compared to one at the Sunken Gardens as he suggested, poses a

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2.

Retired Justice J.B.L. Reyes, on behalf of the Anti-Bases Coalition,


sought a permit from the City of Manila to hold a peaceful march
and rally on October 26, 1983 from 2:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon.
The route is from the Luneta, a public park, to the gates of the US
Embassy which is two blocks away. The march would be attended
by the local and foreign participants of such conference.
A short program would be held after the march. During the
program, there would be a delivery of two brief speeches. After
which, a petition based on the resolution adopted on the last day
by the International Conference for General Disarmament, World
Peace and the Removal of All Foreign Military Bases held in Manila,
would be presented to a representative of the Embassy or any of
its personnel who may be there so that it may be delivered to the
US Ambassador.

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3.

The Mayor of the City of Manila however intruded by not acting on


the request of the organization for permit. Rather, he suggested
with the recommendation of the police authorities that a permit
may be issued for the rally if it would be held at the Rizal Coliseum.
As such, Reyes, on behalf of the organization, filed a suit for
mandamus.

Ruling:
1.
2.

3.

4.

5.

Reyes petition was granted.


The Court is called upon to protect the exercise of the cognate
rights to free speech and peaceful assembly, arising from the
denial of a permit. The Constitution is quite explicit that [n]o law
shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,
or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the
Government for redress of grievances. Free speech, like free
press, may be identified with the liberty to discuss publicly and
truthfully any matter of public concern without censorship or
punishment. There is to be then no previous restraint on the
communication of views or subsequent liability whether in libel
suits, prosecution for sedition, or action for damages, or contempt
proceedings unless there be a clear and present danger of a
substantive evil that the State has a right to prevent.
Freedom of assembly connotes the right of the people to meet
peaceably for consultation and discussion of matters of public
concern. It is entitled to be accorded the utmost deference and
freedom of expression, of a clear and present danger of a
substantive evil that the State has a right to prevent. It is not to be
limited, much less denied, except on a showing, as is the case with
freedom of expression, of a clear and present danger of a
substantive evil that the State has a right to prevent.
Even prior to the 1935 Constitution, Justice Malcolm had occasion
to stress that it is a necessary consequence of our republican
institutions and complements the right of free speech.
Reiterating the ruling in Thomas v. Collins, the American Supreme
Court held that it was not by accident or coincidence that the
rights to freedom of speech and of the press were coupled in a
single guarantee with the rights of the people peaceably to
assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances.
All these rights, while not identical, are inseparable. In every case,

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

6.

7.

8.

therefore, where there is a limitation placed on the exercise of the


right, the judiciary is called upon to examine the effects of the
challenged governmental actuation. The sole justification for a
limitation on the exercise of this right, so fundamental to the
maintenance of democratic institutions, is the danger, of a
character both grave and imminent, of a serious evil to public
safety, public morals, public health, of other legitimate public
interest.
What is guaranteed by the Constitution is peaceable assembly.
One may not advocate disorder in the name of protest, much less
preach rebellion under the cloak of dissent. The Constitution
frowns on disorder or tumult attending a rally or assembly. Resort
to force is ruled out and outbreaks of violence to be avoided. The
utmost calm though is not required. As pointed out in US v.
Apurado, [i]t is rather to be expected that more or less disorder
will mark the public assembly of the people to protest against
grievances whether real or imaginary, because on such occasions,
feeling is always wrought to a high pitch of excitement, and the
greater the grievances and the more intense the feeling, the less
perfect, as a rule, will be the disciplinary control of the leaders over
their irresponsible followers. It bears repeating that for the
constitutional right to be invoked, riotous conduct, injury to
property, and acts of vandalism must be avoided. To give free rein
to ones destructive urges is to call for condemnation. It is to make
a mockery of the high estate occupied by intellectual liberty is our
scheme of values.
It is settled law that as to public places, especially so as to parks
and streets, there is freedom of access. Nor is their use dependent
on who is the applicant for the permit, whether an individual or a
group. If it were, then the freedom of access becomes
discriminatory access, giving rise to an equal protection question.
The principle under American doctrines was given utterance by
Chief Justice Hughes in these words: The question, if the rights of
free speech and peaceable assembly are to be preserved, is not as
to the auspices under which the meeting is held but as to its
purpose; not as to the relations of the speakers, but whether their
utterances transcend the bounds of the freedom of speech which
the Constitution protects.
There could be danger to public peace and safety if such a
gathering were marked by turbulence. That would deprive it of its

8 In re: Laureta
peaceful character. Even then, only the guilty parties should be
held accountable. It is true that the licensing official, here
respondent Mayor, is not devoid of discretion in determining
whether or not a permit would be granted. While prudence
requires that there be a realistic appraisal not of what may possibly
occur but of what may probably occur, given all the relevant
circumstances, still the assumption especially so where the
assembly is scheduled for a specific public place is that the
permit must he for the assembly being held there. The exercise of
such a right, in the language of Justice Roberta, speaking for the
American Supreme Court, is not to be abridged on the plea that it
may be exercised in some other place.
9. The applicants for a permit to hold an assembly should inform the
licensing authority of the date, the public place where and the time
when it will take place. If it were a private place, only the consent
of the owner or the one entitled to its legal possession is required.
Such application should be filed well ahead in time to enable the
public official concerned to appraise whether there may be valid
objections to the grant of the permit or to its grant but at another
public place. It is an indispensable condition to such refusal or
modification that the clear and present danger test be the standard
for the decision reached. If he is of the view that there is such an
imminent sad grave danger of a substantive evil, the applicants
must be heard on the matter. Thereafter, his decision, whether
favourable or adverse, must be transmitted to them at the earliest
opportunity. Thus, if so minded, they can have recourse to the
proper judicial authority.
10. Free speech and peaceable assembly, along with other intellectual
freedom, are highly ranked in our scheme of constitutional values.
It cannot be too strongly stressed that on the judiciary even more
so than on the other departments rests the grave and delicate
responsibility of assuring respect for and deference to such
preferred rights. No verbal formula, no sanctifying phrase can, of
course, dispense with what has been felicitously termed by Justice
Holmes as the sovereign prerogative of judgment. Nonetheless,
the presumption must be to incline the weight of the scales of
justice on the side of suds rights, enjoying as they do precedence
and primacy.

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

Cabansag v. Fernandez
Cabansag wrote a letter to the Presidential Complaints and Action
Commission seeking for the fast resolution of his case pending at the CFI
of Pangasinan. Fernandez prayed that Cabansag be declared in contempt
of court for a line in his letter.
Facts:
1.

2.

3.

Petitioner (Apolonio Cabansag) sought for the ejectment of


Geminiana Fernandez from a parcel of land who, on the other end,
filed their answer and a motion to dismiss. Even though pleadings
were submitted, the hearings were suspended several times from
1947 to 1952.
Upon President Magsaysays assumption in office and creation of
Presidential Complaints and Action Commission (PCAC), Cabansag
wrote the PCAC, a letter copy which he furnished the Secretary of
Justice and the Executive Judge of the CFI of Pangasinan. He
claimed that the case which had been long been pending be
decided already. The Secretary of Justice indorsed the said letter
to the Clerk of CFI Pangasinan.
Counsel for defendants (Atty. Manuel Fernandez) filed a motion
before Judge Morfe praying that Cabansag be declared in contempt
of court for an alleged scurrilous remark he made in his letter to
the PCAC when he wrote thru the careful manoeuvres of a tactical
lawyer.

Ruling:
1.

2.

The very idea of a government, republican in form, implies a right


on the part of its citizens to meet peaceably for consultation in
respect affairs and to petition for a redress of grievances. The First
Amendments of the Federal expressly guarantees that right against
abridgment by Congress. But mention does not argue exclusion
elsewhere. For the right is one that cannot be denied without
violating those fundamental principles of liberty and justice which
lie at the base of all civil and political institutions principles which
the 14th Amendment embodies in the general terms of its due
process clause.
The freedom of the press in itself presupposes an independent
judiciary through which that freedom may, if necessary, be

9 In re: Laureta

3.

4.

5.

vindicated. And one of the potent means of assuring judges their


independence is a free press.
Two theoretical formulas had been devised in the determination of
conflicting rights of similar import in an attempt to draw the proper
constitutional boundary between freedom of expression and the
independence of the judiciary. These are the clear and present
danger rule and the dangerous tendency rule.
The first as interpreted in a number of cases, means that the evil
consequence of the comment or utterance must be extremely
serious and the degree of imminence extremely high before the
utterance can be punished. The danger to be guarded against is
the substantive evil sought to be prevented. And this evil is
primarily the disorderly and unfair administration of justice. This
test establishes a definite rule in constitutional law. It provides the
criterion as to what words maybe published. Under this rule, the
advocacy of ideas cannot constitutionally be abridged unless there
is a clear and present danger that such advocacy will harm the
administration of justice. The US Supreme Court has made the
significant suggestion that this rule is an appropriate guide in
determining the constitutionality of restriction upon expression
where the substantial evil sought to prevented by the restriction is
destruction of life or property or invasion of the right of privacy.
The Court furthers clear and present danger of substantive evil as
a result of indiscriminate publications regarding judicial
proceedings justifies an impairment of the constitutional right of
freedom of speech and press only if the evils are extremely serious
and the degree of imminence extremely high A public utterance
or publication is not to be denied the constitutional protection of
freedom of speech and press merely because it concerns a judicial
proceeding still pending in the courts, upon the theory that in such
a case, it must be necessarily tend to obstruct the orderly and fair
administration of justice. The possibility of engendering disrespect
for the judiciary as a result of the published criticism of a judge is
not such a substantive evil as will justify impairment of the
constitutional right of freedom of speech and press.
As declared in Craig v. Harney, the US Supreme Court said that the
[f]reedom of speech and press should not be impaired through the
exercise of the punish for contempt of court unless there is no
doubt that the utterances in question are a serious and imminent
threat to the administration of justice. A judge may hold in

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

6.

7.

contempt one who ventures to publish anything that tends to make


him unpopular or to belittle him The vehemence of the language
used in newspaper publications concerning a judges decision is
not alone the measure of the power to punish for contempt. The
fires which it kindles must constitute an imminent, not merely a
likely, threat to the administration of justice. Furthered in
Pennekamp v. Florida, [a]nd in weighing the danger of possible
interference with the courts by newspaper criticism against the
right of free speech to determine whether such criticism may
constitutionally be punished as contempt, it was ruled that
freedom of public comment should in borderline instances weigh
heavily against a possible tendency to influence pending cases.
Thus, the question in every case, according to Justice Holmes, is
whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of
such a nature to create a clear and present danger that they will
bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to
prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree.
The second, which is the dangerous tendency rule, has been
adopted in cases where extreme difficulty is confronted in
determining where the freedom of expression ends and the right of
courts to protect their independence begins. There must be a
remedy to borderline cases and the basic principle of this rule lies
in that the freedom of speech and of the press, as well as the right
to petition for redress of grievance, while guaranteed by the
Constitution, are not absolute. As held in Gilbert v. Minnesota,
[t]hey are subject to restrictions and limitations, one of them
being the protection of the courts against contempt.
As furthered by the US Supreme Court in Gitlow v. New York, the
dangerous tendency rule may be epitomized as follows: If the
words uttered create a dangerous tendency which the State has a
right to prevent, then such words are punishable. It is not
necessary that some definite or immediate acts of force, violence,
or unlawfulness be advocated. It is sufficient that such acts be
advocated in general terms. Nor is it necessary that the language
used be reasonably calculated to incite persons to acts of force,
violence or unlawfulness. It is sufficient if the natural tendency
and probable effect of the utterance be to bring about the
substantive evil the utterance be to bring about the substantive
evil which the legislative body seeks to prevent.

