You are on page 1of 112

08/07/2011 08:30:00

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION A.M. No. 1120-MJ May 5, 1976 DOMINADOR C. BALDOZA, complainant, vs. HON. JUDGE RODOLFO B. DIMAANO, respondent. RESOLUTION ANTONIO, J.: In a verified letter-complaint dated September 9, 1975, the Municipal Secretary of Taal, Batangas, charges Municipal Judge Rodolfo B. Dimaano, of the same municipality, with abuse of authority in refusing to allow employees of the Municipal Mayor to examine the criminal docket records of the Municipal Court to secure data in connection with their contemplated report on the peace and order conditions of the said municipality. Respondent, in answer to the complaint, stated that there has never been an intention to refuse access to official court records; that although court records are among public documents open to inspection not only by the parties directly involved but also by other persons who have legitimate interest to such inspection, yet the same is always subject to reasonable regulation as to who, when, where and how they may be inspected. He further asserted that a court has unquestionably the power to prevent an improper use or inspection of its records and the furnishing of copies therefrom may be refused where the person requesting is not motivated by a serious and legitimate interest but acts out of whim or fancy or mere curiosity or to gratify private spite or to promote public scandal. In his answer, the respondent significantly observed: Restrictions are imposed by the Court for fear of an abuse in the exercise of the right. For fear that the dirty hands of partisan politics might again be at play, Some of the cases filed and decided by the Court after the declaration of Martial Law and years after the election still bore the stigma of partisan politics as shown in the affidavits and testimonies of witnesses.

Without casting aspersion on any particular individual, it is worth mentioning, that the padlocks of the door of the Court has recently been tampered by inserting papers and matchsticks. Under the circumstances, to allow an indiscriminate and unlimited exercise of the right to free access, might do more harm than good to the citizenry of Taal. Disorder and chaos might result defeating the very essence of their request. The undersigned is just as interested as Mr. Baldoza in the welfare of the community and the preservation of our democratic principles. Be that as it may, a request of this magnitude cannot be immediately granted without adequate deliberation and upon advisement, especially so in this case where the undersigned doubts the propriety of such request. Hence, it is believed that authority should first be secured from the Supreme Court, through the Executive Judge, for the formulation of guidelines and policies on this matter. The case was thereupon referred to Judge Francisco Mat. Riodique for investigation and report. At the preliminary hearing on October 16, 1975, Taal Mayor Corazon A. Caniza filed a motion to dismiss the complaint to preserve harmony and (cooperation among officers in the same municipality. This motion was denied by the Investigating Judge, but after formal investigation, he recommended the exoneration of respondent. Pertinent portion of his report reads as follows: * * * When this case was heard, complainant Dominador Baldoza informed the Court that he is aware of the motion to dismiss filed by Mayor Corazon A. Caniza and that he is in conformity with the dismissal of the administrative charge against Judge Rodolfo Dimaano. The Court asked him if he could prove his case and he said he can. So, the Court denied his oral motion to dismiss and required him to present his evidence. Complainant only manifested to the Court that he has no oral evidence. The only evidence he has are the exchanged communication which were all in writing and attached to the record between him and the respondent. The Court asked the respondent what he has to say on the documentary evidence of the complainant. He manifested that all his answers to the complaint are all embodied in his answers filed with the Court.

A careful perusal, scrutiny, and study of the communications between the complainant and the respondent, together with the answers filed by the latter, reveal that there is no showing of abuse of authority on the part of the respondent. The respondent allowed the complainant to open and view the docket books of the respondent under certain conditions and under his control and supervision. Complainant admitted that he was aware of the rules and conditions imposed by the respondent when he went to his office to view his docket books for the purpose mentioned in his communication. He also agreed that he is amenable to such rules and conditions which the respondent may impose. Under these conditions, therefore, the Court finds that the respondent has not committed any abuse of authority. The complainant was warned to be more cautious in filing any administrative charge against any public official especially, members of the judiciary, considering that an administrative charge against a member of the judiciary may expose the latter to public ridicule and scandal thereby minimizing if not eradicating public trust and After a careful evaluation of the recommendation, We find that the respondent did not act arbitrarily in the premises. As found by the Investigating Judge, the respondent allowed the complainant to open and view the docket books of respondent certain conditions and under his control and supervision. it has not been shown that the rules and conditions imposed by the respondent were unreasonable. The access to public records predicated on the right of the people to acquire information on matters of public concern. Undoubtedly in a democracy, the public has a legitimate interest in matters of social and political significance. In an earlier case, 1 this Court held that mandamus would lie to compel the Secretary of Justice and the Register of Deeds to examine the records of the latter office. Predicating the right to examine the 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 exercise as to 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 authority to prohibit. Citing with approval People ex rel. Title Guarantee & T. Co. vs. Railly, 2 this Court said:

The subject is necessarily committed, to a great degree, 'to his (register of deeds') discretion as to how much of the conveniences of the office are required to be preserved for the accomodation of these persons. It is not his duty to permit the office to be thronged needlessly with persons examining its books of papers, but it is his duty to regulate, govern, and control his office in such a manner as to permit the statutory advantages to be enjoyed by other persons not employed by him as largely and extensibly as that consistently can be done * * *. What the law expects and requires from him is the exercise of an unbiased and impartial judgment, by which all persons resorting to the office, under legal authority, and conducting themselves in an orderly manner, shall be secured their lawful rights and privileges, and that a corporation formed in the manner in which the relator has been, shall be permitted to obtain all the information either by searches, abstracts, or copies, that the law has entitled it to obtain. Except, perhaps, when it is clear that the purpose of the examination is unlawful, or sheer, Idle curiosity, we do not believe it is the 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 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 to publish the contents of the records, it is the legislature and not the officials having custody thereof which is called upon to devise a remedy. As to the moral or material injury which the publication might inflict on other parties, that is the publisher's responsibility and lookout. The publication is made subject to the consequences of the law. The concurring opinion of Justice Briones predicated such right not on statutory grounds merely but on the constitutional right of the press to have access to information as the essence of press freedom. 3

The New Constitution now expressly recognizes that the people are entitled to information on matters of public concern and thus are expressly granted access to official records, as well as documents of official acts, or transactions, or decisions, subject to such limitations imposed by law. 4 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 nation's 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: "Maintaining the flow of such information depends on protection for both its acquisition and its dissemination since, if either process is interrupted, the flow inevitably ceases. " 5 However, restrictions on access to certain records may be imposed by law. Thus, access restrictions imposed to control civil insurrection have been permitted upon a showing of immediate and impending danger that renders ordinary means of control inadequate to maintain order. 6 WHEREFORE, the case against respondent is hereby dismissed. Fernando, Actg. C.J., Barredo, Actg.(Chairman), Aquino and Martin JJ., concur. Concepcion Jr., J., is on leave.

08/07/2011 08:30:00
Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC G.R. No. 74930 February 13, 1989 RICARDO VALMONTE, OSWALDO CARBONELL, DOY DEL CASTILLO, ROLANDO BARTOLOME, LEO OBLIGAR, JUN GUTIERREZ, REYNALDO BAGATSING, JUN "NINOY" ALBA, PERCY LAPID, ROMMEL CORRO and ROLANDO FADUL, petitioners, vs. FELICIANO BELMONTE, JR., respondent. Ricardo C. Valmonte for and in his own behalf and his co-petitioners. The Solicitor General for respondent. CORTES, J.: Petitioners in this special civil action for mandamus with preliminary injunction invoke their right to information and pray that respondent be directed: (a) to furnish petitioners the list of the names of the Batasang Pambansa members belonging to the UNIDO and PDP-Laban who were able to secure clean loans immediately before the February 7 election thru the intercession/marginal note of the then First Lady Imelda Marcos; and/or (b) to furnish petitioners with certified true copies of the documents evidencing their respective loans; and/or (c) to allow petitioners access to the public records for the subject information. (Petition, pp. 4-5; paragraphing supplied.] The controversy arose when petitioner Valmonte wrote respondent Belmonte the following letter: June 4, 1986 Hon. Feliciano Belmonte GSIS General Manager Arroceros, Manila Sir:

As a lawyer, member of the media and plain citizen of our Republic, I am requesting that I be furnished with the list of names of the opposition members of (the) Batasang Pambansa who were able to secure a clean loan of P2 million each on guarranty (sic) of Mrs. Imelda Marcos. We understand that OIC Mel Lopez of Manila was one of those aforesaid MPs. Likewise, may we be furnished with the certified true copies of the documents evidencing their loan. Expenses in connection herewith shall be borne by us. If we could not secure the above documents could we have access to them? We are premising the above request on the following provision of the Freedom Constitution of the present regime. The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, shall be afforded the citizen subject to such limitation as may be provided by law. (Art. IV, Sec. 6).

We trust that within five (5) days from receipt hereof we will receive your favorable response on the matter. Very truly yours, (Sgd.) RICARDO C. VALMONTE [Rollo, p. 7.] To the aforesaid letter, the Deputy General Counsel of the GSIS replied: June 17, 1986 Atty. Ricardo C. Valmonte 108 E. Benin Street Caloocan City Dear Compaero: Possibly because he must have thought that it contained serious legal implications, President & General Manager Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. referred to me for study and reply your letter to him of June 4, 1986 requesting a list of the opposition members of Batasang Pambansa who were able to secure a clean loan of P2 million each on guaranty of Mrs. Imelda Marcos. My opinion in this regard is that a confidential relationship exists between the GSIS and all those who borrow from it, whoever they may be; that the GSIS has a duty to its customers to preserve this confidentiality; and that it would not be proper for the GSIS to breach this confidentiality unless so ordered by the courts. As a violation of this confidentiality may mar the image of the GSIS as a reputable financial institution, I regret very much that at this time we cannot respond positively to your request. Very truly yours, (Sgd.) MEYNARDO A. TIRO Deputy General Counsel [Rollo, p. 40.] On June 20, 1986, apparently not having yet received the reply of the Government Service and Insurance System (GSIS) Deputy General Counsel, petitioner Valmonte wrote respondent another letter, saying that for failure to receive a reply, "(W)e are now considering ourselves free to do whatever action necessary within the premises to pursue our desired objective in pursuance of public interest." [Rollo, p. 8.]

On June 26, 1986, Valmonte, joined by the other petitioners, filed the instant suit. On July 19, 1986, the Daily Express carried a news item reporting that 137 former members of the defunct interim and regular Batasang Pambansa, including ten (10) opposition members, were granted housing loans by the GSIS [Rollo, p. 41.] Separate comments were filed by respondent Belmonte and the Solicitor General. After petitioners filed a consolidated reply, the petition was given due course and the parties were required to file their memoranda. The parties having complied, the case was deemed submitted for decision. In his comment respondent raises procedural objections to the issuance of a writ of mandamus, among which is that petitioners have failed to exhaust administrative remedies. Respondent claims that actions of the GSIS General Manager are reviewable by the Board of Trustees of the GSIS. Petitioners, however, did not seek relief from the GSIS Board of Trustees. It is therefore asserted that since administrative remedies were not exhausted, then petitioners have no cause of action. To this objection, petitioners claim that they have raised a purely legal issue, viz., whether or not they are entitled to the documents sought, by virtue of their constitutional right to information. Hence, it is argued that this case falls under one of the exceptions to the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies.