10 In re: Laureta
8.

It is a fundamental principle, long established, that the freedom of


speech and of the press, which is secured by the Constitution does
not confer an absolute right to speak or publish, without
responsibility, whatever one may choose, or an unrestricted and
unbridled license that gives immunity for every possible use of
language, and prevents the punishment of those who abuse this
freedom. Reasonably limited, it was said by story in the passage
cited, this freedom is an inestimable privilege in a free
government; without such limitation, it might become the scourge
of the Republic.
9. The Court saw at once that it was far from Cabansags mind to put
the court in ridicule and much less to belittle or degrade it in the
eyes of those to whom the letter was addressed for. This is clearly
inferable from its context wherein, in respectful and courteous
language, Cabansag gave vent to his feeling when he said that he
has long since been deprived of his land thru the careful
manoeuvres of a tactical lawyer. Analyzing said utterances, one
would see that if they ever criticize, the criticism refers, not to the
court, but to opposing counsel whose tactical manoeuvres has
allegedly caused the undue delay of the case. The grievance or
complaint, if any, is addressed to the stenographers for their
apparent indifference in transcribing their notes.
10. The only disturbing effect of the letter which perhaps has been the
motivating factor of the lodging of the contempt charge is the fact
that the letter was sent to the Office of the President, asking for
help because of the precarious predicament of Cabansag. Such act
alone would not be contemptuous. To be so, the danger must
cause a serious imminent threat to the administration of justice.
Nor can the Court infer that such act has a dangerous tendency
to belittle the court or undermine the administration of justice for
Cabansag merely exercised his constitutional right to petition the
government for redress of a legitimate grievance.

Ruiz v. Gordon
A prayer rally and parade/march was to be conducted by petitioners. They
allege that the Mayor of Olongapo City, Gordon, did not act on the matter.
Facts:

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

1.

2.

3.

Petitioner (Ruiz) personally delivered to respondent Mayor of


Olongapo City (Richard Gordon) a letter application which sought
to request a permit to hold a prayer-rally at the Rizal Triangle on
December 4, 1983 from 1:00 pm to early evening. Ruiz delivered
the letter on behalf of the Olongapo Citizens Alliance for National
Reconciliation, Justice for Aquino Justice for All, Concerned Citizen
for Justice and Peace, Damdamin Bayan na Nagkakaisa and United
Nationalist Democratic Organization.
Aside from the holding of the prayer-rally, the said groups sought
to hold a parade/march from Gordon Avenue to the Rizal Triangle
starting at 1:00 pm.
In his manifestation, respondent, among others written, mentioned
in the Guardian that he had granted the permit of the petitioner.

Ruling:
1.

2.

As shown both in the manifestation and the answer, this action for
mandamus could have been obviated if only petitioner took the
trouble of verifying on November 23 whether or not a permit had
been issued. A party desirous of exercising the right to peaceable
assembly should be the one most interested in ascertaining the
action taken on a request for a permit. Necessarily, after a
reasonable time or, if the day and time was designated for the
decision of the request, such part or his representative should be
at the office of the public official concerned. If he fails to do so, a
copy of the decision reached, whether adverse or favourable,
should be sent to the address of petitioner. In that way, there need
not be waste of time and effort not only of the litigants but likewise
of a court from which redress is sought in case of a denial or
modification of a request for a permit.
The petition is dismissed. The Court deems it best to set forth the
above to specify in more detail, the steps necessary for the judicial
protection of constitutional rights with the least delay and
inconvenience to the parties and with the greater assurance that
the factual background on which is dependent the determination of
whether or not the clear and present danger standard has been
satisfied.

11 In re: Laureta
People v. Perez
Perez uttered phrases which called for the beheading of Wood in a
discussion on political matters.
Facts:
3.
1.

2.

Respondent (Isaac Perez), while holding a discussion with several


persons on political matters in Pilar, Sorsogon, uttered the phrases:
Asin an mangna Filipinos na caparejo co, maninigong gumamit nin
sundang asin haleon an payo no Wood huli can saiyang
recomendacion sa pag raot can Filipinas (and the Filipinos, like
myself, must use bolos for cutting off Woods head for having
recommended a bad thing for the Philippines).
Leonard Wood was the Governor-General during that time, April 1,
1922. For said phrases, Perez was accused for violating Article 256
of the Penal Code.

Ruling:
1.

2.

It is our course fundamentally true that the provisions of Act No.


292(Treason and Sedition Law) must not be interpreted so as to
abridge the freedom of speech and the right of the people
peaceably to assembly and petition the Government for redress of
grievances. Criticism is permitted to penetrate even to the
foundations of Government. Criticism, no matter how severe, on
the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, is within the range
of liberty of speech, unless the intention and effect be seditious.
But when the intention and effect of the act is seditious, the
constitutional guaranties of freedom of speech and press and of
assembly and petition must yield to punitive measures designed to
maintain the prestige of constituted authority, the supremacy of
the constitution and the laws, and the existence of the State.
In the case at bar, the person maligned by the Accused is the Chief
Executive of the Philippine Islands. His official position, like the
presidency of the US and other high offices, under a democratic
form of government instead of affording immunity from
promiscuous comment, seems rather to invite abusive attacks. But
in this instance, the attack on the Governor-General passes the
furthest bounds of free speech and common decency. More than a
figure of speech was intended. There is a seditious tendency of

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

feeling incompatible with a disposition to remain loyal to the


Government and obedient to the laws. Being the representative of
the executive civil authority in the Philippines and of the sovereign
power, a seditious attack on the Governor-General is an attack on
the rights of the Filipino people and on American sovereignty.
As a matter of fact, Section 8 of the same act contemplates the
said situation. For such reasons, Perez has uttered seditious words.
He has made a statement and done an act which tended to
instigate others to cabal or meet together for unlawful purposes.
He has made a statement and one an act which suggested and
incited rebellious conspiracies, which tended to stir up the people
against the lawful authorities, which tended to disturb the peace of
the community and the safety or order of the Government.

US v. Bustos
The justice of peace filed a case against numerous citizens of Pampanga
after the latters case was dismissed. They were charged for the libellous
statements against him.
Facts:
1.

2.

3.

Numerous citizens of Pampanga assembled, prepared and signed a


petition to the Executive Secretary through Crossfiled & OBrien
charging respondent Roman Punsalan, justice of peace of
Macabebe and Masantol with malfeasance in office. Likewise, they
ask for Punsalans removal.
Punsalan was charged for three specific charges which happened
to Francisca Polintan, Valentin Sunga and Leoncio Quiambao. They
allege that Punsalan used his position to benefit from their legal
needs like keeping Polintan as a servant for 4 days aside from
taking her two chickens and twelve gandus.
The case against the justice of peace was dismissed. Thus,
Punsalan filed criminal charges against defendants for the libellous
statements against him.

Ruling:
1.

The interest of society and the maintenance of good government


demand a full discussion of public affairs. Complete liberty to
comment on the conduct of public men is necessary for free

12 In re: Laureta

2.

3.

4.

speech. As held in Howarth v. Barlow, the US Supreme Court


declared that [t]he people are not obliged to speak of the conduct
of their officials in whispers or with bated breath in a free
government, but only in a despotism. Moreover, the guaranties of
a free speech and a free press include the right to criticize judicial
conduct. The administration of law is a matter of vital public
concern. Whether the law is wisely or badly enforced is a fit
subject for proper comment. If the people cannot criticize a justice
of peace or a judge the same as any other public officer, public
opinion will be effectively muzzled. It is a duty which everyone
owes to society or to the State to assist in the investigation of any
alleged misconduct. It is further the duty of all to know of any
official dereliction on the part of the magistrate or the wrongful act
of any public officer to bring the facts to the notice of those whose
duty is to inquire into and punish them.
The right to assemble and petition is a necessary consequence of
republican institutions and the complement of the right of free
speech. Assembly means a right on the part of citizens to meet
peaceably for consultation in respect to public affairs. Petition
means that any person or group of persons can apply without fear
of penalty to the appropriate branch or office of the government
for a redress of grievances. The persons assembling and
petitioning must assume responsibility for the charges made.
The doctrine of privileged communications rests upon public policy,
which looks to the free and unfettered administration of justice,
through, as an incidental result, it may, in some instances, afford
an immunity to the evil-disposed and malignant slanderer.
Qualified privilege which may be lost by proof of malice. A
communication made bona fide upon any subject matter in which
the party communicating has an interest or in reference to which
he has a duty, is privileged, if made to a person having a
corresponding interest or duty, although it contain criminatory
matter which without this privilege would be slanderous and
actionable. Even when the statements are found to be false, if
there is probable cause for belief in their truthfulness and the
charge is made in good faith, the mantle of privilege may still
cover the mistake of the individual. Personal injury is not
necessary. The privilege is not defeated by the mere fact that the
communication is made in intemperate terms. Finally, if a party
applies to the wrong person through some natural and honest

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

5.

6.

7.

mistake as to the respective functions of various officials, such an


unintentional error would not take the case out of the privilege.
A privileged communication should not be subjected to microscopic
examination to discover grounds of malice or falsity. Such
excessive scrutiny will defeat the protection which the law throws
over privileged communications.
A petition prepared and signed at an assembly of numerous
citizens including affidavits by five individuals, charging a justice of
peace with malfeasance in office and asking for his removal, was
presented through lawyers to the Executive Secretary. The
Executive Secretary referred the papers to the judge of first
instance of the district. The judge of first instance, after
investigation, recommended to the Governor-General that the
justice of the peace filing a motion for new trial, the judge of first
instance ordered the suppression of the charges and acquitted the
justice of the peace. Criminal action was then begun against the
defendants, charging that portions of the petition presented to the
Executive Secretary was libellous. On a review of the evidence,
the Court finds that express malice was not proved by prosecution.
Good faith surrounded the action of the petitioners. Their ends and
motives were justifiable. The charges and the petition were
transmitted through reputable attorneys to the proper functionary.
The defendants are not guilty and instead of punishing them for an
honest endeavour to improve the public service, they should rather
be commended for their good citizenship.
It is true that the particular words set out in the information, if said
of a private person, might well be considered libellous per se. The
charges might also under certain conceivable conditions convict
one of a libel of a government official. As a general rule, words
imputing to a judge or a justice of the peace of dishonesty or
corruption or incapacity or misconduct, touching him in his office
are actionable.

Lagunzad v. Soto vda De Gonzales


The parties entered into a licensing agreement for the filming of The
Moises Padilla Story. Soto vda. de Gonzales is the mother of Moises.
Moises half-sister objecred to the movie as it exploited Moises life.
Facts:

13 In re: Laureta
1.

2.

3.

Lagunzad and de Gonzales entered into a licensing agreement for


the former was filming The Moises Padilla Story. Manuel
Lagunzad was a newspaperman and, through his MML Productions,
began the production of the movie. The movie was based on the
book of Atty. Ernesto Rodriguez, Jr.s The Long Dank Night in
Negros.
Although the focus on the film on the Moises life, 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.
The movie was scheduled for a premiere showing on October 16,
1961. Thirteen days prior to it, Moises half-sister, Mrs. Nelly
Amante, objected to the movie as it exploited Moises life.

Ayer Productions Pty Ltd. V. Capulong


Ayer Productions Pty Ltd. sought to film the EDSA Revolution. They
informed Enrile regarding the motion picture and he wrote that he would
not approve the use, appropriation, reproduction and/ore exhibition of his
name or picture or that of any member of his family in any cinema.
Facts:
1.

2.

Ruling:
1.

2.

3.

The Court neither finds merit in petitioners contention that the


Licensing Agreement infringes on the constitutional right of
freedom of speech and of the press, in that, as a citizen and as a
newspaperman, he has a right to express his thoughts in film on
the public life of Moises Padilla without prior restraint.
The clear and present danger rule was applied. In quoting
Gonzales v. COMELEC, [t]he 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 eh 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.

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

3.

Hal McElroy owns the production company, Ayer Productions Pty


Ltd. Through this movie production company, he intended to make
a movie that would depict the historic peaceful struggle of the
Filipinos at EDSA in a six hour mini-series.
The proposed motion picture is entitled The Four Day Revolution,
and was endorsed by the Movie Television Review and
Classification Board as well as the other government agencies
consulted. General Fidel Ramos also signified his approval of the
intended film production. Petitioner McElroy had likewise informed
Juan Ponce Enrile about the projected motion picture, enclosing a
synopsis of it.
Enrile replied that he would not and will not approve of the use,
appropriation, reproduction and/or exhibition of his name or picture
or that of any member of his family in any cinema or television
production. Because of this, petitioners deleted the name of Enrile
in the movie script and proceeded to film the projected motion
picture. Despite of the deletion, Enrile still sought to enjoin
petitioners from producing the movie, which was later on granted.

Ruling:
1.

2.

Petitioners claim that in producing the The Four Day Revolution,


they are exercising their freedom of speech and of expression
protected under the Constitution. Private respondent, on the other
hand, asserts a right of privacy and claims that the production and
filming of the projected mini-series would constitute an unlawful
intrusion into his privacy which he is entitled to enjoy.
The freedom of speech and of expression includes the freedom to
film and produce motion pictures and to exhibit such motion
pictures in theatres or to diffuse them through television. In our
day and age, motion pictures are a universally utilized vehicle of
communication and medium of expression.

14 In re: Laureta
3.

4.

5.

6.

This freedom is available in our country both to locally-owned and


to foreign-owned motion picture companies. Furthermore, the
circumstance that the production of motion picture films is a
commercial activity expected to yield monetary profit, is not a
disqualification for availing of freedom of speech and of expression.
Indeed, commercial media constitute the bulk of such facilities
available in our country and hence to exclude commercially-owned
and operated media from the exercise of constitutionally protected
freedom of speech and of expression can only result in the drastic
contraction of such constitutional liberties in our country.
The production and filming by petitioners of the projected motion
picture does not constitute an unlawful intrusion upon private
respondents right of privacy. More so, the motion picture is not
principally about, nor is it focused upon, the man Juan Ponce Enrile,
but it is compelled, if it is to be historical, to refer to the role played
by Enrile in the precipitating and the constituent events of the
change of government.
The privilege of enlightening the public is not limited to the
dissemination of news in the scene of current events. It extends
also to information or education, or even entertainment and
amusement, by books, articles, pictures, films and broadcasts
concerning interesting phases of human activity in general, as well
as the reproduction of the public scene in newsreel and
travelogues. In determining where to draw the line, the courts
were invited to exercise a species of censorship over what the
public may be permitted to read; and they were understandably
liberal in allowing the benefit of the doubt.
The line of equilibrium in the specific context of the instant case
between the constitutional freedom of speech and of expression
and the right of privacy, may be marked out in terms of a
requirement that the proposed motion picture must be fairly
truthful and historical in its presentation of events. There must, in
other words, be no knowing or reckless disregard of truth in
depicting the participation of private respondent in the EDSA
Revolution. There must be no presentation of the private life of the
unwilling private respondent and certainly no revelation of intimate
or embarrassing personal facts. To the extent that the motion
picture limits itself in portraying the participation of private
respondent in the EDSA Revolution to those events which are
directly and reasonably related to the public facts of the EDSA

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

Revolution, the intrusion into private respondents privacy cannot


be regarded as unreasonable and actionable. Such portrayal may
be carried out even without a license from private respondent.

People v. Alarcon
A columnist of the Tribune published the copy of a letter in his article. The
letter is about the conviction of 52 tenants of a hacienda.
Facts:
1.

2.

3.

A letter signed by one Luis Taruc was addressed to his Excellency,


the President of the Philippines, and a copy of which, having found
its way to a columnist of the Tribune, was quoted in an article of
the said newspaper in its September 23, 1937 issue.
The letter is about the charging and conviction of 52 tenants in
Flroridablance, Pampanga for robbery in band because they took
each a few cavans of palay for which they issued the
corresponding receipts, from the bodega in the hacienda where
they are working. The letter furthers that the tenants have the
right to take the palay for their food as the hacienda owner has the
obligation to given them rations of palay for their maintenance and
their families to be paid with their share of their crop.
For this purpose, respondent was required to show cause on
grounds of contempt of court.

Ruling:
1.

The elements of contempt by newspaper publications are welldefined by the cases adjudicated in this as in other jurisdictions.
Newspaper publications tending to impede, obstruct, embarrass, or
influence the courts in administering justice in a pending suit or
proceeding constitutes criminal contempt which is summarily
punishable by the courts. The rule is otherwise after cause has
ended. It must clearly appear that such publications do impede,
interfere with, and embarrass the administration of justice before
the author of the publications should be held for contempt. What
is thus sought to be shielded against the influence of newspaper
comments is the all-important duty of the court to administer
justice in the decision of a pending case. There is no pending case
to speak of when and once the court has come upon a decision and

15 In re: Laureta

2.

3.

has lost control either to reconsider or amend it. That, the Court
believes is the case at bar, for here the Court has a concession that
the letter complained of was published after the CFI of Pampanga
had decided the aforesaid criminal case for robbery in band, and
after that decision had been appealed to the Court of Appeals. The
fact that a motion to reconsider its order confiscating the bond of
the accused therein was subsequently filed may be admitted; but,
the important consideration is that it was then without power to
reopen or modify the decision which it had rendered upon the
merits of the case, and could not have been influenced by the
question publication.
It is suggested that even if there had been nothing more pending
before the trial court, this still had jurisdiction to punish the
accused for contempt, for the rule that the publication scandalized
the court. The rule suggested, which has its origin at common
law, is involved in some doubt under modern English law and in the
United States, the weight of authority, however, is clearly to the
effect that comment upon concluded cases is unrestricted under
our constitutional guaranty of the liberty of the press. Other
considerations argue against our adoption of the suggested
holding. As stated, the rule imported into this jurisdiction is that
newspaper publications tending to impede, obstruct, embarrass,
or influence the courts in administering justice in a pending suit or
proceeding constitute criminal contempt which is summarily
punishable by the courts; that the rule is otherwise after the case
has ended. In at least two instances, this court has exercised the
power to punish for contempt on the preservative and not on the
vindictive principle (Villavicencio v. Lukban), on the corrective
and not on the retaliatory idea of punishment (In re: Lozano and
Quevedo). Contempt of court is in the nature of a criminal offense,
and in considering the probate effects of the article alleged to be
contemptuous, every fair and reasonable interference consistent
with the theory of defendants innocence will be indulged, and
where a reasonable doubt in fact or in law exists as to the guilt of
one of the constructive contempt for interfering with the due
administration of justice, the doubt must be resolved in his favour
and he must be acquitted.
Respondent was acquitted.

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

In re: Vicente Sotto


Atty. Vicente Sotto, a member of the Congress, was frustrated with how
the Court interpreted the law he authored in a particular case. In his letter,
he mentioned that he would file a bill seeking the reorganization of the
Court.
Facts:
1.

2.

Vicente Sotto issued a written statement, published in the Manila


Times and other daily newspapers of the locality, in connection
with the Courts decision in In re: Angel Parazo.
Sotto is disappointed with how the Court interpreted the Press
Freedom Law, of which he is the author, in the case of Angel
Parazo. More so, he declared the incompetency of narrowmindedness of the majority of the Courts members. He furthers
that the only remedy for the deliberate narrow-mindedness is to
change the members of the Court.

Ruling:
1.

Mere criticism or comment on the correctness or wrongness,


soundness or unsoundness of the decision of the court in a pending
case made in good faith may be tolerated; because if well-founded
it may enlighten the court and contribute to the correction of an
error if committed but if it is not well-taken and obviously
erroneous, it should, in no way, influence the Court in reversing or
modifying its decision. Had the respondent in the present case
limited himself to as statement that our decision is wrong or that
our construction of the intention of the law is not correct, because
it is different from what he, as proponent of the original bill, which
became a law had intended, his criticism might in that case be
tolerated, for it could not in any way influence the final disposition
of the Parazo case by the court; inasmuch as it is of judicial notice
that the bill presented by the respondent was amended by both
Houses of Congress, and the clause unless the Court finds that
such revelation is demanded by the interest of the State was
added or inserted; and that, as the Act was passed by Congress
and not by any particular member thereof, the intention of
Congress and not that of the respondent must be the one to be
determined by this Court in applying said act.

16 In re: Laureta
2.

3.

4.

The respondent does not merely criticize or comment on the


decision of the Parazo case, which was then and still is pending
reconsideration of the Parazo case. He not only intends to
intimidate the members of this Court with the presentation of a bill
in the next Congress reorganizing the Supreme Court and reducing
the members of Justices from eleven to seven, as to change the
members of this Court which decided the Parazo case, who
according to his statement, are incompetent and narrow minded, in
order to influence the final decision of said case by this Court, and
thus embarrass or obstruct the administration of justice. But, the
respondent also attacks the honesty and integrity of this Court for
the apparent purpose of bringing the Justices of this Court into
disrepute and degrading the administration of justice.
It is true that the constitutional guaranty of freedom of speech and
the press must be protected to its fullest extent, but license or
abuse of liberty of the press and of the citizen should not be
confused with liberty in its true sense. As important as the
maintenance of an unmuzzled press and the free exercise of the
right of citizen, is the maintenance of the independence of the
judiciary. In the words of Justice Holmes in US v. Sullens, [t]he
administration of justice and the freedom of the press, though
separate and distinct, are equally sacred, and neither should be
violated by the other. The press and the courts have correlative
rights and duties and should cooperate to uphold the principles of
the Constitution and laws, from which the former receives its
prerogatives and the latter its jurisdiction. The right of legitimate
publicity must be scrupulously recognized and care taken at all
times to avoid impinging upon it. In a clear case where it is
necessary, in order to dispose of judicial business unhampered by
publications which reasonably tend to impair the impartiality of
verdicts, or otherwise obstruct the administration of justice, this
Court will not hesitate to exercise its undoubted power to punish
for contempt. This Court must be permitted to proceed with the
disposition if its business in an orderly manner free from outside
interference obstructive of its constitutional functions. This right
will be insisted upon as vital to an impartial court, and, as a last
resort, as an individual exercises the right of self-defense, it will act
to preserve its existence as an unprejudiced tribunal.
Sotto was found guilty of contempt of Court; thus, fined of Php
1,000.