Among the settled principles in administrative law is that before a party can be allowed to resort to the courts, he is expected to have exhausted all means of administrative redress available under the law. The courts for reasons of law, comity and convenience will not entertain a case unless the available administrative remedies have been resorted to and the appropriate authorities have been given opportunity to act and correct the errors committed in the administrative forum. However, the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies is subject to settled exceptions, among which is when only a question of law is involved [Pascual v. Provincial Board, 106 Phil. 466 (1959); Aguilar v. Valencia, et al., G.R. No. L-30396, July 30, 1971, 40 SCRA 210; Malabanan v. Ramento, G.R. No. L-2270, May 21, 1984, 129 SCRA 359.] The issue raised by petitioners, which requires the interpretation of the scope of the constitutional right to information, is one which can be passed upon by the regular courts more competently than the GSIS or its Board of Trustees, involving as it does a purely legal question. Thus, the exception of this case from the application of the general rule on exhaustion of administrative remedies is warranted. Having disposed of this procedural issue, We now address ourselves to the issue of whether or not mandamus hes to compel respondent to perform the acts sought by petitioners to be done, in pursuance of their right to information. We shall deal first with the second and third alternative acts sought to be done, both of which involve the issue of whether or not petitioners are entitled to access to the documents evidencing loans granted by the GSIS. This is not the first time that the Court is confronted with a controversy directly involving the constitutional right to information. In Taada v. Tuvera, G.R. No. 63915, April 24,1985, 136 SCRA 27 and in the recent case of Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. 72119, May 29, 1987,150 SCRA 530, the Court upheld the people's constitutional right to be informed of matters of public interest and ordered the government agencies concerned to act as prayed for by the petitioners. The pertinent provision under the 1987 Constitution is Art. 111, Sec. 7 which states:

The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law. The right of access to information was also recognized in the 1973 Constitution, Art. IV Sec. 6 of which provided: The right of the people to information on 'matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, shall be afforded the citizen subject to such limitations as may be provided by law. An informed citizenry with access to the diverse currents in political, moral and artistic thought and data relative to them, and the free exchange of ideas and discussion of issues thereon, is vital to the democratic government envisioned under our Constitution. 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 workings of government, the citizenry can become prey to the whims and caprices of those to whom the power had been delegated. The postulate of public office as a public trust, institutionalized in the Constitution (in Art. XI, Sec. 1) to protect the people from abuse of governmental power, would certainly be were empty words if access to such information of public concern is denied, except under limitations prescribed by implementing legislation adopted pursuant to the Constitution.

Petitioners are practitioners in media. As such, they have both the right to gather and the obligation to check the accuracy of information the disseminate. For them, the freedom of the press and of speech is not only critical, but vital to the exercise of their professions. The right of access to information ensures that these freedoms are not rendered nugatory by the government's monopolizing pertinent information. For an essential element of these freedoms is to keep open a continuing dialogue or process of communication between the government and the people. It is in the interest of the State that the channels for free political discussion be maintained to the end that the government may perceive and be responsive to the people's will. Yet, this open dialogue can be effective only to the extent that the citizenry is informed and thus able to formulate its will intelligently. Only when the participants in the discussion are aware of the issues and have access to information relating thereto can such bear fruit. 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 as in checking abuse in government. Yet, like all the constitutional guarantees, the right to information is not absolute. As stated in Legaspi, the people's 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 State's policy of full disclosure is limited to "transactions involving public interest," and is "subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law." Hence, before mandamus may issue, it must be clear that the information sought is of "public interest" or "public concern," and is not exempted by law from the operation of the constitutional guarantee [Legazpi v. Civil Service Commission, supra, at p. 542.] The Court has always grappled with the meanings of the terms "public interest" and "public concern". As observed in Legazpi:

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 citezen. In the final analysis, it is for the courts to determine on a case by case basis whether the matter at issue is of interest or importance, as it relates to or affects the public. [Ibid. at p. 541] In the Taada case the public concern deemed covered by the constitutional right to information was the need for adequate notice to the public of the various laws which are to regulate the actions and conduct of citezens. In Legaspi, it was the "legitimate concern of citezensof ensure that government positions requiring civil service eligibility are occupied only by persons who are eligibles" [Supra at p. 539.] The information sought by petitioners in this case is the truth of reports that certain Members of the Batasang Pambansa belonging to the opposition were able to secure "clean" loans from the GSIS immediately before the February 7, 1986 election through the intercession of th eformer First Lady, Mrs. Imelda Marcos.

The GSIS is a trustee of contributions from the government and its employees and the administrator of various insurance programs for the benefit of the latter. Undeniably, its funds assume a public character. More particularly, Secs. 5(b) and 46 of P.D. 1146, as amended (the Revised Government Service Insurance Act of 1977), provide for annual appropriations to pay the contributions, premiums, interest and other amounts payable to GSIS by the government, as employer, as well as the obligations which the Republic of the Philippines assumes or guarantees to pay. Considering the nature of its funds, the GSIS is expected to manage its resources with utmost prudence and in strict compliance with the pertinent laws or rules and regulations. Thus, one of the reasons that prompted the revision of the old GSIS law (C.A. No. 186, as amended) was the necessity "to preserve at all times the actuarial solvency of the funds administered by the System" [Second Whereas Clause, P.D. No. 1146.] Consequently, as respondent himself admits, the GSIS "is not supposed to grant 'clean loans.'" [Comment, p. 8.] It is therefore the legitimate concern of the public to ensure that these funds are managed properly with the end in view of maximizing the benefits that accrue to the insured government employees. Moreover, the supposed borrowers were Members of the defunct Batasang Pambansa who themselves appropriated funds for the GSIS and were therefore expected to be the first to see to it that the GSIS performed its tasks with the greatest degree of fidelity and that an its transactions were above board. In sum, the public nature of the loanable funds of the GSIS and the public office held by the alleged borrowers make the information sought clearly a matter of public interest and concern. A second requisite must be met before the right to information may be enforced through mandamus proceedings, viz., that the information sought must not be among those excluded by law. Respondent maintains that a confidential relationship exists between the GSIS and its borrowers. It is argued that a policy of confidentiality restricts the indiscriminate dissemination of information.

Yet, respondent has failed to cite any law granting the GSIS the privilege of confidentiality as regards the documents subject of this petition. His position is apparently based merely on considerations of policy. The judiciary does not settle policy issues. The Court can only declare what the law is, and not what the law should be. Under our system of government, policy issues are within the domain of the political branches of the government, and of the people themselves as the repository of all State power. Respondent however contends that in view of the right to privacy which is equally protected by the Constitution and by existing laws, the documents evidencing loan transactions of the GSIS must be deemed outside the ambit of the right to information. There can be no doubt that right to privacy is constitutionally protected. In the landmark case of Morfe v. Mutuc [130 Phil. 415 (1968), 22 SCRA 424], this Court, speaking through then Mr. Justice Fernando, stated: ... The right to privacy as such is accorded recognition independently of its identification with liberty; in itself, it is fully deserving of constitutional protection. The language of Prof. Emerson is particularly apt: "The concept of limited government has always included the idea that governmental powers stop short of certain intrusions into the personal life of the citizen. This is indeed one of the basic distinctions between absolute and limited government. UItimate and pervasive control of the individual, in all aspects of his life, is the hallmark of the absolute. state, In contrast, a system of limited government safeguards a private sector, which belongs to the individual, firmly distinguishing it from the public sector, which the state can control. Protection of this private sector protection, in other words, of the dignity and integrity of the individual has become increasingly important as modem society has developed. All the forces of technological age industrialization, urbanization, and organization operate to narrow the area of privacy and facilitate intrusion into it. In modern terms, the capacity to maintain and support this enclave of private life marks the difference between a democratic and a totalitarian society." [at pp. 444-445.]

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. However, the competing interests of these rights need not be resolved in this case. Apparent from the above-quoted statement of the Court in Morfe is that the right to privacy belongs to the individual in his private capacity, and not to public and governmental agencies like the GSIS. Moreover, the right cannot be invoked by juridical entities like the GSIS. As held in the case of Vassar College v. Loose Wills Biscuit Co. [197 F. 982 (1912)], a corporation has no right of privacy in its name since the entire basis of the right to privacy is an 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 [Cf. Atkinson v. John Doherty & Co., 121 Mich 372, 80 N.W. 285, 46 L.RA. 219 (1899); Schuyler v. Curtis, 147 N.Y. 434, 42 N.E. 22, 31 L.R.A. 286 (1895)), and hence may be invoked only by the person whose privacy is claimed to be violated. It may be observed, however, that in the instant case, the concerned borrowers themselves may not succeed if they choose to invoke their right to privacy, considering the public offices they were holding at the time the loans were alleged to have been granted. It cannot be denied that because of the interest they generate and their newsworthiness, public figures, most especially those holding responsible positions in government, enjoy a more limited right to privacy as compared to ordinary individuals, their actions being subject to closer public scrutiny [Cf. Ayer Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Capulong, G.R. Nos. 82380 and 82398, April 29, 1988; See also Cohen v. Marx, 211 P. 2d 321 (1949).] Respondent next asserts that the documents evidencing the loan transactions of the GSIS are private in nature and hence, are not covered by the Constitutional right to information on matters of public concern which guarantees "(a)ccess to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions" only. It is argued that the records of the GSIS, a government corporation performing proprietary functions, are outside the coverage of the people's right of access to official records.

It is further contended that since the loan function of the GSIS is merely incidental to its insurance function, then its loan transactions are not covered by the constitutional policy of full public disclosure and the right to information which is applicable only to "official" transactions. First of all, the "constituent ministrant" dichotomy characterizing government function has long been repudiated. In ACCFA v. Confederation of Unions and Government Corporations and Offices (G.R. Nos. L-21484 and L-23605, November 29, 1969, 30 SCRA 6441, the Court said that 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 to information. Moreover, the intent of the members of the Constitutional Commission of 1986, to include government-owned and controlled corporations and transactions entered into by them within the coverage of the State policy of fun public disclosure is manifest from the records of the proceedings: xxx xxx xxx THE PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Colayco). Commissioner Suarez is recognized. MR. SUAREZ. Thank you. May I ask the Gentleman a few question? MR. OPLE. Very gladly. MR. SUAREZ. Thank you. When we declare a "policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions" referring to the transactions of the State and when we say the "State" which I suppose would include all of the various agencies, departments, ministries and instrumentalities of the government.... MR. OPLE. Yes, and individual public officers, Mr. Presiding Officer. MR. SUAREZ. Including government-owned and controlled corporations. MR. OPLE. That is correct, Mr. Presiding Officer. MR. SUAREZ. And when we say "transactions" which should be distinguished from contracts, agreements, or treaties or whatever, does the Gentleman refer to the steps leading to the consummation of the contract, or does he refer to the contract itself?