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

In re: Laureta
Ilustre, whose case before the Supreme Court was resolved against her
favour, wrote to the members of the First Division of the Court and
threatened them. Furthermore, she filed a complaint before the
Tanodbayan.
Facts:
1.

2.

Wenceslao Laureta is the counsel of Eva Ilustre. Ilustre wrote to


the members of the First Division of the Supreme Court, namely
Justices Narvasa, Herrera, Cruz and Feliciano. In her letter, she
threatened the members for their minute resolution which went
against her favour.
She threatened the members that the entire Filipino population
would know the procedures in the Court and to charge them, which
she apparently did so. She filed an affidavit-complaint before the
Tanodbayan for having knowingly and deliberately rendered with
bad faith, an unjust extended Minute Resolution.

Ruling:
1.

The Court finds Ilustre has transcended the permissible bounds of


fair comment and criticism to the detriment of the orderly
administration of justice in her letters addressed to the individual
Justices; in the language of the charges she filed before the
Tanodbayan; in her statements, conduct, acts and charges against
the Court and/or the official actions of the Justices; and in her
unjustified outburst that she can no longer expect justice from the
Court. The fact that said letters are not technically considered
pleadings nor the fact that they were submitted after the main
petition had been finally resolved does not detract from the gravity
of the contempt committed. The constitutional right of freedom of
speech or right to privacy cannot be used as a shield for
contemptuous acts against the Court.

Zaldivar v. Sandiganbayan
Gonzales filed a motion for reconsideration. He was found guilty of
contempt of court and of gross misconduct as an officer of the court and a
member of the bar.

17 In re: Laureta
Ruling:
1.

2.

The clear and present danger doctrine invoked by respondents


counsel is not a magic incantation which dissolves all problems and
dispenses with analysis and judgment in the testing of the
legitimacy of claims to free speech, and which compels a court to
exonerate a defendant the moment the doctrine is invoked, absent
proof of impending apocalypse. The clear and present danger
doctrine has been an accepted method for making out the
appropriate limits of freedom of speech and of assembly in certain
contexts. It is not, however, the only test which has been
recognized and applied by courts.
Under either the clear and present danger test or the balancingof-interest test, the Court believes that the statements here made
by Gonzales are of such a nature and were made in such a manner
and under such circumstances, as to transcend the permissible
limits of free speech. It is important to point out that the
substantive evil which the Supreme Court has a right and duty to
prevent does not, in the instant case, relate to threats of physical
disorder or overt violence or similar disruptions of public order.
What is here at stake is the authority of the Supreme Court to
confront and prevent a substantive evil consisting not only of the
obstruction of a free and fair hearing of a particular case but also
the avoidance of the broader evil of the degradation of the judicial
system of a country and the destruction of the standards of
professional conduct required from members of the bar and
officers of the court. The substantive evil here involved, in other
words, is not as palpable as a threat to public disorder or rioting,
but is certainly no less deleterious and more far reaching in its
implications for society.

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

18 In re: Laureta
US v. Kottinger

3.

Kottinger was charged for keeping for sale in the raided store of Camera
Supply Co. of obscene and indecent pictures. The pictures revealed six
different postures of non-Christian inhabitants of the Philippines.
Facts:
4.
1.

2.

The premises of Camera Supply Co. at 110 Escolta, Manila was


raided and subsequent to said raid, post-cards were used as
evidence against the manager of the company (J.J. Kottinger).
Kottinger was charged for keeping for sale in the store of obscene
and indecent pictures in violation of Section 12 of Act No. 277. Act
No. 277 is the Philippine Libel Law. Section 12 made obscene or
indecent publications as misdemeanours. The pictures reveal six
different postures of non-Christian inhabitants of the Philippines,
including the Bontoc Woman, Moros, and Kalinga Girls,
among others.

Gonzales v. Katigbak

Ruling:
1.

2.

Obscene as used in the Federal Statutes making it a criminal


offense to place in the mails any obscene, lewd, or lascivious
publication, according to the US Supreme Court and lesser Federal
courts, signifies that form of immorality which has relation to
sexual impurity, and has the same meaning as is given at common
law in prosecutions for obscene libel.
The pictures portraying the inhabitants of the country in native
dress and as they appear and can be seen in the regions in which
they live, are not obscene or indecent within the meaning of the
Libel Law. The pictures in question merely depict persons as they
actually live, without attempted presentation of persons in unusual
postures or dress. The aggregate judgment of the Philippine
community, the moral sense of all the people in the Philippines,
would not be shocked by photographs of this type. The court is
convinced that the post-card pictures in this case cannot be
characterized as offensive to chastity, or foul or filthy.

The word obscene and the term obscenity may be defined as


meaning something offensive to chastity, decency, or delicacy.
Indecency is an act against good behaviour and a just delicacy.
The test ordinarily followed by the courts in determining whether a
particular publication or other thing is obscene within the meaning
of the statutes, is whether the tendency of the matter charged as
obscene, is to deprave or corrupt those whose minds are open to
such immoral influences and into whose hands a publication or
other article charged as being obscene may fall. Another test of
obscenity is that which shocks the ordinary and common sense of
men as an indecency.
The Philippine statute does not attempt to define obscenity or
indecent pictures, writings, papers or books.
But the words
obscene or indecent at themselves descriptive. They are words
in common use and every person of average intelligence
understands their meaning.
Indeed, beyond the evidence
furnished by the pictures themselves, there is but little scope for
bearing on the issue of obscenity or indecency. Whether a picture
is obscene or indecent must depend upon the circumstances of the
case.

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

The Board of Review for Motion Pictures and Television, upon condition
that certain parts be changed and removed, classified the motion picture
Kapit sa Patalim as for adults only.
Facts:
1.

2.

The motion picture Kapit sa Patalim was classified For Adults


Only. As such, the president of the Malaya Films (Jose Antonio
Gonzales) questioned the scope of the power of the Board of
Review for Motion Pictures and Television and how it should be
exercised. The chairman of the said board is Maria Kalaw Katigbak
and Gen. Wilfredo Estrada as its vice-chairman.
In classifying the said movie as For Adults Only, there must be
made certain changes and deletions enumerated.
For this
purpose, a petition for certiorari was filed.

Ruling:
1.

Motion pictures are important both as a medium for the


communication of ideas and the expression of the artistic impulse.
Their effects on the perception by our people of issues and public
officials or public figures as well as the prevailing cultural traits are

19 In re: Laureta

2.

3.

4.

5.

considerable. Nor as pointed out in Burstyn v. Wilson is the


importance of motion pictures as an organ of public opinion
lessened by the fact that they are designed to entertain as well as
to inform. There is no clear dividing line between what involves
knowledge and what affords pleasure. If such distinction were
sustained, there is a diminution of the basic right to free
expression.
Press freedom, as stated in the opinion of the Court in Reyes v.
Bagatsing, may be identified with the liberty to discuss publicly
and truthfully any matter of public concern without censorship or
punishment. This is not to say that such freedom, as is the
freedom of speech, absolute. It can be limited if there be a clear
and present danger of a substantive evil that the State has a right
to prevent.
Censorship or previous restraint certainly is not all there is to free
speech or free press. As early as 1909, in the case of US v.
Sedano, a prosecution for libel, the Supreme Court already made
clear that freedom of the press consists in the right to print what
one chooses without any previous license.
It is the opinion of the Court that to avoid an unconstitutional taint
on its creation, the power of respondent Board is limited to the
classification of films. It can, to safeguard other constitutional
objections, determine what motion pictures are for general
patronage and what may require either parental guidance or be
limited to adults only. That is to abide by the principle that
freedom of expression is the rule and restrictions the exemption.
The power to exercise prior restraint is not to be presumed, rather
the presumption is against its validity.
The test to determine whether freedom of expression may be
limited is the clear and present danger of an evil of a substantive
character that the State has a right to prevent. Such danger must
not only be clear but also present. There should be no doubt that
what is feared may be traced to the expression complained of. The
causal connection must be evident. Also, there must be
reasonable apprehension about its imminence. The time element
cannot be ignored. Nor does it suffice if such danger be only
probable. There is the require of its being well-nigh (almost)
inevitable. The basic postulate is that where the movies, theatrical
productions, radio scripts, television programs, and other such
media of expression are concerned included that they are in

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

6.

7.

freedom of expression censorship, especially so if an entire


production is banned, is allowable only under the clearest proof of
a clear and present danger of a substantive evil to public safety,
public morals, public health or any other legitimate public interest.
There is merit to the observation of Justice Douglas that every
writer, actor, or producer, no matter what medium of expression he
may use, should be freed from the censor.
It is the consensus of this Court that where television is concerned:
a less liberal approach calls for observance. This is so because
unlike motion pictures where the patrons have to pay their way,
television reaches every home where there is a set. Children then
likely will be among the avid viewers of the programs therein
shown. It cannot be denied that the State as parens patriae is
called upon to manifest an attitude of caring for the welfare of the
young.
The petition was dismissed because the enough number of votes
was not mustered.

People v. Go Pin
Go Pin held an exhibition of what was alleged to be indecent and/or
immoral pictures in a recreational center.
Facts:
1.

Go Pin, a Chinese citizen, exhibited at the Globe Arcade in Manila,


a recreational center, a large number of one-real 16 mm films
about 100 feet in length each, which are allegedly indecent and/or
immoral. He pleaded not guilty at first but when allowed to change
his plea, he did so.

Ruling:
1.

2.

Paintings and pictures of women in the nude, including sculptures


of the at kind are offensive to morals where they are made and
shown not for the sake of art but profit would commercial
purposes, that is, when gain and profit would appear to be the
main, if not the exclusive consideration in their exhibition, and the
case of art only of secondary or minor importance.
If such pictures, sculptures and paintings are shown in art exhibits
and art galleries for the cause of art, to be viewed and appreciated

20 In re: Laureta

3.

by people interested in art, there would be no offense committed.


However, the pictures here in question were used not exactly for
arts sake but rather for commercial purposes. In other words, the
supposed artistic qualities of said pictures were being
commercialized so that the cause of art was of secondary or minor
importance. Gain and profit would appear to have been the main,
if not the exclusive consideration in their exhibition; and it would
not be surprising if the persons who went to see those pictures and
paid entrance fees for the privilege of doing so, were not exactly
artists and persons interested in art and who generally go to art
exhibitions and galleries to satisfy and improve their artistic tastes,
but rather people desirous of satisfying their morbid curiosity and
taste, and lust, and for love for excitement, including the youth
who because of their immaturity are not in a position to resist and
shield themselves from the ill and perverting effects of these
pictures.
The decision is affirmed.

1.

2.

3.

Dela Cruz v. Ela


Members of the Jehovahs Witnesses applied for a permit from the Mayor
of Sta. Cruz, Zambales in order to hold a public meeting with a kiosk at the
public plaza. It was granted by the Mayor however specified that they hold
the meeting at the north-western part of the plaza.
Facts:
1.

2.

Members of the Jehovahs Witnesses sought to hold a public


meeting at the public plaza of Sta. Cruz, Zambales, together with
the kiosk on such date and time. As such, they applied for a
permit from the respondent Mayor (Norberto Ela).
In his answer, Ela stated that he had not refused the request of the
petitioners to hold a religious meeting at the public plaza as he
gave them permission to use the north-western part of the plaza
on the said date (July 27, 1952). However, the members of the
Jehovahs Witnesses declined to avail of it. As such, petitioners
brought an action to compel Ela to issue a permit.

Ruling:

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

The right to freedom of speech and to peacefully assemble, though


guaranteed by our Constitution, is not absolute, for it may be
regulated in order that it may not be injurious to the equal
enjoyment of others having equal rights, nor injurious to the rights
of the community or society, and this power may be exercised
under the police power of the State.
It is true that there is no law nor ordinance which expressly confers
upon respondents the power to regulate the use of the public
plaza, together with this kiosk, for the purposes for which it was
established, but such power may be exercised under his broad
powers as chief executive in connection with his duty to issue
orders relating to the police or to public safety within the
municipality (Section 2194(c) of the Revised Administrative Code).
And it may even be said that the above regulation has been
adopted as an implementation of the constitutional provision which
prohibits any public property to be used, directly or indirectly, by
any religious denomination.
The power exercised by the respondent cannot be considered as
capricious or arbitrary considering the peculiar circumstances of
this case. It appears that the public plaza, particularly the kiosk, is
located at a short distance from the Roman Catholic Church. The
proximity of said church to the kiosk has caused some concern on
the part of the authorities that to avoid disturbance of peace and
order, or the happening of untoward incidents, they deemed it
necessary to prohibit the use of that kiosk by any religious
denomination as a place of meeting of its members. This was the
policy adopted by respondent for sometime previous to the request
made by the petitioners.

US v. Apurado
Several individuals compelled the members of the municipal council to
dismiss several officials and replace them with the people they had
recommended.
Facts:
1.

A large number of individuals assembled about the building of San


Carlos, Occidental Negros, crowded into the council chamber and
demanded the dismissal from office of the municipal treasurer, the
municipal secretary and the chief of police, and the substitution in

21 In re: Laureta

2.

3.

their places of new officials who were suggested by the spokesman


of the party. This was done upon the opening of the session by the
municipal council.
The council, even though the persons who took part in the
movement where wholly unarmed except that a few carried canes,
acceded to their wishes and drew up a formal document setting
out the reasons for its actions, which was signed by the councillors
present. Moreover, the crowd was fairly orderly and well-behaved
except in so far as their pressing into the council chamber during a
session of that body. The cause of such movement was that the
members of the movement believed that said officials whom they
want dismissed have outspoken allegiance to one of the factions
into which the town was at that time divided.
Apurado, together with several individuals, was convicted of the
crime of sedition.

Ruling:
1.

2.

Malabanan v. Ramento
Student leaders at the Gregorio Araneta University, after holding the
meeting, marched towards the Life Science building using megaphones
and giving utterance to language severely critical of the school authorities.
Classes were disturbed while the non-academic personnels work was
interrupted.
Facts:
1.

2.
It is rather to be expected that more or less disorder will mark the
public assembly of the people to protest against grievances
whether real or imaginary, because on such occasions feeling is
always wrought to a high pitch of excitement, and the greater the
grievance and the more intense the feeling, the less perfect, as a
rule, will be the disciplinary control of the leaders over their
irresponsible followers. But if the prosecution be permitted to seize
upon every instance of such disorderly conduct by individual
members of a crowd as an excuse to characterize the assembly as
a seditious and tumultuous rising against the authorities, then the
right to assemble and to petition for redress of grievances would
become a delusion and a snare and the attempt to exercise it on
the most righteous occasion and in the most peaceable manner
would expose all those who took part therein to the severest and
most unmerited punishment, if the purposes which they sought to
attain did not happen to be pleasing to the prosecuting authorities.
If instances of disorderly conduct occur on such occasions, the
guilty individuals should be sought out and punished therefore, but
the utmost discretion must be exercised in drawing the line
between disorderly and seditious conduct and between an
essentially peaceable assembly and a tumultuous uprising.
The evidence does not establish the guilt of the accused.

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

3.

4.

5.

Petitioners organized a meeting, being officers of the Supreme


Student Council of Gregorio Araneta University Foundation. They
were granted the permit to hold a meeting from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00
p.m. on August 27, 1982 at the Veterinary Medicine and Animal
Science basketball court. However, they held the general
assembly at the second floor lobby of the VMAS, contrary to what
is stated in the permit.
During the gathering, they manifested their opposition to the
proposed merger of the Institute of Animal Science with the
Institute of Agriculture, in a vehement and vigorous language.
After the assembly, at around 10:30 a.m., they marched toward the
Life Science building and continued their rally, using megaphones
and giving utterance to language severely critical of the University
authorities. As a result, classes were disturbed aside from the
work of non-academic employees within hearing distance.
The petitioners were placed under preventive suspension for their
failure to explain the holding of an illegal assembly in front of the
Life Science building.
Respondent, the Director of NCR of the Ministry of Education,
Culture and Sports, found the petitioners guilty of the charge of
having violated paragraph 146(c) of the Manual for Private Schools,
more specifically their holding of an illegal assembly which was
characterized by the violation of the permit granted resulting in the
disturbance of classes and oral defamation.

Ruling:
1.

It is true that petitioners held the rally at a place other than that
specified in the permit and continued it longer than the time
allowed. Undeniably too, they did disturb the classes and caused
the work of the non-academic personnel to be left undone. Such

22 In re: Laureta

2.

3.

undesirable consequence could have been avoided by their holding


the assembly in the basketball court as indicated in the permit.
Nonetheless, suspending them for one year is out of proportion to
their misdeed.
As declared by the Court in Reyes v. Bagatsing, the invocation of
the right to freedom of peaceable assembly carries with it the
implication that the right to free speech has likewise been
disregarded. Both are embraced in the concept of freedom of
expression which is identified with the liberty to discuss publicly
and truthfully, any matter of public interest without censorship or
punishment and which is not to be limited, much less denied,
except on a showing of a clear and present danger of a substantive
evil that the state has a right to prevent.
Petitioners are entitled to invoke their rights to peaceable
assembly and free speech. They enjoy like the rest of the citizens,
the freedom to express their views and communicate their
thoughts to those disposed to listen in gatherings such as in this
case. They do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of
speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. While, therefore,
the authority of educational institutions over the conduct of
students must be recognized, it cannot go so far as to be violative
of constitutional safeguards. On a more specific level, there is
persuasive force to this formulation in Tinker v. Des Moines
Community School District: The principal use to which the schools
are dedicated is to accommodate students during prescribed hours
for the purpose of certain types of activities. Among those
activities is personal intercommunication among the students.
This is not only an inevitable part of the process. A students rights
do not embrace merely the classroom hours. When he is in the
cafeteria or on the playing field, or on campus during the
authorized hours, he may express his opinions, even on
controversial subjects like the conflict in Vietnam, if he does so
without materially and substantially interfering with the
requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the
school and without colliding with the rights of others. But conduct
by the student, in class or out of it, which for any reason whether
it stems from time, place or type of behaviour materially disrupts
classwork or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights
of others is not immunized by the constitutional guarantee of
freedom of speech.

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

4.

5.

6.

If in the course of such demonstration with an enthusiastic


audience goading them on, utterances, extremely critical, at times
even vitriolic, were let loose, that is quite understandable. Student
leaders are hardly the timid, diffident types. They are likely to be
assertive and dogmatic. They would be ineffective if during a rally
they speak in the guarded and judicious language of the academe.
At any rate, even a sympathetic audience is not disposed to accord
full credence to their fiery exhortations. They take into account the
excitement of the occasion, the propensity of speakers to
exaggerate, the exuberance of youth.
The rights to peaceable assembly and free speech are guaranteed
students of educational institutions. Necessarily, their exercise to
discuss matters affecting their welfare or involving public interest
is not to be subjected to previous restraint or subsequent
punishment unless there be a showing of a clear and present
danger to a substantive evil that the State has a right to prevent.
As a corollary, the utmost leeway and scope is accorded the
content of the placards displayed or utterances made. The
peaceable character of an assembly could be lost, however, by an
advocacy of disorder under the name of dissent, whatever
grievances that may be aired being susceptible to correction
through the ways of the law. If the assembly is to be held in school
premises, permit must be sought from its school authorities, who
are devoid of the power to deny such request arbitrarily or
unreasonably. In granting such permit, there may be conditions as
to the time and place of the assembly to avoid disruption of classes
or stoppage of work of the non-academic personnel. Even if,
however, there be violations of its terms, the penalty incurred
should not be disproportionate to the offense.
Petitioners cannot be totally absolved for the events. There was
violation of the terms of the permit. Accordingly, they could be
disciplined.

Villar v. TIP
The facts are similar with Malabanan v. Ramento. However, the petitioners
have incurred failing grades thus were disallowed to enrol.
Facts:

23 In re: Laureta
1.
2.

Petitioners had engaged in some assembly. For this purpose, they


were barred from enrolling.
Aside from the assembly, the failed subjects of the petitioners were
considered in their being barred from enrolling.

Ruling:
1.

2.

3.

In the aforementioned Malabanan v. Ramento decision, the Court


held that [a]s is quite clear from the opinion in Reyes v. Bagatsing,
the invocation of the right to freedom of peaceable assembly
carries with it the implication that the right to free speech has
likewise been disregarded. Both are embraced in the concept of
freedom of expression, which is identified with the liberty to
discuss publicly and truthfully, any matter of public interest without
censorship or punishment and which is not limited, much less
denied, except on a showing of a clear and present danger of a
substantive evil that the State has a right to prevent. An equally
relevant excerpt from the opinion therein follows that [p]etitioners
invoke their rights to peaceable assembly and free speech, they
are entitled to do so. they enjoy like the rest of the citizens the
freedom to express their views and communicate their thought to
those disposed to listed in gatherings such as was held in this case.
They do not, to borrow from the opinion of Justice Fortas in Tinker
v. Des Moines Community School District, shed their constitutional
rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse
gate.
Petitioners have a valid cause for complaint if the exercise of the
constitutional rights to free speech and peaceable assembly was
visited by their expulsion from respondent College.
The academic freedom enjoyed by institutions of higher learning
includes the right to set academic standards to determine under
what circumstances failing grades suffice for the expulsion of
students. Once it has done so, however, that standard should be
followed meticulously. It cannot be utilized to discriminate against
those students who exercise their constitutional rights to
peaceable assembly and free speech. If it does so, then there is a
legitimate grievance by the students thus prejudiced, their right to
the equal protection clause being disregarded.

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

PBM Employment Association v. PBM


In airing their concerns regarding the excesses of the Pasig police,
employees of the Philippine Blooming Mills decided to stage a mass
demonstration at the Malacaang. The Company feared of losses to be
incurred from 6 am to 2 pm.
Facts:
1.
2.

Petitioners decided to stage a mass demonstration at the


Malacaang in protest of the alleged abuses of the Pasig police.
Said demonstration would be participated in by the workers in the
first shift (from 6 am to 2 pm) as well as those in the regular
second and third shift (from 7 am to 4 pm and from 8 am to 5 pm,
respectively), and that they informed the respondent company,
Philippine Blooming Mills Co., Inc. of their proposed demonstration.