MR. OPLE. The "transactions" used here I suppose is generic and, therefore, it can cover both steps leading to a contract, and already a consummated contract, Mr. Presiding Officer. MR. SUAREZ. This contemplates inclusion of negotiations leading to the consummation of the transaction. MR. OPLE. Yes, subject only to reasonable safeguards on the national interest. MR. SUAREZ. Thank you. [V Record of the Constitutional Commission 24-25.] (Emphasis supplied.) Considering the intent of the framers of the Constitution which, though not binding upon the Court, are nevertheless persuasive, and considering further that government-owned and controlled corporations, whether performing proprietary or governmental functions are accountable to the people, the Court is convinced that transactions entered into by the GSIS, a government-controlled corporation created by special legislation are within the ambit of the people's right to be informed pursuant to the constitutional policy of transparency in government dealings. In fine, petitioners are entitled to access to the documents evidencing loans granted by the GSIS, subject to reasonable regulations that the latter may promulgate relating to 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 records may be prevented and that the right of other persons entitled to inspect the records may be insured [Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, supra at p. 538, quoting Subido v. Ozaeta, 80 Phil. 383, 387.] The petition, as to the second and third alternative acts sought to be done by petitioners, is meritorious. However, the same cannot be said with regard to the first act sought by petitioners, i.e., "to furnish petitioners the list of the names of the Batasang Pambansa members belonging to the UNIDO and PDP-Laban who were able to secure clean loans immediately before the February 7 election thru the intercession/marginal note of the then First Lady Imelda Marcos." Although citizens are afforded the right to information and, pursuant thereto, are entitled to "access to official records," the Constitution does not accord them a right to compel custodians of official records to prepare lists, abstracts, summaries and the like in their desire to acquire information on matters of public concern.

It must be stressed that it is essential for a writ of mandamus to issue that the applicant has a well-defined, clear and certain legal right to the thing demanded and that it is the imperative duty of defendant to perform the act required. The corresponding duty of the respondent to perform the required act must be clear and specific [Lemi v. Valencia, G.R. No. L-20768, November 29,1968,126 SCRA 203; Ocampo v. Subido, G.R. No. L-28344, August 27, 1976, 72 SCRA 443.] The request of the petitioners fails to meet this standard, there being no duty on the part of respondent to prepare the list requested. WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby granted and respondent General Manager of the Government Service Insurance System is ORDERED to allow petitioners access to documents and records evidencing loans granted to Members of the former Batasang Pambansa, as petitioners may specify, subject to reasonable regulations as to the time and manner of inspection, not incompatible with this decision, as the GSIS may deem necessary. SO ORDERED. Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Grio-Aquino, Medialdea and Regalado, JJ., concur. Separate Opinions CRUZ, J., concurring: Instead of merely affixing my signature to signify my concurrence, I write this separate opinion simply to say I have nothing to add to Justice Irene R. Cortes' exceptionally eloquent celebration of the right to information on matters of public concern. Separate Opinions CRUZ, J., concurring:

Instead of merely affixing my signature to signify my concurrence, I write this separate opinion simply to say I have nothing to add to Justice Irene R. Cortes' exceptionally eloquent celebration of the right to information on matters of public concern. Footnotes * Art. II, Sec. 28. 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. ** Art XI, Sec. 1. Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with partriotism and justice, and lead modest lives. The following provisions of the 1987 Constitution are further indicative of the policy of transparency: Art. VII, Sec. 12. In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health. The members of the cabinet in charge of national security and foreign relations and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines shall not be denied access to the President during such illness. Art. XI, Sec. 17. A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath or his assets liabilities, and net worth. In the case of the President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Cabinet, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Commissions and other constitutional offices, and officers of the armed forces with general or flag rank, the declaration shall be disclosed to the public in the manner provided by law. Art. XII, Sec. 21. Foreign loans may only be incurred in accordance with law and the regulation of the monetary authority. Information on foreign loans obtained or guaranteed by the Government shall be made available to the public.

08/07/2011 08:30:00
Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC G.R. No. 88637 September 7, 1989 CONGRESSMAN ENRIQUE T. GARCIA, Second District of Bataan, petitioner, vs. THE BOARD OF INVESTMENTS, THE DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY, BATAAN PETROCHEMICAL CORPORATION and PILIPINAS SHELL CORPORATION, respondents. GRIO-AQUINO, J.: In this petition for certiorari and prohibition with a prayer for preliminary injunction, the petitioner, as congressman for the second district of Bataan, assails the approval by the Board of Investments (BOI) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) of the amended application for registration of the Bataan Petrochemical Corporation, which seeks to transfer the site of its petrochemical complex from Bataan, the original situs of choice, to the province of Batangas. Since the case presents purely legal issues, and the subject of the controversy vitally affects the economic interests of the country which should not pend for too long, the Court, after hearing the parties' extensive oral and written arguments on the petitioner's application for preliminary injunction, believes that it may now decide the merits of the petition as well. Proclamation No. 361 dated March 6, 1968, as amended by Proclamation No. 630 dated November 29, 1969, reserved a 388-hectare parcel of land of the public domain located at Lamao, Limay, Bataan for "industrial estate purposes," in line with the State policy of promoting and rationalizing the industrialization of the Philippines. P.D. No. 1803, dated January 16, 1981, enlarged the area by 188 hectares, making it a total of 576 hectares, reserved for the Petrochemical Industrial Zone under the administration, management and ownership of the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC).

The Bataan Refining Corporation (BRC for short) is a wholly government-owned corporation, located in Bataan. It produces 60% of the national output of naphtha. Taiwanese investors in a petrochemical project formed the Bataan Petrochemical Corporation (BPC) and applied with BOI for registration as a new domestic producer of petrochemicals. Its application specified Bataan as the plant site. One of the terms and conditions for the registration of the project was the use of "naphtha cracker" and "naphtha" as feedstock or fuel for its petrochemical plant. The petrochemical project was to be a joint venture with PNOC. BPC was issued a Certificate of Registration on February 24, 1988 by BOI. BPC was accorded pioneer status and was given fiscal and other incentives by BOI, like, (1) exemptions from tax on raw materials, (2) repatriation of the entire proceeds of liquidation of investments in currency originally made and at the exchange rate obtaining at the time of repatriation; and (3) remittance of earnings on investments. As additional incentive, the House of Representatives approved a bill introduced by the petitioner, Congressman Garcia, eliminating the 48% ad valorem tax on naphtha if and when it would be used as raw material in the petrochemical plant. The chairman of BPC, Tomas T.N. Hsi, profusely welcomed the bill, stating: This project is aiming at a boon not only to the province of Bataan, but to the country of the Philippines in general. It will support the development of the Philippine petrochemical industry by providing an ability to compete in the world market for manufactured petrochemical derivatives such as polyethylene and polypropylene products . . . (p. 7, Rollo.) However, in February 1989, A. T. Chong, chairman of USI Far East Corporation, the major investor in BPC personally delivered to Trade Secretary Jose Concepcion a letter dated January 25, 1989, advising him of BPC's desire to amend the original registration certificate of its project by changing the job site from Limay, Bataan, to Batangas (Annex F, p. 51, Rollo). News of the shift was published by one of the major Philippine dailies which disclosed that the cause of the relocation of the project is the insurgency and unstable labor situation in Bataan. The presence in Batangas of a huge liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) depot owned by the Pilipinas Shell Corporation was another consideration.

The congressmen of Bataan vigorously opposed the transfer of the proposed petrochemical plant to Batangas. At a conference of the Taiwanese investors with President Aquino and her Secretary of Defense and Chief of Staff of the Army, the President expressed her preference that the Bataan petrochemical plant be established in Bataan. However, despite speeches in the Senate and in the House opposing the transfer of the project to Batangas, BPC filed in the BOI on April 11, 1989 a request for "approval of an amendment of its investment application ... for establishing a petrochemical complex in the Philippines." (Annex F, p. 51, Rollo.) The amendments consisted of. (1) increasing the investment amount from US$220 million to US$320 million; (2) increasing the production capacity of its naphtha cracker, polyetheylene plant and polypropylene plant; (3) changing the feedstock from naphtha only to "naphtha and/or liquefied petroleum gas;" (4) transferring the job site from Limay, Bataan to Batangas (Annex F, p. 51, Rollo). Senator Ernesto Maceda, Antonio Francisco, vice-president and general manager of the Bataan Refining Corporation, Congressman Felicito C. Payumo of the lst District of Bataan, herein petitioner Congressman Enrique Garcia of the Second District, the provincial Governor of Bataan, the League of Mayors and various civic and professional organizations all opposed the transfer of the project to Batangas (pp. 10, 11, 12, Rollo; Annex Q, p. 81, Rollo). On May 4, 1989, petitioner addressed a letter to Secretary Concepcion of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), through BOI vice-chairman and manager Tomas Alcantara, requesting for "a copy of the amendment reportedly submitted by Taiwanese investors, to their original application for the installation of the Bataan Petrochemical Plant, as well as the original application itself together with any and all attachments to said original application and the amendment thereto." (Annex K, p. 70, Rollo.) On May 21, 1989, BOI vice-chairman Alcantara informed petitioner that the Taiwanese investors declined to give their consent to the release of the documents requested (Annex O). On May 25, 1989, the BOI approved the revision of the registration of BPC's petrochemical project (Annex S, p. 84, Rollo).

On June 26, 1989, petitioner filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition in this Court, with a prayer for preliminary injunction, alleging that the BOI and DTI gravely abused their discretion: (a) in not observing due process in approving without a hearing, the revisions in the registration of the BPC's petrochemical project; (b) in refusing to furnish the petitioner with copies of BPC's application for registration and its supporting papers in violation of the Government's policy of transparency; (c) in approving the change in the site of BPC's petrochemical plant from Bataan to Batangas in violation of PD Nos. 949 and 1803 which establishes Lamao, Limay, Bataan as the "petrochemical industrial zone;" (d) in approving the change in feedstock from naphtha only, to naphtha and/or lpg; and (e) in showing gross partiality for BPC. This Court is not concerned with the economic, social, and political aspects of this case for it does not possess the necessary technology and scientific expertise to determine whether the transfer of the proposed BPC petrochemical complex from Bataan to Batangas and the change of fuel from naphtha only to "naphtha and/or LPG" will be best for the project and for our country. This Court is not about to delve into the economics and politics of this case. It is concerned simply, with the alleged violation of due process and the alleged extra limitation of power and discretion on the part of the public respondents in approving the transfer of the project to Batangas without giving due notice and an opportunity to be heard to the vocal opponents of that move. The Omnibus Investments Code of 1987 (Executive Order No. 226) of July 16, 1987 expressly declares it to be the policy of the State "to accelerate the sound development of the national economy ... by encouraging private Filipino and foreign investments in industry, agriculture, forestry, mining, tourism and other sectors of the economy." For this purpose, the Code mandates the holding of "consultations with affected communities whenever necessary" (Art. 2, subpar. 2 of the Omnibus Investments Code). Correspondingly, Art. 33 provides that: whenever necessary, the Board, through the People's Economic Councils, shall consult the communities affected on the acceptability of locating the registered enterprise within their community."

The Code also requires the "publication of applications for registration," hence, the payment of publication and other necessary fees ... prior to the processing and approval of such applications (Art. 7, subpar. 3, Omnibus Investments Code). As provided by the law, the BPC's application for registration as a "new export producer of ethylene, polyethylene and polypropylene was published in the "Philippine Daily Inquirer" issue of December 21, 1987. The notice invited "any person with valid objections to or pertinent comments on the above-mentioned application ... (to file) his/her comments/objections in writing with the BOI within one (1) week from the date of this publication" (Annex 1, public respondent's Comment). Since the BPC's amended application (particularly the change of location from Bataan to Batangas) was in effect a new application, it should have been published so that whoever may have any objection to the transfer may be heard. The BOI's failure to publish such notice and to hold a hearing on the amended application deprived the oppositors, like the petitioner, of due process and amounted to a grave abuse of discretion on the part of the BOI. There is no merit in the public respondents' contention that the petitioner has "no legal interest" in the matter of the transfer of the BPC petrochemical plant from the province of Bataan to the province of Batangas. The provision in the Investments Code requiring publication of the investor's application for registration in the BOI is implicit recognition that the proposed investment or new industry is a matter of public concern on which the public has a right to be heard. And, when the BOI approved BPC's application to establish its petrochemical plant in Limay, Bataan, the inhabitants of that province, particularly the affected community in Limay, and the petitioner herein as the duly elected representative of the Second District of Bataan acquired an interest in the project which they have a right to protect. Their interest in the establishment of the petrochemical plant in their midst is actual, real, and vital because it win affect not only their economic life but even the air they will breathe.

Hence, they have a right to be heard or "be consulted" on the proposal to transfer it to another site for the Investments Code does require that the "affected communities" should be consulted. While this Court may not require BOI to decide that controversy in a particular way, we may require the Board to comply with the law and its own rules and regulations prescribing such notice and hearing. This Court in the cases of Taada vs. Tuvera, 136 SCRA 27 and Legaspi vs. Civil Service Commission, 150 SCRA 530, has recognized a citizen's interest and personality to procure the enforcement of a public duty and to bring an action to compel the performance of that duty. In this case, what the petitioner seeks is for the Board of Investments to hold a hearing where he may present evidence in support of his opposition to the BPC's amended application for registration (which amounts to a new application) since one of the effects of the amendment is to change the site of its petrochemical plant from Bataan to Batangas. The petitioner's request for xerox copies of certain documents flied by BPC together with its original application, and its amended application for registration with BOI, may not be denied, as it is the constitutional right of a citizen to have access to information on matters of public concern under Article III, Section 7 of the 1987 Constitution. The confidentiality of the records on BPC's applications is not absolute for Article 81 of the Omnibus Investments Code provides that they may be disclosed "upon the consent of the applicant, or on orders of a court of competent jurisdiction.' As a matter of fact, a xerox copy of BPC's position paper dated April 10, 1989, in support of its request for the transfer of its petrochemical plant to Batangas, has been submitted to this Court as Annex A of its memorandum. However, just as the confidentiality of an applicant's records in the BOI is not absolute, neither is the petitioner's right of access to them unlimited. The Constitution does not open every door to any and all information. "Under the Constitution, access to official records, papers, etc. is subject to limitations as may be provided by law (Art. III, Sec. 7, second sentence). The law may exempt certain types of information from public scrutiny (Legaspi vs. Civil Service Commission, 150 SCRA 530). The trade secrets and confidential, commercial and financial information of the applicant BPC, and matters affecting national security are excluded from the privilege.

At the oral argument on the petitioner's application for a preliminary action on July 4, 1989, the Court was informed that if the BOI will hold a hearing on the BPC's amended application, the petitioner will be able to present his evidence in opposition to the transfer of the project to Batangas within a period of one week. After such hearing, the BOI shall render its decision which the petitioner may appeal to the President as provided in Article 36 of the Investments Code. Her decision will be final and unappealable. WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari is granted. The Board of Investments is ordered: (1) to publish the amended application for registration of the Bataan Petrochemical Corporation, (2) to allow the petitioner to have access to its records on the original and amended applications for registration, as a petrochemical manufacturer, of the respondent Bataan Petrochemical Corporation, excluding, however, privileged papers containing its trade secrets and other business and financial information, and (3) to set for hearing the petitioner's opposition to the amended application in order that he may present at such hearing all the evidence in his possession in support of his opposition to the transfer of the site of the BPC petrochemical plant to Batangas province. The hearing shall not exceed a period of ten (10) days from the date fixed by the BOI, notice of which should be served by personal service to the petitioner through counsel, at least three (3) days in advance. The hearings may be held from day to day for a period of ten (10) days without postponements. The petition for a writ of prohibition or preliminary injunction is denied. No costs. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Cortes, Medialdea and Regalado, JJ., concur. Fernan, C.J., Paras, and Feliciano, JJ., took no part. Separate Opinions MELENCIO-HERRERA, J., dissenting:

On 17 December 1987, a group of Taiwanese investors, doing business under the name of Bataan Petrochemical Corporation (BPC), filed with the Board of Investments (BOI) an application for registration as a new export producer of petrochemicals. The notice of application was duly published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on 21 December 1987. The application, as submitted, specified that the amount of the investment for the establishment of a petrochemical complex in the Philippines was $220 million and that the plant was to be located in Bataan using 41 naphta as feedstock. On 14 January 1988, after compliance with other legal requirements, the BOI approved the application, and issued the corresponding Certificate of Registration on 24 February 1988. BPC was accorded pioneer status and became entitled to the incentives provided for in the Omnibus Investments Code. In February 1989, BPC sought to amend its application by proposing the change of plant site from Bataan to Batangas and the feedstock from "naphta only" to "naphta and/or LPG," and increasing its investment to $320 million making the project the single biggest foreign investment in the Philippines to date. On 11 April 1989, BPC formally asked the BOI for approval of the proposed amendments. Petitioner, the legislative representative of the Second District of Bataan, opposed the change of the plant site in a privilege speech before Congress. He also sent letters to the BOI and the Department of Trade and Industry setting forth his objections to the transfer. In a hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, petitioner appeared and expounded on his position. On 25 May 1989, the BOI approved the revisions to the registered petrochemical project. Earlier, or on 21 May 1989, citing Article 81 of the Omnibus Investments Code of 1987, the BOI denied petitioner's request for a copy of the revisions submitted by the investors because the latter had declined to give their consent to the disclosure.

On 27 May 1989, a meeting was called by President Aquino in Malacanang to discuss the transfer of the project site. Present at the meeting were BOI officials, the petitioner and the other Congressman from Bataan. Petitioner requested the President to reconsider the BOI decision approving the transfer. On 24 June 1989, the President again called a meeting with the Bataan Congressmen, the Governor, and the Mayors of the province. She asked the Bataan officials to withdraw their objections to the transfer of the plant site to Batangas, lest the investors pack up and leave for, after all, Batangas is also in the Philippines and some of the "downstream" industries which would spring from a petrochemical complex may later be located in Bataan. The Bataan officials agreed to drop their objections, except for petitioner who instituted this Petition for certiorari and Prohibition before this Court (p. 11, Opposition by public respondents). In his Petition, petitioner alleges that the BOI committed grave abuse of discretion and denied him due process when it approved, without a hearing, the amendments to the registration of the BPC petrochemical project; when it denied petitioner's request for a copy of the amendments; and when it approved the change of the plant site and feedstock of the plant. As stated in the majority opinion, the Court is not concerned with the economic, social and political aspects of the case. In ruling in favor of petitioner, the majority faults the BOI with grave abuse of discretion and has ordered it (1) to publish the amended application for registration; (2) to allow petitioner to have access to its records on the original and amended applications for registration, excluding trade secrets; and (3) to set for hearing petitioner's opposition to the amended application. With all due respect, I find no grave abuse of discretion on the part of BOI, nor denial by it to petitioner of due process. As regards publication, Article 54 of the Omnibus Investments Code provides:

Art. 54. Publication and Posting of Notices. Immediately after the application has been given due course by the Board, the Secretary of the Board or any official designated by the Board shall require the applicant to publish the notice of the action of the Board thereon at his expense once in a newspaper of general circulation in the province or city where the applicant has its principal office, and post copies of said notice in conspicuous places, in the once of the Board or in the building where said office is located; setting forth in such copies the name of the applicant, the business in which it is engaged or proposes to engage or invest, and such other data and information as may be required by the Board. No approval or certificate shall be valid without the publication and posting of notices as herein provided. (Italics supplied) Clearly, it is not the application itself that is required to be published but notice of the action of the Board plus the specified data. Thus, the Notice of Publication, which appeared in the Inquirer, simply read: Notice is hereby given that the application of BATAAN PETROCHEMICAL CORPORATION ... for registration with the Board of Investments under Book I of the Omnibus Investment Code of 1987, otherwise known as Executive Order No. 226 as new export producer of ethylene, polyethylene and polypropylene has been officially accepted on December 17, 1987 and is currently being processed. Any person with valid objections to or pertinent comments on the above-mentioned application may file his/her comments/objections in writing with the BOI within one (1) week from the date of this publication. Let this notice be published at the expense of the applicant ... (Annex "1," Opposition). Absent the requirement of publication of the application itself, there should be no need either to publish the amendments to the application. The statement in the majority opinion that the amended application is considered a new application does not find support in the Omnibus Investments Code. After all the amendment did not change the essence or nature of the petrochemical project but only the site, and the feedstock. Specially significant, too, is the fact that the confidentiality of applications is specifically provided for in the Omnibus Investments Code. Thus:

Art. 81. Confidentiality of Applications. All applications and their supporting documents filed under this Code shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed to any person, except with the consent of the applicant or on orders of a court of competent jurisdiction. Considering that all applications and their supporting documents are confidential and are not to be disclosed to any person, it follows that amendments thereto should also be considered confidential and need no publication. Which brings us to the second part of the majority disposition requiring BOI to allow petitioner to have access to its records. If BOI did not furnish petitioner with copy of the original application and amendments thereto, it was because it had received a reply from the project proponents "advising us not to release the subject documents in view of the sensitive information contained therein which includes the accumulation of the proponents' business experience and know-how" (Annex "O," Petition). No grave abuse of discretion can be attributed to the BOI, therefore, for not acceding to petitioner's request that he be furnished with copies of the original application with its amendments and attachments (Annex "K," Petition). Of course, pursuant to Article 81 of the Omnibus Investments Code, the Court, as it does now, can order the BOI to allow petitioner to have access to its records on the original and amended applications for registration.

There seems to be no longer any necessity therefor, however. Attached to public respondent's Opposition is BPC's Position Paper, dated 10 April 1989, wherein BPC discoursed on the significant benefits to be achieved by the transfer and why "using LPG as alternative feedstock will be very advantageous to the project (Annex "2" Opposition) In addition, petitioner already has in his possession: (a) the approval by the BOI of the BPC application for registration, which includes the pre-registration and registration conditions (Annex "A," Petition); (b) the post- registration specific terms and conditions, which the BOI imposed for the project (Annex "B," ibid.); (c) the BPC letter to the BOI requesting approval of the amendment of its investment application for registration for the establishment of a petrochemical complex in the Philippines (Annex "F," ibid.); and (d) the approval by the BOI on 25 May 1989 of the revisions to the project, subject to additional conditions (Annex "S," ibid.). Moreover, in the Supplemental Opposition filed by BPC it has attached a summary of the considerations that guided it in proposing the amendments. Virtually all the data petitioner needs, therefore, are now of record. The majority ruling also requires the BOI to set for hearing petitioner's opposition to the amended application so that he may present at such hearing all the evidence in his possession in support of his opposition to the transfer of the site of the project to Batangas. The Omnibus Investments Code, however, does not require the BOI to hold hearings before approving applications for registration or amendments thereto. In fact, hearings would contravene Codal provisions on confidentiality. Article 7, paragraph 4, cited in the majority opinion neither supports the necessity of hearings. It reads: Art. 7. Powers and Duties of the Board xxx xxx xxx (4) After due hearing, decide controversies concerning the implementation of this Code that may arise between registered enterprises or investors therein and government agencies, within thirty (30) days after the controversy has been submitted for decision: ...