Ruling:
1.

2.

The Bill of Rights is designed to preserve the ideals of liberty,


equality and security against the assaults of opportunism, the
expediency of the passing hour, the erosion of small
encroachments, and the scorn and derision of those who have no
patience with general principles. In the pithy language of Justice
Jackson, the purpose of the Bill of Rights is to withdraw certain
subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place
them beyond the reach of majorities and officials, and to establish
them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. Ones rights
to life, liberty and property to free speech, or free press, freedom
of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be
submitted to a vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.
Laski proclaimed that the happiness of the individual, not the wellbeing of the State, was the criterion by which its behaviour was to
be judged. Is interest, not its power, set the limits to the authority
it was entitled to exercise.
The freedoms of expressions and of assembly as well as the right
to petition are included among the immunities reserved by the
sovereign people, in the rhetorical aphorism of Justice Holmes, to
protect the ideas that we abhor or hate more than the ideas we
cherish; or as Socrates insinuated, not only to protect the minority
who want to talk, but also to benefit the majority who refuse to

24 In re: Laureta

3.

4.

5.

6.

listen. And as Justice Douglas cogently stresses it, the liberties of


one are not safe unless the liberties of all are protected.
The rights of free expression, free assembly and petition, are not
only civil rights but also political rights essential to mans
enjoyment of his life, to his happiness and to his full and complete
fulfillment. Thru these freedoms, the citizens can participate not
merely in the periodic establishment of the government through
their suffrage but also in the administration of public affairs as well
as in the discipline of abusive public officers. The citizen is
accorded these rights so that he can appeal to the appropriate
governmental officers or agencies for redress and protection as
well as for the imposition of the lawful sanctions on erring public
officers and employees
Property and property rights can be lost thru prescription; but
human rights are imprescriptible. If human rights are extinguished
by the passage of time, then the Bill of Rights is a useless attempt
to limit the power of government and ceases to be an efficacious
shield against the tyranny of officials, of majorities, of the
influential and powerful, and of oligarchs political, economic or
otherwise.
In the hierarchy of civil liberties, the rights of free expression and
of assembly occupy a preferred position as they are essential to
the preservation and vitality of our civil and political institutions;
and such priority gives these liberties the sanctity and the
sanction not permitting dubious intrusions. The superiority of
these freedoms over property rights is underscored by the fact that
a mere reasonable or rational relation between the means
employed by the law and its object or purpose that the law is
neither arbitrary nor discriminatory nor oppressive would suffice
to validate a law which restricts or impairs property rights. On the
other hand, a constitutional or valid infringement of human rights
requires a more stringent criterion namely existence of a grave and
immediate danger of a substantive evil which the State has the
right to prevent.
The freedoms of speech and of the press, as declared in New York
Times v. Sullivan, as well as of peaceful assembly and of petition
for redress of grievances are absolute when directed against public
officials or when exercised in relation to our right to choose the
men and women by whom we shall be governed.

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

7.

The demonstration held by petitioners before the Malacaang was


against alleged abuses of some Pasig policemen, not against their
employer; said demonstration was purely and completely an
exercise of their freedom of expression in general and of their right
of assembly and petition for redress of grievances in particular
before the appropriate governmental agency, the Chief Executive,
again the police officers of the municipality of Pasig. They exercise
their civil and political rights for their mutual aid protection from
what they believe were police excesses. As a matter of fact, it was
the duty of PBM Co. to protect petitioners from the harassment of
local police officers. It was to the interest of PBM to rally to the
defense of, and take up the cudgels for, its employees so that they
can report to work free from harassment, vexation or peril and as
consequence perform more efficiently their respective tasks,
enhance its productivity as well as profits. Herein the employer did
not even offer to intercede for its employees with the local police.
8. In seeking sanctuary behind their freedom of expression as well as
their right of assembly and of petition against alleged persecution
of local officialdom, the employees and laborers of PBM were
fighting for their very survival, utilizing only the weapons afforded
them by the Constitution the untrammelled enjoyment of their
basic human rights. The pretension of the employer that it would
suffer loss or damage by reason of the absence of its employees
from 6 am to 2 pm, is a plea for the preservation merely of their
property rights.
9. To regard the demonstration against police officers, not against the
employer, as evidence of bad faith in collective bargaining and
hence a violation of the collective bargaining agreement and a
cause for the dismissal from employment of the demonstrating
employees, stretches unduly the compass of the collective
bargaining agreement, is a potent means of inhibiting speech
and therefore inflicts a moral as well as mortal wound on the
constitutional guarantees of free expression, of peaceful assembly
and of petition.
10. It has been likewise established that a violation of a constitutional
right divests the court of jurisdiction; and as a consequence, its
judgment is null and void and confers no rights. Relief from a
criminal conviction secured at the sacrifice of constitutional
liberties, may be obtained through habeas corpus proceedings
even long after the finality of the judgment. Thus, habeas corpus

25 In re: Laureta
is the remedy to obtain the release of an individual, who is
convicted by final judgment through a forced confession, which
violated his constitutional right against self-incrimination; or who is
denied the right to present evidence in his defense as a
deprivation of his liberty without due process of law, even after the
accused has already served sentence for 22 years.

Victoriano v. Elizalde Rope Workers Union

4.

Ruling:
1.

The enactment of RA 3350 which directed that the agreement between


employer and labor organization is not binding to members of religious
sects which prohibit affiliation of their members to any such organization.
In order to remain with the Company, according to the Collective
Bargaining Agreement, the employee should likewise be a member of the
Union.
Facts:
1.

2.

3.

Benjamin Victoriano was a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo and was


employed by Elizalde Rope Factory, Inc. since 1958. He was a
member of the Workers Union, whose collective bargaining
agreement with the company provided that [m]embership in the
Union shall be required as a condition of employment for all
permanent employees.
Republic Act 3350 was enacted on June 18, 1961. It introduced
amendment to Section 4[4(a)] of RA 875. Said section of RA 875
did not preclude the employer from making an agreement with a
labor organization to require as a condition of employment
membership therein, if such labor organization is the
representative of the employees. However, due to the amendment
introduced by RA 3350, such agreement (between employer and
labor organization) shall not cover members of any religious sect
which prohibit affiliation of their members in any such labor
organization.
Being a member of a religious sect which prohibits affiliation of its
members with any labor organization, Victoriano tendered his
resignation to the Union in 1962. However, no action was taken by
the Union; thus, petitioner reiterated his resignation 12 years later.
The Union, on the other end, wrote a formal letter to the Company
asking for the separation of Victoriano from service as he was
resigning from the Union as a member.

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

The management in turn notified Victoriano and his counsel that


unless they (Victoriano) could achieve a satisfactory arrangement
with the Union, the Company would be constrained to dismiss him
from service.

2.

3.

Both the Constitution and RA 875 recognize freedom of association.


Section 1(6) of the Article III of the 1935 Constitution as well as
Section 7 of Article IV of the 1973 Constitution, provide that the
right to form associations or societies for purposes not contrary to
law shall not be abridged. Section 3 of RA 875 provides that
employees shall have the right to self-organization and to form,
join or assist labor organizations of their own choosing for the
purpose of collective bargaining and to engage in concerted
activities for the purpose of collective bargaining and other mutual
aid or protection.
What the constitution and the Industrial Peace Act recognize and
guarantee is the right to form or join associations.
Notwithstanding the different theories propounded by the different
schools of jurisprudence regarding the nature and content of a
right, it can be safely said that whatever theory one subscribes
to, a right comprehends at least two broad notions, namely: first,
liberty or freedom, i.e., the absence of legal restraint, whereby an
employee may act for himself without being prevented by law; and
second, power, whereby an employee may, as he pleases, join or
refrain from joining an association. It is therefore, the employee
who should decide for himself whether he should join or not an
association; and should choose to join, he himself makes up his
mind as to which association he would join; and even after he has
joined, he still retains the liberty and the power to leave and cancel
his membership with said organization at any time.
It is clear that the right to join a union includes the right to abstain
from joining any union. Inasmuch as what both the Constitution
and the Industrial Peace Act have recognized, and guaranteed to
the employee, is the right to join associations of his choice, it
would be absurd to say that the law also imposes, in the same
breath, upon the employee the duty to join associations. The law
does not enjoin an employee to sign up any association.

26 In re: Laureta
4.

5.

The right to refrain from joining labor organizations recognized by


Section 3 of the Industrial Peace Act is limited. The legal protection
granted to such right to refrain from joining is withdrawn by
operation of law, where a labor union and an employer have
agreed on a closed shop, by virtue of which the employer may
employ only member of the collective bargaining union, and the
employees must continue to be members of the union for the
duration of the contract in order to keep their jobs.
What the exception provides is that members of said religious
sects cannot be compelled or coerced to join labor unions even
when said unions have closed shop agreements with employers;
that in spite of any closed shop agreement, members of said
religious sects cannot be refused employment or dismissed from
their jobs on the sole ground that they are not members of the
collective bargaining union. It is clear, therefore, that the assailed
Act, far from infringing the constitutional provision on freedom of
association, upholds and reinforces it. It does not prohibit the
members of said religious sects from affiliating with labor unions.
It still leaves to said members the liberty and the power to affiliate,
or not to affiliate, with labor unions. If, notwithstanding their
religious beliefs, the members of said religious sects prefer to sign
up with the labor union, they can do so. if in deference and fealty
to their religious faith, they refuse to sign up, they can do so; the
law does not coerce them to join; neither does the law prohibit
them from joining; and neither may the employer or labor union
compel them to join. RA 3350 does not violate the constitutional
provision on freedom of association.

2.

Ruling:
1.

2.

In re: Edillon
Atty. Edillon did not want to pay the membership dues. He questioned the
so-called infringement of the integration of the Integrated Bar on right to
association.
Facts:
1.

Respondent, Atty. Marcial Edillon, stubbornly refused to pay his


membership dues to the IBP despite the due notice of the Board of
Governors of the IBP which recommended to the SC the removal of
his name from the Roll of Attorneys.

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

Edillon contends that membership and the obligation to pay


membership dues infringe his constitutional right because he is
compelled, as a precondition to maintaining his status as a lawyer
in good standing, to be a member of the IBP and to pay the
corresponding dues.

3.