In other words, due hearing is required only in connection with controversies between registered enterprises or investors therein and government agencies concerning the implementation of the Omnibus Investments Code. It does not speak at all of a hearing on applications for registration or amendments thereto. Additionally, Article 34 of the Omnibus Investments Code, in providing that applications not acted upon by the Board within twenty (20) days from official acceptance thereof shall be considered automatically approved implies that a hearing is not at all indispensable in the matter of registration of enterprises. The intention of the law to make BOI proceedings nonadversarial and as expeditious as possible consistent with the Codal policy to encourage investments, is clearly discernible. Besides, a hearing, as ordained, will serve no practical purpose for petitioner has already fully presented his case, the BOI has given it due consideration and has acted accordingly. This is concretely shown by the following exchange of communications: (1) In his letter to the Secretary of Trade and lndustry, who is concurrently Chairman of the Board of Investments, petitioner "reiterate(d)" his "most vehement protest against the maneuver to transfer the Bataan Petrochemical project from Bataan to Batangas which, if successful, would greatly prejudice not only the people of Bataan, but more importantly, our country and government" (Annex 'E," Petition); (2) Petitioner's letter, dated 2 May 1989, to the Secretary of Trade and Industry protested the latter's "official position that 'The final choice (of site) is still with the proponent (the Taiwanese), who would, in the final analysis, provide the funding or risk capital for the project"' (Annex "J," ibid.); (3) Attached to said communication was petitioner's letter, dated 24 April 1989, addressed to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means giving fourteen (14) reasons why the project should not be transferred to Batangas (Annex "I," ibid.);

(4) The reply-letter of the BOI to petitioner, dated 11 May 1989, took exception to petitioner's claim that the BOI and the DTI, by not vigorously opposing the transfer, had violated the Constitution, the Omnibus Investments Code and P.D. 949 as amended by PD 1803, and urged petitioner not to proceed with his planned court action as it would only serve to "discourage foreign investors and derail efforts at economic recovery" (Annex "M," ibid.); (5) Petitioner's letter to the BOI of 16 May 1989 rebutted point by point the arguments in the BOI letter of 11 May 1989 and argued that "PD No. 949, as amended by P. D. No. 1803, as well as related issuances, have chosen Bataan as the site of the petrochemical project" (Annex "N," ibid.); (6) Petitioner's letter to the BOI of 29 May 1989 formalized his "motion for reconsideration of the BOI "decision' approving the transfer of the project from Bataan to Batangas, and contended that President Aquino had set it aside (Annex "P," ibid.); (7) Petitioner's follow-up letter to the BOI, dated 19 June 1989, claimed that the BOI decision to approve the transfer of the project had, in effect, been reversed by the President herself and that the BOI should "refrain from taking any step to execute said defunct decision" (Annex "Q," ibid.); (8) In the BOI letter of 21 June 1989 to petitioner, the former denied that there had been a reversal by the President of the BOI decision; and that, as far as petitioner's motion for reconsideration of the BOI decision is concerned, "since you are not submitting any new cause of action for BOI to reconsider its decision, we believe that we have sufficiently answered the questions you have raised in your letter dated 2 May 1989, which has been replied to by the Managing Head of the BOI on 11 May 1989" (Annex "R," ibid.). All told, there can be no question that petitioner has been fully heard on his original petition to the BOI to disapprove the transfer of the project site and on his motion for reconsideration. No further purpose will be served by setting petitioner's opposition for hearing. Neither do I think that "affected communities' have a right to be consulted, as opined by the majority. The provision pertinent thereto reads:

Art. 33. Application. Applications shall be filed with the Board, recorded in a registration book and the date appearing therein and stamped on the application shall be considered the date of official acceptance. Whenever necessary, the Board, through the People's Economic Councils, shall consult the communities affected on the acceptability of locating the registered enterprise within their community. In other words, the requirement on consultation is qualified by the phrase "whenever necessary." The clear implication is that the BOI may dispense with such consultations if it believes that it can decide applications for registration by itself without consultation. In fine, it is my view that the BOI did not commit any grave abuse of discretion in approving the amendments to BPC's application. Nor had it failed to observe due process in approving the same without a formal hearing, petitioner having, in fact, been fully heard. The matter of determining whether the transfer of the plant site and change of feedstock will be best for the project and the country lies with the BOI as the administrative body specifically tasked with such matters. It is well-settled that absent a clear, manifest and grave abuse of discretion amounting to want of jurisdiction, the decision and findings of an administrative agency on matters falling within its competence will not be disturbed by the Courts Sagun vs. People's Homesite and Housing Corp., G.R. No. 44738, June 22, 1988, 162 SCRA 411) as the same fans within that agency's special knowledge and expertise gained by it from handling the specific matters falling under its jurisdiction (Mapa vs. Arroyo et al., G.R. No. 78565, July 5, 1989). I vote, therefore, for the dismissal of the petition for lack of merit, which dismissal should be immediately executory. The holding of hearings will serve no purpose other than unnecessarily delay the implementation of the Philippines' biggest foreign project, representing a major step towards industrialization. Further delay can only produce a chilling effect on foreign investments in the country. Separate Opinions MELENCIO-HERRERA, J., dissenting:

On 17 December 1987, a group of Taiwanese investors, doing business under the name of Bataan Petrochemical Corporation (BPC), filed with the Board of Investments (BOI) an application for registration as a new export producer of petrochemicals. The notice of application was duly published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on 21 December 1987. The application, as submitted, specified that the amount of the investment for the establishment of a petrochemical complex in the Philippines was $220 million and that the plant was to be located in Bataan using 41 naphta as feedstock. On 14 January 1988, after compliance with other legal requirements, the BOI approved the application, and issued the corresponding Certificate of Registration on 24 February 1988. BPC was accorded pioneer status and became entitled to the incentives provided for in the Omnibus Investments Code. In February 1989, BPC sought to amend its application by proposing the change of plant site from Bataan to Batangas and the feedstock from "naphta only" to "naphta and/or LPG," and increasing its investment to $320 million making the project the single biggest foreign investment in the Philippines to date. On 11 April 1989, BPC formally asked the BOI for approval of the proposed amendments. Petitioner, the legislative representative of the Second District of Bataan, opposed the change of the plant site in a privilege speech before Congress. He also sent letters to the BOI and the Department of Trade and Industry setting forth his objections to the transfer. In a hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, petitioner appeared and expounded on his position. On 25 May 1989, the BOI approved the revisions to the registered petrochemical project. Earlier, or on 21 May 1989, citing Article 81 of the Omnibus Investments Code of 1987, the BOI denied petitioner's request for a copy of the revisions submitted by the investors because the latter had declined to give their consent to the disclosure.

On 27 May 1989, a meeting was called by President Aquino in Malacanang to discuss the transfer of the project site. Present at the meeting were BOI officials, the petitioner and the other Congressman from Bataan. Petitioner requested the President to reconsider the BOI decision approving the transfer. On 24 June 1989, the President again called a meeting with the Bataan Congressmen, the Governor, and the Mayors of the province. She asked the Bataan officials to withdraw their objections to the transfer of the plant site to Batangas, lest the investors pack up and leave for, after all, Batangas is also in the Philippines and some of the "downstream" industries which would spring from a petrochemical complex may later be located in Bataan. The Bataan officials agreed to drop their objections, except for petitioner who instituted this Petition for certiorari and Prohibition before this Court (p. 11, Opposition by public respondents). In his Petition, petitioner alleges that the BOI committed grave abuse of discretion and denied him due process when it approved, without a hearing, the amendments to the registration of the BPC petrochemical project; when it denied petitioner's request for a copy of the amendments; and when it approved the change of the plant site and feedstock of the plant. As stated in the majority opinion, the Court is not concerned with the economic, social and political aspects of the case. In ruling in favor of petitioner, the majority faults the BOI with grave abuse of discretion and has ordered it (1) to publish the amended application for registration; (2) to allow petitioner to have access to its records on the original and amended applications for registration, excluding trade secrets; and (3) to set for hearing petitioner's opposition to the amended application. With all due respect, I find no grave abuse of discretion on the part of BOI, nor denial by it to petitioner of due process. As regards publication, Article 54 of the Omnibus Investments Code provides:

Art. 54. Publication and Posting of Notices. Immediately after the application has been given due course by the Board, the Secretary of the Board or any official designated by the Board shall require the applicant to publish the notice of the action of the Board thereon at his expense once in a newspaper of general circulation in the province or city where the applicant has its principal office, and post copies of said notice in conspicuous places, in the once of the Board or in the building where said office is located; setting forth in such copies the name of the applicant, the business in which it is engaged or proposes to engage or invest, and such other data and information as may be required by the Board. No approval or certificate shall be valid without the publication and posting of notices as herein provided. (Italics supplied) Clearly, it is not the application itself that is required to be published but notice of the action of the Board plus the specified data. Thus, the Notice of Publication, which appeared in the Inquirer, simply read: Notice is hereby given that the application of BATAAN PETROCHEMICAL CORPORATION ... for registration with the Board of Investments under Book I of the Omnibus Investment Code of 1987, otherwise known as Executive Order No. 226 as new export producer of ethylene, polyethylene and polypropylene has been officially accepted on December 17, 1987 and is currently being processed. Any person with valid objections to or pertinent comments on the above-mentioned application may file his/her comments/objections in writing with the BOI within one (1) week from the date of this publication. Let this notice be published at the expense of the applicant ... (Annex "1," Opposition). Absent the requirement of publication of the application itself, there should be no need either to publish the amendments to the application. The statement in the majority opinion that the amended application is considered a new application does not find support in the Omnibus Investments Code. After all the amendment did not change the essence or nature of the petrochemical project but only the site, and the feedstock. Specially significant, too, is the fact that the confidentiality of applications is specifically provided for in the Omnibus Investments Code. Thus:

Art. 81. Confidentiality of Applications. All applications and their supporting documents filed under this Code shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed to any person, except with the consent of the applicant or on orders of a court of competent jurisdiction. Considering that all applications and their supporting documents are confidential and are not to be disclosed to any person, it follows that amendments thereto should also be considered confidential and need no publication. Which brings us to the second part of the majority disposition requiring BOI to allow petitioner to have access to its records. If BOI did not furnish petitioner with copy of the original application and amendments thereto, it was because it had received a reply from the project proponents "advising us not to release the subject documents in view of the sensitive information contained therein which includes the accumulation of the proponents' business experience and know-how" (Annex "O," Petition). No grave abuse of discretion can be attributed to the BOI, therefore, for not acceding to petitioner's request that he be furnished with copies of the original application with its amendments and attachments (Annex "K," Petition). Of course, pursuant to Article 81 of the Omnibus Investments Code, the Court, as it does now, can order the BOI to allow petitioner to have access to its records on the original and amended applications for registration.

There seems to be no longer any necessity therefor, however. Attached to public respondent's Opposition is BPC's Position Paper, dated 10 April 1989, wherein BPC discoursed on the significant benefits to be achieved by the transfer and why "using LPG as alternative feedstock will be very advantageous to the project (Annex "2" Opposition) In addition, petitioner already has in his possession: (a) the approval by the BOI of the BPC application for registration, which includes the pre-registration and registration conditions (Annex "A," Petition); (b) the post- registration specific terms and conditions, which the BOI imposed for the project (Annex "B," ibid.); (c) the BPC letter to the BOI requesting approval of the amendment of its investment application for registration for the establishment of a petrochemical complex in the Philippines (Annex "F," ibid.); and (d) the approval by the BOI on 25 May 1989 of the revisions to the project, subject to additional conditions (Annex "S," ibid.). Moreover, in the Supplemental Opposition filed by BPC it has attached a summary of the considerations that guided it in proposing the amendments. Virtually all the data petitioner needs, therefore, are now of record. The majority ruling also requires the BOI to set for hearing petitioner's opposition to the amended application so that he may present at such hearing all the evidence in his possession in support of his opposition to the transfer of the site of the project to Batangas. The Omnibus Investments Code, however, does not require the BOI to hold hearings before approving applications for registration or amendments thereto. In fact, hearings would contravene Codal provisions on confidentiality. Article 7, paragraph 4, cited in the majority opinion neither supports the necessity of hearings. It reads: Art. 7. Powers and Duties of the Board xxx xxx xxx (4) After due hearing, decide controversies concerning the implementation of this Code that may arise between registered enterprises or investors therein and government agencies, within thirty (30) days after the controversy has been submitted for decision: ...

In other words, due hearing is required only in connection with controversies between registered enterprises or investors therein and government agencies concerning the implementation of the Omnibus Investments Code. It does not speak at all of a hearing on applications for registration or amendments thereto. Additionally, Article 34 of the Omnibus Investments Code, in providing that applications not acted upon by the Board within twenty (20) days from official acceptance thereof shall be considered automatically approved implies that a hearing is not at all indispensable in the matter of registration of enterprises. The intention of the law to make BOI proceedings nonadversarial and as expeditious as possible consistent with the Codal policy to encourage investments, is clearly discernible. Besides, a hearing, as ordained, will serve no practical purpose for petitioner has already fully presented his case, the BOI has given it due consideration and has acted accordingly. This is concretely shown by the following exchange of communications: (1) In his letter to the Secretary of Trade and lndustry, who is concurrently Chairman of the Board of Investments, petitioner "reiterate(d)" his "most vehement protest against the maneuver to transfer the Bataan Petrochemical project from Bataan to Batangas which, if successful, would greatly prejudice not only the people of Bataan, but more importantly, our country and government" (Annex 'E," Petition); (2) Petitioner's letter, dated 2 May 1989, to the Secretary of Trade and Industry protested the latter's "official position that 'The final choice (of site) is still with the proponent (the Taiwanese), who would, in the final analysis, provide the funding or risk capital for the project"' (Annex "J," ibid.); (3) Attached to said communication was petitioner's letter, dated 24 April 1989, addressed to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means giving fourteen (14) reasons why the project should not be transferred to Batangas (Annex "I," ibid.);

(4) The reply-letter of the BOI to petitioner, dated 11 May 1989, took exception to petitioner's claim that the BOI and the DTI, by not vigorously opposing the transfer, had violated the Constitution, the Omnibus Investments Code and P.D. 949 as amended by PD 1803, and urged petitioner not to proceed with his planned court action as it would only serve to "discourage foreign investors and derail efforts at economic recovery" (Annex "M," ibid.); (5) Petitioner's letter to the BOI of 16 May 1989 rebutted point by point the arguments in the BOI letter of 11 May 1989 and argued that "PD No. 949, as amended by P. D. No. 1803, as well as related issuances, have chosen Bataan as the site of the petrochemical project" (Annex "N," ibid.); (6) Petitioner's letter to the BOI of 29 May 1989 formalized his "motion for reconsideration of the BOI "decision' approving the transfer of the project from Bataan to Batangas, and contended that President Aquino had set it aside (Annex "P," ibid.); (7) Petitioner's follow-up letter to the BOI, dated 19 June 1989, claimed that the BOI decision to approve the transfer of the project had, in effect, been reversed by the President herself and that the BOI should "refrain from taking any step to execute said defunct decision" (Annex "Q," ibid.); (8) In the BOI letter of 21 June 1989 to petitioner, the former denied that there had been a reversal by the President of the BOI decision; and that, as far as petitioner's motion for reconsideration of the BOI decision is concerned, "since you are not submitting any new cause of action for BOI to reconsider its decision, we believe that we have sufficiently answered the questions you have raised in your letter dated 2 May 1989, which has been replied to by the Managing Head of the BOI on 11 May 1989" (Annex "R," ibid.). All told, there can be no question that petitioner has been fully heard on his original petition to the BOI to disapprove the transfer of the project site and on his motion for reconsideration. No further purpose will be served by setting petitioner's opposition for hearing. Neither do I think that "affected communities' have a right to be consulted, as opined by the majority. The provision pertinent thereto reads:

Art. 33. Application. Applications shall be filed with the Board, recorded in a registration book and the date appearing therein and stamped on the application shall be considered the date of official acceptance. Whenever necessary, the Board, through the People's Economic Councils, shall consult the communities affected on the acceptability of locating the registered enterprise within their community. In other words, the requirement on consultation is qualified by the phrase "whenever necessary." The clear implication is that the BOI may dispense with such consultations if it believes that it can decide applications for registration by itself without consultation. In fine, it is my view that the BOI did not commit any grave abuse of discretion in approving the amendments to BPC's application. Nor had it failed to observe due process in approving the same without a formal hearing, petitioner having, in fact, been fully heard. The matter of determining whether the transfer of the plant site and change of feedstock will be best for the project and the country lies with the BOI as the administrative body specifically tasked with such matters. It is well-settled that absent a clear, manifest and grave abuse of discretion amounting to want of jurisdiction, the decision and findings of an administrative agency on matters falling within its competence will not be disturbed by the Courts Sagun vs. People's Homesite and Housing Corp., G.R. No. 44738, June 22, 1988, 162 SCRA 411) as the same fans within that agency's special knowledge and expertise gained by it from handling the specific matters falling under its jurisdiction (Mapa vs. Arroyo et al., G.R. No. 78565, July 5, 1989). I vote, therefore, for the dismissal of the petition for lack of merit, which dismissal should be immediately executory. The holding of hearings will serve no purpose other than unnecessarily delay the implementation of the Philippines' biggest foreign project, representing a major step towards industrialization. Further delay can only produce a chilling effect on foreign investments in the country.

08/07/2011 08:30:00
Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila G.R. No. 92541 November 13, 1991 MA. CARMEN G. AQUINO-SARMIENTO, petitioner, vs. MANUEL L. MORATO (in his capacity as Chairman of the MTRCB) and the MOVIE & TELEVISION REVIEW AND CLASSIFICATION BOARD, respondents. Araullo, Zambrano, Gruba, Chua Law Firm for petitioner. Francisco Ma. Chanco for respondents. BIDIN, J.:p At issue in this petition is the citizen's right of access to official records as guaranteed by the constitution. In February 1989, petitioner, herself a member of respondent Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), wrote its records officer requesting that she be allowed to examine the board's records pertaining to the voting slips accomplished by the individual board members after a review of the movies and television productions. It is on the basis of said slips that films are either banned, cut or classified accordingly. Acting on the said request, the records officer informed petitioner that she has to secure prior clearance from respondent Manuel Morato, as chairman of MTRCB, to gain access to the records sought to be examined. Petitioner's request was eventually denied by respondent Morato on the ground that whenever the members of the board sit in judgment over a film, their decisions as reflected in the individual voting slips partake the nature of conscience votes and as such, are purely and completely private and personal. It is the submission of respondents that the individual voting slips is the exclusive property of the member concerned and anybody who wants access thereto must first secure his (the member's) consent, otherwise, a request therefor may be legally denied.

Petitioner argues, on the other hand, that the records she wishes to examine are public in character and other than providing for reasonable conditions regulating the manner and hours of examination, respondents Morato and the classification board have no authority to deny any citizen seeking examination of the board's records. On February 27, 1989, respondent Morato called an executive meeting of the MTRCB to discuss, among others, the issue raised by petitioner. In said meeting, seventeen (17) members of the board voted to declare their individual voting records as classified documents which rendered the same inaccessible to the public without clearance from the chairman. Thereafter, respondent Morato denied petitioner's request to examine the voting slips. However, it was only much later, i.e., on July 27, 1989, that respondent Board issued Resolution No. 10-89 which declared as confidential, private and personal, the decision of the reviewing committee and the voting slips of the members. Petitioner brought the matter to the attention of the Executive Secretary, which in turn, referred the same to respondent Morato for appropriate comment. Another incident which gave rise to this petition occurred in a board meeting held on June 22, 1989. In that meeting, respondent Morato told the board that he has ordered some deletions on the movie "Mahirap ang Magmahal" notwithstanding the fact that said movie was earlier approved for screening by the Board with classification "R-18 without cuts". He explained that his power to unilaterally change the decision of the Review Committee is authorized by virtue of MTRCB Resolution No. 88-1-25 (dated June 22,1988) which allows the chairman of the board "to downgrade a film (already) reviewed especially those which are controversial." Petitioner informed the Board, however, that respondent Morato possesses no authority to unilaterally reverse a decision of the review committee under PD 1986 (Creating the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board).

After the matter was referred by the Deputy Executive Secretary to the Justice Secretary, the latter opined that PD 1896 does not vest respondent Morato any authority to unilaterally reverse the decision of the review committee but declined to comment on the constitutionality of Res. No. 10-89 on the ground that the resolution thereof is a judicial prerogative (Rollo, pp. 38-42). The Justice Secretary's opinion to the contrary notwithstanding, respondent Morato opted to ignore it. Hence, this petition anchored on the following: A. MORATO AND THE MTRCB BY APPROVING AND ENFORCING RESOLUTION NO. 10-89 ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION TANTAMOUNT TO LACK OF JURISDICTION BECAUSE THE SAME VIOLATES ARTICLE III SECTION 7 OF THE 1987 CONSTITUTION. B. MTRCB RESOLUTION NO. 88-1-25 HAS NO LEGAL BASIS AND CONSTITUTES AN UNLAWFUL DELEGATION OF DISCRETIONARY POWERS. C. MORATO AND THE MTRCB BY REFUSING TO ABIDE BY OPINION NO. 1 SERIES OF 1990 OF THE SECRETARY OF JUSTICE AND BY INSISTING ON THE VALIDITY OF RESOLUTION NO. 88-1-25 ACTED CAPRICIOUSLY, ARBITRARILY, IN BAD FAITH, IN EXCESS OF THEIR JURISDICTION, AND WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION. Petitioner therefore seeks the nullification of 1) MTRCB Resolution No. 88-1-25 which allows the Chairman of the Board to unilaterally downgrade a film (already) reviewed especially those which are controversial and 2) MTRCB RESOLUTION No. 10-89 (dated July 27, 1989) declaring as strictly confidential, private and personal a) the decision of a reviewing committee which previously reviewed a certain film and b) the individual voting slips of the members of the committee that reviewed the film. Respondents argue at the outset that the instant petition should be dismissed outright for having failed to comply with the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies.