An Integrated Bar is a State-organized Bar, to which every lawyer


must belong, as distinguished from bar associations by individual
lawyers themselves, membership in which is voluntary. Integration
of the Bar is essentially a process by which every member of the
Bar is afforded an opportunity to do his share in carrying out the
objectives of the Bar as well as obliged to bear his portion of its
responsibilities. Organized by or under the direction of the State,
an integrated Bar is an official national body of which all lawyers
are required to be members. They are, therefore, subject to all the
rules prescribed for the governance of the Bar, including the
requirement of payment of a reasonable annual fee for the
effective discharge of the purposes of the Bar, and adherence to a
code of professional ethics or professional responsibility breach of
which constitutes sufficient reason for investigation by the Bar and,
upon proper cause appearing, a recommendation for discipline or
disbarment of the offending member.
The State, in order to promote the general welfare, may interfere
with and regulate personal liberty, property and occupations.
Persons and property may be subjected to restraints and burdens
in order to secure the general prosperity and welfare of the State
for, as the Latin maxim goes, Salus populi est suprema lex. The
public welfare is the supreme law. To this fundamental principle of
government the rights of individuals are subordinated. Liberty is a
blessing without which life is a misery, but liberty should not be
made to prevail over authority because then society will fall into
anarchy. It is an undoubted power of the State to restrain some
individuals from all freedom, and all individuals from some
freedom.
To compel a lawyer to be a member of the Integrated Bar is not
violative of his constitutional freedom to associate. Integration
does not make a lawyer a member of any group of which he is not
already a member. He became a member of the Bar when he

27 In re: Laureta

4.

passed the Bar Examinations. All that integration actually does is


to provide an official national organizations for the well-defined but
unorganized and incohesive group of which every lawyer is already
a member.
Bar integration does not compel the lawyer to associate with
anyone. He is free to attend or not attend the meetings of his
Integrated Bar Chapter or vote or refuse to vote in its elections as
he chooses. The only compulsion to which he is subjected is the
payment of annual dues. The SC, in order to further the States
legitimate interest in elevating the quality of professional legal
services, may require that the cost of improving the profession in
this fashion be shared by the subjects and beneficiaries of the
regulatory program the lawyers.

Subido v. Ozaeta
Petitioner wanted the Register of Deeds of Manila, in compliance to Justice
Circular No. 128, to furnish him a list of real estates sold to aliens and
registered with the Register of Deeds of Manila.

2.
3.

4.

5.

Facts:
1.

2.

Petitioner, the editor of the Manila Post, prays that an order issue
commanding the respondents to furnish to petitioner the list of
real estates sold to aliens and registered with the Register of
Deeds of Manila since the promulgation of Justice Circular No. 128
or to allow the petitioner or his duly accredited representatives to
examine all records in the respondents custody relative to said
transaction.
Said request was first denied by the Register of Deeds and by the
Secretary of Justice, on appeal.

Ruling:
1.

The petition in part is grounded on the liberty of the press. The


Court however believes that this constitutional right is not in any
way involved. The refusal by the respondents does not constitute
a restriction upon or censorship of publication. It only affects
facilities of publication, and the respondents are correct in saying
that freedom of information or freedom to obtain information for
publication is not guaranteed by the Constitution.

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

6.

The right to examine or inspect public records is purely a question


of statutory construction.
The right of inspection of title records is a subject of express
statutory regulation in the Philippines. Section 56 of Act No. 496,
as amended by Act No. 3300, provides that all records relating to
registered lands in the office of the Register of Deeds shall be open
to the public subject to such reasonable regulations as may be
prescribed by the Chief of the General Land Registration Office with
the approval of the Secretary of Justice. The Chief of the General
Land Registration Office does not seem to have adopted any
regulations in pursuance of this provision.
The Register of Deeds has inherent power to control his office and
the records under his custody and has some discretion to exercise
as to the manner in which persons desiring to inspect, examine, or
copy the records may exercise their rights.
The power to regulate is not synonymous with the power to
prohibit. Stated differently, the power to make regulations does
not carry with it the power to prohibit.
To the extent that
newspapers and others who have no direct or tangible interest in
the records are obstructed from making an examination thereof, a
part, indeed the larger part of the public, is thereby excluded from
the right granted by law. Such prohibition is at war with the
requirement that the books and records of registered lands shall be
open to the public. Public is a comprehensive, all-inclusive term.
Properly construed, it embraces every person. From the language
of section 56 of Act No. 496, as amended, the regulations which
the Register of Deeds or the Chief of the General Land Registration
Office, or the Secretary of Justice is empowered to promulgate are
confined to prescribing the manner and hours of examination to
the end that damage to, or loss of, the records may be avoided,
that undue interference with the duties of the custodian of the
books and documents and other employees may be prevented,
that the right of other persons entitled to make inspection may be
insured and the like.
When it is clear that the purpose of the examination is unlawful, it
is not duty under the law of registration officers to concern
themselves with the motives, reasons, and objects of the person
seeking access to the records. It is not their prerogative to see to
it that the information which the records contain is not flaunted
before public gaze, or that scandal is not made of it. If it be wrong

28 In re: Laureta

7.

8.

to publish the contents of the records, it is the legislature and not


the officials having the custody thereof which is called upon to
devise a remedy.
As to moral or material injury which the
publication might inflict on the parties, that is the publishers
responsibility and lookout.
Newspapers have a better-established right of access to records of
titles by reason of their relations to the public than abstractors or
insurers of title. Whether by design or otherwise, newspapers
perform a mission which does not enter into the calculation of the
business of abstracting titles conducted purely for private gain.
Newspapers publish information for the benefit of the public while
abstractors do so for the benefit of a limited class of investors and
purchasers of real estate only. It is through the medium of
newspapers that the public is informed of how public servants
conduct their business. The public through newspapers have the
legitimate right to know the transactions in real estate which they
believe have been registered in violation of the Constitution. The
publication of these matters is certainly not only legitimate and
lawful but necessary in a country where, under the Constitution,
the people should rule.
Petition was granted commanding the respondents to allow the
petitioner or his accredited representatives to examine, extract,
abstract, or make memoranda of the records of sales of real
properties to aliens subject to such restriction and limitation as
may be deemed necessary not incompatible with this decision.

2.

Ruling:
1.

2.

3.

Baldoza v. Dimaano
To know the peace and order situation of the municipality, employees of
the Municipal Mayor of Taal wanted to examine the criminal docket records
of the municipal court. However, it was refused by the judge. As such, he
was charged of abuse of authority.
Facts:
1.

The employees of the Municipal Mayor of Taal wanted to examine


the criminal docket records of the municipal court to secure data in
connection with their contemplated report on the peace and order
situation of the municipality. However, it was not approved by the
respondent municipal judge.

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

The said municipal trial court judge was charged with abuse of
authority in refusing to allow employees to access the records of
the Municipal Trial Court.

4.

In a democracy, the public has a legitimate interest in matters of


social and political significance; hence, the peoples right of free
access to public records is predicated on their right to acquire
information on matters of public concern.
Mandamus would lie to compel a public official to allow an
interested party access to the records in his custody. Thus,
predicating the right to examine public records on statutory
provisions and to a certain degree by general principles of
democratic institutions, this Court stated that while the Register of
Deeds has discretion to determine the manner in which persons
desiring to inspect, examine or copy the records in his office may
exercise their rights, such power does not carry with it the
authority to prohibit.
Publics right of access to public records is not merely predicated
on statutory right but on the constitutional right of the press to
have access to information as the essence of press freedom. The
New Constitution now expressly recognizes that the people are
entitled to information on matters of public concern and thus are
expressly granted to access to official records, as well as
documents of official acts, or transactions, or decisions, subject to
such limitations imposed by law. The incorporation of this right in
the Constitution is a recognition of the fundamental role of free
exchange of information in a democracy. There can be no realistic
perception by the public of the nations problems, nor a meaningful
democratic decision-making if they are denied access to
information of general interest. Information is needed to enable
the members of society to cope with the exigencies of the times.
As has been aptly observed, [m]aintaining 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.
Restriction 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

29 In re: Laureta

5.

danger that renders ordinary means of control inadequate to


maintain order.
The case against respondent was dismissed.

2.

Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission


Legaspi requested information regarding the civil service eligibilities of two
sanitarians in the Health Department of Cebu City. However, the CSC
initially denied said request.
Facts:
1.

2.

Legaspi requested for information on the civil service eligibilities of


certain persons (Julian Sibonghanoy and Mariano Agas) employed
as sanitarians in the Health Department of Cebu City. They were,
according to petitioner, represented themselves as civil service
eligibles who passed the civil service examinations for sanitarians.
But, his request was denied.
For this purpose, a special civil action for mandamus was
instituted.

3.

4.

Ruling:
1.

The new provision reads that [t]he 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. These constitutional provisions are self-executing. They
supply the rules which the right to information may be enjoyed by
guaranteeing the right and mandating the duty to afford access to
sources of information. Hence, the fundamental right therein
recognized may be asserted by the people upon the ratification of
the Constitution without need for any ancillary act of the
Legislature. What may be provided for by the Legislature are
reasonable conditions and limitations upon the access to be
afforded which must, of necessity, be consistent with the declared
State policy of full public disclosure of all transactions involving
public interest.
However, it cannot be overemphasized that
whatever limitation may be prescribed by the Legislature, the right

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

5.

and the duty under Article III, Section 7 have become operative
and enforceable by virtue of the adoption of the New Charter.
In recognizing the peoples right to be informed, both the 1973
Constitution and the New Charter, expressly mandate the duty of
the State and its agents to afford access to official records,
documents, papers and in addition, government research data
used as basis for policy development, subject to such limitations as
may be provided by law.
The guarantee has been further
enhanced in the New Constitution with the adoption of a policy of
full public disclosure, this time, which reads: 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.
Government agencies are without discretion in refusing disclosure
of, or access to, information of public concern. This is not to lose
sight of the reasonable regulations which may be imposed by said
agencies in custody of public records on the manner in which the
right to information may be exercised by the public.
The Court is emphatic in the statement that the authority to
regulate the manner of examining public records does not carry
with it the power to prohibit. A distinction has to be made between
the discretion to refuse outright the disclosure of or access to a
particular information and the authority to regulate the manner in
which the access is sought to be afforded. The first is a limitation
upon the availability of access to the information sought, which
only the Legislature may impose. The second pertains to the
government agency charged with the custody of public records. Its
authority to regulate access is to be exercised solely to the end
that damage to, or loss of, public records may be avoided, undue
interference with the duties of said agencies may be prevented,
and more importantly, that the exercise of the same constitutional
right by other persons shall be assured.
While the manner of examining public records may be subject to
reasonable regulation by the government agency in custody
thereof, the duty to disclose the information of public concern, and
to afford access to public records cannot be discretionary on the
part of said agencies. Certainly, its performance cannot be made
contingent upon the discretion of such agencies. Otherwise, the
enjoyment of the constitutional right may be rendered nugatory by
any whimsical exercise of agency discretion. The constitutional

30 In re: Laureta

6.

7.

8.

9.

duty, not being discretionary, its performance may be compelled


by a writ of Mandamus in a proper case.
But the constitutional guarantee to information on matters of
public concern is not absolute. It does not open every door to any
and all information. Under the constitution, access to official
records, papers, etc. are subject to limitations as may be provided
by law. The law may therefore exempt certain types of information
from public scrutiny, such as those affecting national security. It
follows that, in every case, the availability of access to a particular
public record must be circumscribed by the nature of the
information sought, i.e., (a) being of public concern or one that
involves public interest, and (b) not being exempted by law from
the operation of the constitutional guarantee.
The threshold question is, therefore, whether or not the information
sought is of public interest or public concern. This question is first
addressed to the government agency having custody of the
desired information. However, as already discussed, this does not
give the agency concerned any discretion to grant or deny access.
In case of denial of access, the government agency has the burden
of showing that the information requested is not of public concern
or, if it is of public concern, that the same has been exempted by
law from the operation of the guarantee. To hold otherwise will
serve to dilute the constitutional right. As aptly observed, the
government is in an advantageous position to marshal and
interpret arguments against release.
To safeguard the
constitutional right, every denial of access by the government
agency concerned is subject to review by the courts, and in the
proper case, access may be compelled by a writ of Mandamus.
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 in a case by case basis whether the matter at
issue is of interest or importance, as it relates to or affects the
public.
The information sought by the petitioner in this case is the truth of
the claim of certain government employees that they are civil

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

service eligible for the positions to which they were appointed. The
constitution expressly declares as a State policy that
[a]ppointments in the civil service shall be made only according to
merit and fitness to be determined, as far as practicable, and
except as to positions which are policy determining, primarily
confidential or highly technical, by competitive examination.
10. But, it is not enough that the information sought is of public
interest. For Mandamus to lie in a given case, the information
must not be among the species exempted by law from the
operation of the constitutional guarantee.
11. The civil service eligibility of a sanitarian being of public concern,
and in the absence of express limitations under the law upon
access to the register of civil service eligibles for said position, the
duty of the respondent Commission to confirm or deny the civil
service eligibility of any person occupying the position becomes
imperative.