We disagree. The doctrine of exhaustion of administrate remedies simply provides that before a party litigant is allowed resort to the courts, he is required to comply with all administrative remedies available under the law (Rosales v. Court of Appeals, 165 SCRA 344 [1988]). The rationale behind this salutory principle is that for reasons of practical considerations, comity and convenience, the courts of law will not entertain a case until all the available administrative remedies provided by law have been resorted to and the appropriate authorities have been given ample opportunity to act and to correct the errors committed in the administrative level. If the error is rectified, judicial intervention would then be unnecessary. Nonetheless, the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies is not absolute. The applicability of the principle admits of certain exceptions, such as: 1) when no administrative review is provided by law; 2) when the only question involved is one of law (Valmonte v. Valmonte, 170 SCRA 256 [1989], citing Aguilar v. Valencia, 40 SCRA 210 [1971]; Malabanan v. Ramento, 129 SCRA 359 [1984]; Bagatsing v. Ramirez, 74 SCRA 306; Del Mar v. Philippine Veterans Administration, 51 SCRA 340 [1973]; Pascual v. Provincial Board, 106 Phil. 466 [1959]; 3) where the party invoking the doctrine is guilty of estoppel (Vda. de Tan v. Veterans' Backpay Commission [1969]; 4) where the challenged administrative action is patently illegal, arbitrary and oppressive (Azur v. Provincial Board, 27 SCRA 50 [1969]; National Development Co. v. Collector of Customs of Manila, 9 SCRA 429 [1963]; 5) where there is unreasonable delay or official inaction that would greatly prejudice the complainant (Gravador v. Mamigo, 20 SCRA 742 [1967]; Azuelo v. Arnaldo, 108 Phil. 293 [1960]; 6) where to exhaust administrative review is impractical and unreasonable (Cipriano v. Marcelino, 43 SCRA 291); and 7) where the rule of qualified political agency applies (Demaisip v. Court of Appeals, 106 Phil. 237 [1906]).

The issue raised in the instant petition is one of law, hence the doctrine of non-exhaustion of administrative remedy relied upon by respondents is inapplicable and cannot be given any effect. At any rate, records are replete with events pointing to the fact that petitioner adhered to the administrative processes in the disposition of the assailed resolutions of public respondents prior to filing the instant petition by, among others, writing the Executive Secretary and bringing the matter to the attention of the Office of the President (Rollo, pp. 145-147). Respondents' claim that petitioner failed to exhaust administrative remedies must therefore fail. Having disposed of the procedural objection raised by respondents, We now proceed to resolve the issues raised by petitioner. In this regard, We find respondents' refusal to allow petitioner to examine the records of respondent MTRCB, pertaining to the decisions of the review committee as well as the individual voting slips of its members, as violative of petitioner's constitutional right of access to public records. More specifically, Sec. 7, Art. III of the Constitution provides that: The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law. (emphasis supplied) As We held in Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission (150 SCRA 530 [1987]), this constitutional provision is self-executory and supplies "the rules by means of which the right to information may be enjoyed (Cooley, A Treatise on Constitutional Limitations 167 [1927]) 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 (Id. at 165). 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 (Constitution, Art. II, Sec. 28)." (See also Taada v. Tuvera, 136 SCRA 27 [1985]; Valmonte v. Belmonte, Jr., 170 SCRA 256 [1989]).

Respondents contend, however, that what is rendered by the members of the board in reviewing films and reflected in their individual voting slip is their individual vote of conscience on the motion picture or television program and as such, makes the individual voting slip purely private and personal; an exclusive property of the member concerned. The term private has been defined as "belonging to or concerning, an individual person, company, or interest"; whereas, public means "pertaining to, or belonging to, or affecting a nation, state, or community at large" (People v. Powell, 274 NW 372 [1937]). May the decisions of respondent Board and the individual members concerned, arrived at in an official capacity, be considered private? Certainly not. As may be gleaned from the decree (PD 1986) creating the respondent classification board, there is no doubt that its very existence is public is character; it is an office created to serve public interest. It being the case, respondents can lay no valid claim to privacy. The right to privacy belongs to the individual acting in his private capacity and not to a governmental agency or officers tasked with, and acting in, the discharge of public duties (See Valmonte v. Belmonte, Jr., supra.) There can be no invasion of privacy in the case at bar since what is sought to be divulged is a product of action undertaken in the course of performing official functions. To declare otherwise would be to clothe every public official with an impregnable mantle of protection against public scrutiny for their official acts. Further, the decisions of the Board and the individual voting slips accomplished by the members concerned are acts made pursuant to their official functions, and as such, are neither personal nor private in nature but rather public in character. They are, therefore, public records access to which is guaranteed to the citizenry by no less than the fundamental law of the land. Being a public right, the exercise thereof cannot be made contingent on the discretion, nay, whim and caprice, of the agency charged with the custody of the official records sought to be examined. The constitutional recognition of the citizen's right of access to official records cannot be made dependent upon the consent of the members of the board concerned, otherwise, the said right would be rendered nugatory. As stated by this Court in Subido v. Ozaeta (80 Phil. 383 [1948]):

Except, perhaps when it is clear that the purpose of the examinations is unlawful, or sheer, idle curiosity, we do not believe it is the 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 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 to publish the contents of the records, it is the legislature and not the officials having custody thereof which is called upon to devise a remedy. (emphasis supplied) It is significant to point out that this Court in the 1948 case of Subido v. Ozaeta, supra, upheld the right to information based on the statutory right then provided in Sec. 56 of the Land Registration Act (Act 496, as amended). Consequently, We see no cogent reason why said right, now constitutionalized, should be given less efficacy and primacy than what the fundament law mandates. The Court is not unaware of RA 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees) which provides, among others, certain exceptions as regards the availability of official records or documents to the requesting public, e.g., closed door Cabinet sessions and deliberations of this Court. Suffice it to state, however, that the exceptions therein enumerated find no application in the case at bar. Petitioner request is not concerned with the deliberations of respondent Board but with its documents or records made after a decision or order has been rendered. Neither will the examination involve disclosure of trade secrets or matters pertaining to national security which would otherwise limit the right of access to official records (See Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, supra). We are likewise not impressed with the proposition advanced by respondents that respondent Morato is empowered by PD 1986 to unilaterally downgrade or upgrade a film reviewed especially those which are controversial. The pertinent provisions of said decree provides: Sec 4. Decision. The decision of the BOARD either approving or disapproving for exhibition in the Philippines a motion picture, television program, still and other pictorial advertisement submitted to it for examination and preview must be rendered within a period of ten (10) days which shall be counted from the date of receipt by the BOARD of an application for the purpose . . .

For each review session, the Chairman of the Board shall designate a sub-committee composed of at least three BOARD members to undertake the work of review. Any disapproval or deletion must be approved by a majority of the sub-committee members so designated. After receipt of the written decision of the sub-committee, a motion for reconsideration in writing may be made, upon which the Chairman of the Board shall designate a sub-committee of five BOARD members to undertake a second review session, whose decision on behalf of the Board shall be rendered through a majority of the sub-committee members so designated and present at the second review session. This second review session shall be presided over by the Chairman, or the Vice-Chairman. The decision of the BOARD in the second review session shall be rendered within five (5) days from the date of receipt of the motion for reconsideration. Every decision of the BOARD disapproving a motion picture, television program or publicity material for exhibition in the Philippines must be in writing, and shall state the reasons or grounds for such disapproval. No film or motion picture intended for exhibition at the moviehouses or theaters or on television shall be disapproved by reason of its topic, theme or subject matter, but upon the merits of each picture or program considered in its entirety. The second decision of the BOARD shall be final, with the exception of a decision disapproving or prohibiting a motion picture or television program in its entirety which shall be appealable to the President of the Philippines, who may himself decide the appeal, or be assisted either by an ad hoe committee he may create or by the Appeals Committee herein created. An Appeals Committee in the Office of the President of the Philippines is hereby created composed of a Chairman and four (4) members to be appointed by the President of the Philippines, which shall submit its recommendation to the President. The Office of the Presidential Assistant for Legal Affairs shall serve as the Secretariat of the Appeals Committee. The decision of the President of the Philippines on any appealed matter shall be final. Implementing Rules and Regulations

Sec 11. Review by Sub-Committee of Three. a) A proper application having been filed, the Chairman of the Board shall, as the exigencies of the service may permit, designate a Sub-Committee of at least three Board Members who shall meet, with notice to the applicant, within ten days from receipt of the completed application. The Sub-Committee shall then preview the motion picture subject of the application. b) Immediately after the preview, the applicant or his representative shall withdraw to await the results of the deliberation of the Sub-Committee. After reaching a decision, the Sub-Committee shall summon the applicant or his representative and inform him of its decision giving him an opportunity either to request reconsideration or to offer certain cuts or deletions in exchange for a better classification. The decision shall be in writing, stating, in case of disapproval of the film or denial of the classification rating desired or both, the reason or reasons for such disapproval or denial and the classification considered by the Sub-Committee member dissenting from the majority opinion may express his dissent in writing. c) The decision including the dissenting opinion, if any, shall immediately be submitted to the Chairman of the Board for transmission to the applicant. Sec 12. Review by Sub-Committee of Five. Within five days from receipt of a copy of the decision of the Sub-Committee referred to in the preceding section, the applicant may file a motion for reconsideration in writing of that decision. On receipt of the motion, the Chairman of the Board shall designate a Sub-Committee of Five Board Members which shall consider the motion and, within five days of receipt of such motion, conduct a second preview of the film. The review shall, to the extent applicable, follow the same procedure provided in the preceding section. Sec 13. Reclassification. An applicant desiring a change in the classification rating given his film by either the Sub-Committee of Three? or Committee of Five mentioned in the immediately preceeding two sections may re-edit such film and apply anew with the Board for its review and reclassification.

Sec 14. Appeal. The decision of the Committee of Five Board Members in the second review shall be final, with the exception of a decision disapproving or prohibiting a motion picture in its entirety which shall be appealable to the President of the Philippines who may himself decide the appeal or refer it to the Appeals Committee in the Office of the President for adjudication. On the other hand, the powers and functions of the MTRCB Chairman are found in Section 5 of the same decree as follows: Sec. 5. Executive Officer. The Chairman of the BOARD shall be the Chief Executive Officer of the BOARD. He shall exercise the following functions, powers and duties: (a) Execute, implement and enforce the decisions, orders, awards, rules and regulations issued by the BOARD; (b) Direct and supervise the operations and the internal affairs of the BOARD; (c) Establish the internal organization and administrative procedures of the BOARD, and recommend to the BOARD the appointment of the necessary administrative and subordinate personnel; and (d) Exercise such other powers and functions and perform such duties as are not specifically lodged in the BOARD. It is at once apparent from a reading of the above provisions of PD 1986 that respondent Morato, as Chairman of the MTRCB, is not vested with any authority to reverse or overrule by himself alone a decision rendered by a committee which conducted a review of motion pictures or television programs.

The power to classify motion pictures into categories such as "General Patronage" or "For Adults Only" is vested with the respondent Board itself and not with the Chairman thereof (Sec. 3 [e], PD 1986). As Chief Executive Officer, respondent Morato's function as Chairman of the Board calls for the implementation and execution, not modification or reversal, of the decisions or orders of the latter (Sec. 5 [a], Ibid.). The power of classification having been reposed by law exclusively with the respondent Board, it has no choice but to exercise the same as mandated by law, i.e., as a collegial body, and not transfer it elsewhere or discharge said power through the intervening mind of another. Delegata potestas non potest delegari a delegated power cannot be delegated. And since the act of classification involves an exercise of the Board's discretionary power with more reason the Board cannot, by way of the assailed resolution, delegate said power for it is an established rule in administrative law that discretionary authority cannot be a subject of delegation. WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. Resolution Nos. 10-89 and 88-1-25 issued by the respondent Board are hereby declared null and void. SO ORDERED. Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Padilla, Medialdea, Regalado and Davide, Jr., JJ., concur. Grio-Aquino and Romero, JJ., took no part.