Valmonte v. Belmonte
Valmonte, through a letter, requested the GSIS to furnish him a list of the
names of the opposition members of the Batasang Pambansa who were
able to secure a loan of Php 2 million.
Facts:
1.

2.

Valmonte wrote to Belmonte, who is the GSIS General Manager at


that time, requesting the latter to furnish the list of names of the
opposition members of the Batasang Pambansa who were able to
secure a clean loan of Php 2 million each on guaranty of Imelda
Marcos.
However, the Deputy General Counsel of the GSIS replied that they
cannot respond positively to his request.

Ruling:
1.

The cornerstone of this republican system of government is


delegation of power by the people to the State. In this system,
governmental agencies and institutions operate within the limits of
the authority conferred by the people. Denied access to
information on the inner working of government, the citizenry can
become prey to the whims and caprices of those to whom the

31 In re: Laureta

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

power had been delegated. The postulate of public office as a


public trust, institutionalized in the Constitution to protect the
people from abuse of governmental power, would certainly be
mere empty words if access to such information of public concern
is denied, except under limitations prescribed by implementing
legislation adopted pursuant to the Constitution.
The right to information is an essential premise of a meaningful
right to speech and expression. But this is not to say that the right
to information is merely an adjunct of and therefore restricted in
application by the exercise of the freedoms of speech and of the
press. Far from it, the right to information goes hand-in-hand with
the constitutional policies of full public disclosure and honesty in
the public service. It is meant to enhance the widening role of the
citizenry in governmental decision-making as well in checking
abuse in government.
Like all the constitutional guarantees, the right to information is
not absolute. The peoples right to information is limited to
matters of public concern, and is further subject to such
limitations as may be provided by law. Similarly, the States
policy of full disclosure is limited to transactions involving public
interest, and is subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by
law.
When the information requested from the government intrudes into
the privacy of a citizen, a potential conflict between the rights to
information and to privacy may arise. The right to privacy belongs
to the individual in his private capacity, and not to public and
governmental agencies like the GSIS. A corporation has no right to
privacy since the entire basis of the right to privacy is injury to the
feelings and sensibilities of the party and a corporation would have
no such ground for relief. Neither can the GSIS through its general
manager, the respondent, invoke the right to privacy of its
borrowers. The right is purely personal in nature.
The government, whether carrying out its sovereign attributes or
running some business, discharges the same function of service to
the people. Consequently, that the GSIS, in granting the loans,
was exercising a proprietary function would not justify the
exclusion of the transactions from the coverage and scope of the
right of the right to information.
The consideration in guaranteeing access to information on
matters of public concern does not however, accord to citizen the

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

7.

right to compel custodian of public records to prepare lists,


abstracts, summaries and the like in their desire to acquire such
information.
The petition was granted.

Badoy Jr. v. COMELEC


Badoy, who is a candidate for the Constitutional Convention for the lone
district of North Cotabato, prayed that Section 12(f) of the Constitutional
Convention Act be declared unconstitutional for it abridged the freedom of
expression of individuals.
Facts:
1.
2.

Anacleto Badoy, Jr. is a candidate for delegate tot eh Constitutional


Convention for the lone district of North Cotabato.
He prays that the Section 12(f) of RA 6132 (Constitutional
Convention Act) be declared unconstitutional for in so far as it
prohibits the printing and publication of such comments and
articles, which are not paid, unless the names of all candidates are
mentioned with equal prominence. He purports that said provision
unduly abridges the freedom of expression of an individual whether
candidate or not.

Ruling:
1.

2.

Freedom of expression is not immune to regulation by the State in


the exercise of its police power. The validity of the abridgment is
gauged by the extent of its inroad into the domain of the liberty of
speech and of the press, when subjected to the applicable clear
and present danger rule or the balancing of interests tests. If the
restriction on the invaded is so narrow that the basic liberty
remains, then the limitation is constitutional.
The evident purpose of the limitation in Section 12(f) of RA 6132 on
the freedom of the candidate or his sympathizer to spend his own
money for his candidacy alone and not for the furtherance of the
candidacy of his opponents. It is to give the poor candidates a
fighting chance in the election. While it is true that the mere
mention of the poor opponent in the same advertisement or paid
articles does not by itself alone engender perfect equality of
chances, at least the chance of the poor candidate for victory is

32 In re: Laureta

3.

4.

5.

6.

improved because thereby his name will be exposed to the reading


public in the same article as that of the wealthy candidate.
Section 12(f) of RA 6132. Prohibiting the publication of paid
comments or paid articles without mentioning the names of all the
other candidates with equal prominence, is not unconstitutional as
unduly abridging the freedom of expression of an individual.
Against the background of the several facilities accorded by the
law for all candidates, rich and poor alike, and the prohibitions as
well as penal sanctions to insure the sanctity of the ballot against
desecration and the equality of chances among the candidates, the
restriction on the freedom of expression of the candidate or any
other individual prescribed in Section 12(f) is so narrow as not to
affect the substance and vitality of his freedom of expression itself.
Under the guarantee of free expression, the candidate who pays
for a comment or an article has the duty not only to inform the
electorate about his qualifications and proposals for constitutional
reforms, but also to inform truthfully the public who his opponents
are, so that the public or particularly the electorate can determine
the truth and merit of his claims vis--vis those of the other
candidates. Otherwise, the candidate will be guilty of gross and
unpardonable deceit on the people. This duty on the part of the
candidate was underscored by John Milton in his stirring rhetorical
denunciation of the suppression of truth as he appealed for the
liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to
conscience, above all liberties. The same was stressed by Justice
Murphy when he delineated the contours as well as facets of the
freedom of expression as the freedom to publish publicly and
truthfully all matters of public concern without previous restraint or
fear of subsequent punishment.
The candidate, to enjoy the freedom, therefore has the
concomitant duty to campaign for himself truthfully according to
his conscience. If he is not truthful, he forfeits the freedom. His
freedom of expression is not and should not be limited to his own
personal right to know the truth of the claims of the other
candidates.
Petitions were denied.

PCIB v. PHILNABANK Employees Association


The PHILNABANK Employees Association had used placards in their
demonstration against the incompetence of the banks management. The

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

petitioners found the cards to be causing dishonour because it read that


their bad accounts were transferred to the PNB.
Facts:
1.

2.

PHILNABANK Employees, in denouncing the lack of business


foresight, incompetence, mismanagement, arbitrary and despotic
acts of the management to heed the legal and legitimate
demands, put up placards along the PNB building in Escolta,
Manila. The placards read: PCIB Bad Accounts transferred to PNBNIDC?
According to petitioner, these placards were causing dishonour,
discredit or contempt of a juridical person.

Ruling:
1.

2.

3.

The labor union made use of its constitutional right to picket. From
the time of Mortera v. CIR, a 1947 decision, this Court has been
committed to the view that peaceful picketing is part of the
freedom of speech guarantee of the Constitution. The latest case
in point where such a principle was reaffirmed expressly is
Associated Labor Union v. Gomez, a 1980 decision. There is no
mention of the other placards but it is not unlikely that to bolster
its claim, mention was likewise made and in bold letter at that of
such alleged failing of its management.
It is a fact of industrial life, both in the Philippines as in the United
States, that in the continuing confrontation between labor and
management, it is far from likely that the language employed
would be both courteous and polite. Such being the case, there is
no affront either to reason or to the law in the complaint for libel
being dismissed. In pricing reliance on the constitutional right of
freedom of expression, this Court once again makes manifest its
adherence to the principle first announced by Justice Malcolm in US
v. Bustos. In no uncertain terms, it made clear that the judiciary, in
deciding suits for libel, must ascertain whether or not the alleged
offending words may be embraced by the guarantees of free
speech and free press.
Decision is affirmed.

33 In re: Laureta
Tolentino v. Secretary of Finance
The Expanded Value-Added Tax Law was challenged by several petitions.
The Philippine Press Institute contends that the law discriminates against
the press after the law removed the exemption of the press from the VAT
while maintained those granted to others.

4.

Facts:
1.

2.

Several motions were filed in order to have RA 7716 declared


unconstitutional. RA 7716 is known as the Expanded Value-Added
Tax Law.
It is contended by the Philippine Press Institute that by removing
the exemption of the press from the VAT while maintaining those
granted to others, the law discriminates against the press. At any
rate, it is averred, even non-discriminatory taxation of
constitutionally guaranteed freedom is unconstitutional.
5.

Ruling:
1.

2.

3.

As a general proposition, the press is not exempt from the taxing


power of the State and that what the constitutional guarantee of
free press prohibits are laws which single out the press or target a
group belonging to the press for special treatment or which in any
way discriminate against the press on the basis of the content of
the publication, and RA 7716 is none of these.
It would suffice to say that since the law granted the press a
privilege, the law could take back the privilege anytime without
offense to the constitution. The reason is simple: by granting
exemptions, the State does not forever waive the exercise of its
sovereign prerogative. Indeed, in withdrawing the exemption, the
law merely subjects the press to the same tax burden to which
other businesses have long ago been subject.
The license tax in Grosjean v. American Press Co. was found to be
discriminatory because it was laid on the gross advertising receipts
only of newspapers whose weekly circulation was over 20,000, with
the result that the tax applied only to 13 out of 124 publishers in

Case Digests on Freedom of Expression Mark Justin Mooc

Louisiana. These large papers were critical of Sen. Long who


controlled the state legislature which enacted the license tax. The
censorial motivation for the law was thus evident.
In Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Commr of Revenue,
the tax was found to be discriminatory because although it could
have been made liable for the sales tax or in lieu thereof, for the
use tax on the privilege of using, storing, or consuming tangible
goods, the press was not. Instead the press was exempted from
both taxes. It was however later made to pay a special use tax on
the cost of paper and ink which made these items the only items
subject to the use tax that were component of goods to be sold at
retail. The US SC held that the differential treatment of the press
suggests that the goal of regulation is not related to suppression of
expression, and such goal is presumptively unconstitutional. It
would therefore appear that even a law that favors the press is
constitutionally suspect.
The VAT is different. It is not a license tax. It is not a tax on the
exercise of a privilege; much less a constitutional right. It is
imposed on the sale, barter, lease or exchange of goods or
properties or the sale or exchange of services and the lease of
properties purely for revenue purposes. To subject the press to its
payment is not to burden the exercise of its right any more than to
make the press pay income tax or subject it to general regulation is
not to violate its freedom under the Constitution.