08/07/2011 08:30:00
Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION G.R. No. 130716 December 9, 1998 FRANCISCO I. CHAVEZ, petitioner, vs. PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON GOOD GOVERNMENT (PCGG) and MAGTANGGOL GUNIGUNDO (in his capacity as chairman of the PCGG), respondents, GLORIA A. JOPSON, CELNAN A. JOPSON, SCARLET A. JOPSON, and TERESA A. JOPSON, petitioners-inintervention. PANGANIBAN, J.: Petitioner asks this Court to define the nature and the extent of the people's constitutional right to information on matters of public concern. Does this right include access to the terms of government negotiations prior to their consummation or conclusion? May the government, through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), be required to reveal the proposed terms of a compromise agreement with the Marcos heirs as regards their alleged ill-gotten wealth? More specifically, are the "General Agreement" and "Supplemental Agreement," both dated December 28, 1993 and executed between the PCGG and the Marcos heirs, valid and binding? The Case These are the main questions raised in this original action seeking (1) to prohibit and "[e]njoin respondents [PCGG and its chairman] from privately entering into, perfecting and/or executing any greement with the heirs of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos . . . relating to and concerning the properties and assets of Ferdinand Marcos located in the Philippines and/or abroad including the so-called Marcos gold hoard"; and (2) to "[c]ompel respondent[s] to make public all negotiations and agreement, be they ongoing or perfected, and all documents related to or relating to such negotiations and agreement between the PCGG and the Marcos heirs." 1

The Facts Petitioner Francisco I. Chavez, as "taxpayer, citizen and former government official who initiated the prosecution of the Marcoses and their cronies who committed unmitigated plunder of the public treasury and the systematic subjugation of the country's economy," alleges that what impelled him to bring this action were several news reports 2 bannered in a number of broadsheets sometime in September 1997. These news items referred to (1) the alleged discovery of billions of dollars of Marcos assets deposited in various coded accounts in Swiss banks; and (2) the reported execution of a compromise, between the government (through PCGG) and the Marcos heirs, on how to split or share these assets. Petitioner, invoking his constitutional right to information 3 and the correlative duty of the state to disclose publicly all its transactions involving the national interest, 4 demands that respondents make public any and all negotiations and agreements pertaining to PCGG's task of recovering the Marcoses' ill-gotten wealth. He claims that any compromise on the alleged billions of ill-gotten wealth involves an issue of "paramount public interest," since it has a "debilitating effect on the country's economy" that would be greatly prejudicial to the national interest of the Filipino people. Hence, the people in general have a right to know the transactions or deals being contrived and effected by the government. Respondents, on the other hand, do not deny forging a compromise agreement with the Marcos heirs. They claim, though, that petitioner's action is premature, because there is no showing that he has asked the PCGG to disclose the negotiations and the Agreements. And even if he has, PCGG may not yet be compelled to make any disclosure, since the proposed terms and conditions of the Agreements have not become effective and binding.

Respondents further aver that the Marcos heirs have submitted the subject Agreements to the Sandiganbayan for its approval in Civil Case No. 141, entitled Republic v. Heirs of Ferdinand E. Marcos, and that the Republic opposed such move on the principal grounds that (1) said Agreements have not been ratified by or even submitted to the President for approval, pursuant to Item No. 8 of the General Agreement; and (2) the Marcos heirs have failed to comply with their undertakings therein, particularly the collation and submission of an inventory of their assets. The Republic also cited an April 11, 1995 Resolution in Civil Case No. 0165, in which the Sandiganbayan dismissed a similar petition filed by the Marcoses' attorneyin-fact. Furthermore, then President Fidel V. Ramos, in his May 4, 1998 Memorandum 5 to then PCGG Chairman Magtanggol Gunigundo, categorically stated: This is to reiterate my previous position embodied in the Palace Press Release of 6 April 1995 that I have not authorized you to approve the Compromise Agreements of December 28, 1993 or any agreement at all with the Marcoses, and would have disapproved them had they been submitted to me. The Full Powers of Attorney of March 1994 and July 4, 1994, did not authorize you to approve said Agreements, which I reserve for myself as President of the Republic of the Philippines. The assailed principal Agreement 6 reads: GENERAL AGREEMENT KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS: This Agreement entered into this 28th day of December, 1993, by and between The Republic of the Philippines, through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), a governmental agency vested with authority defined under Executive Orders Nos. 1, 2 and 14, with offices at the philcomcen Building, Pasig, Metro Manila, represented by its Chairman referred to as FIRST PARTY, and

Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos, represented by Imelda Romualdez Marcos and Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., all of legal age, and with address at c/o No. 154 Lopez Rizal St., Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, and Imelda Romualdez Marcos, Imee Marcos Manotoc, Ferdinand E. Marcos, Jr., and Irene Marcos Araneta, hereinafter collectively referred to as the PRIVATE PARTY. W I T N E S S E T H: WHEREAS, the PRIVATE PARTY has been impelled by their sense of nationalism and love of country and of the entire Filipino people, and their desire to set up a foundation and finance impact projects like installation of power plants in selected rural areas and initiation of other community projects for the empowerment of the people; WHEREAS, the FIRST PARTY has obtained a judgment from the Swiss Federal Tribunal of December 21, 1990, that the $356 million belongs in principle to the Republic of the Philippines provided certain conditionalities are met, but even after 7 years, the FIRST PARTY has not been able to procure a final judgment of conviction against the PRIVATE PARTY; WHEREAS, the FIRST PARTY is desirous of avoiding a long-drawn out litigation which, as proven by the past 7 years, is consuming money, time and effort, and is counter-productive and ties up assets which the FIRST PARTY could otherwise utilize for its Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, and other urgent needs; WHEREAS, His Excellency, President Fidel V. Ramos, has adopted a policy of unity and reconciliation in order to bind the nation's wounds and start the process of rebuilding this nation as it goes on to the twenty-first century; WHEREAS, this Agreement settles all claims and counterclaims which the parties may have against one another, whether past, present, or future, matured or inchoate. NOW, THEREFORE, for and in consideration of the mutual covenants set forth herein, the parties agree as follows:

1. The parties will collate all assets presumed to be owned by, or held by other parties for the benefit of, the PRIVATE PARTY for purposes of determining the totality of the assets covered by the settlement. The subject assets shall be classified by the nature thereof, namely: (a) real estate; (b) jewelry; (c) paintings and other works of art; (d) securities; (e) funds on deposit; (f) precious metals, if any, and (g) miscellaneous assets or assets which could not appropriately fall under any of the preceding classification. The list shall be based on the full disclosure of the PRIVATE PARTY to insure its accuracy. 2. Based on the inventory, the FIRST PARTY shall determine which shall be ceded to the FIRST PARTY, and which shall be assigned to/retained by the PRIVATE PARTY. The assets of the PRIVATE PARTY shall be net of and exempt from, any form of taxes due the Republic of the Philippines. However, considering the unavailability of all pertinent and relevant documents and information as to balances and ownership, the actual specification of assets to be retained by the PRIVATE PARTY shall be covered by supplemental agreements which shall form part of this Agreement. 3. Foreign assets which the PRIVATE PARTY shall fully disclose but which are held by trustees, nominees, agents or foundations are hereby waived over by the PRIVATE PARTY in favor of the FIRST PARTY. For this purpose, the parties shall cooperate in taking the appropriate action, judicial and/or extrajudicial, to recover the same for the FIRST PARTY. 4. All disclosures of assets made by the PRIVATE PARTY shall not be used as evidence by the FIRST PARTY in any criminal, civil, tax or administrative case, but shall be valid and binding against said PARTY for use by the FIRST PARTY in withdrawing any account and/or recovering any asset. The PRIVATE PARTY withdraws any objection to the withdrawal by and/or release to the FIRST PARTY by the Swiss banks and/or Swiss authorities of the $356 million, its accrued interests, and/or any other account; over which the PRIVATE PARTY waives any right, interest or participation in favor of the FIRST PARTY. However, any withdrawal or release of any account aforementioned by the FIRST PARTY shall be made in the presence of any authorized representative of the PRIVATE PARTY.

5. The trustees, custodians, safekeepers, depositaries, agents, nominees, administrators, lawyers, or any other party acting in similar capacity in behalf of the PRIVATE PARTY are hereby informed through this General Agreement to insure that it is fully implemented and this shall serve as absolute authority from both parties for full disclosure to the FIRST PARTY of said assets and for the FIRST PARTY to withdraw said account and/or assets and any other assets which the FIRST PARTY on its own or through the help of the PRIVATE PARTY/their trustees, etc., may discover. 6. Any asset which may be discovered in the future as belonging to the PRIVATE PARTY or is being held by another for the benefit of the PRIVATE PARTY and which is not included in the list per No. 1 for whatever reason shall automatically belong to the FIRST PARTY, and the PRIVATE PARTY in accordance with No. 4 above, waives any right thereto. 7. This Agreement shall be binding on and inure to the benefit of, the parties and their respective legal representatives, successors and assigns and shall supersede any other prior agreement. 8. The PARTIES shall submit this and any other implementing Agreements to the President of the Philippines for approval. In the same manner, the PRIVATE PARTY shall provide the FIRST PARTY assistance by way of testimony or deposition on any information it may have that could shed light on the cases being pursued by the FIRST PARTY against other parties. The FIRST PARTY shall desist from instituting new suits already subject of this Agreement against the PRIVATE PARTY and cause the dismissal of all other cases pending in the Sandiganbayan and in other courts. 9. In case of violation by the PRIVATE PARTY of any of the conditions herein contained, the PARTIES shall be restored automatically to the status quo ante the signing of this Agreement. For purposes of this Agreement, the PRIVATE PARTY shall be represented by Atty. Simeon M. Mesina, Jr., as their only Attorney-in-Fact. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties have signed this instrument this 28th day of December, 1993, in Makati, Metro Manila. PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON GOOD GOVERNMENT By: [Sgd.] MAGTANGGOL C. GUNIGUNDO

Chairman ESTATE OF FERDINAND E. MARCOS, IMELDA R. MARCOS, MA. IMELDA MARCOS-MANOTOC, FERDINAND R. MARCOS, JR., & IRENE MARCOSARANETA By: [Sgd.] IMELDA ROMUALDEZ-MARCOS [Sgd.] MA. IMELDA MARCOS-MANOTOC FERDINAND R. MARCOS, JR. 7 [Sgd.] IRENE MARCOS-ARANETA

Assisted by: [Sgd.] ATTY. SIMEON M. MESINA, JR. Counsel & Attorney-in-Fact Petitioner also denounces this supplement to the above Agreement: 8 SUPPLEMENTAL AGREEMENT This Agreement entered into this 28th day of December, 1993, by and between The Republic of the Philippines, through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), a governmental agency vested with authority defined under Executive Orders Nos. 1, 2 and 14, with offices at the Philcomcen Building, Pasig, Metro Manila, represented by its Chairman Magtanggol C. Gunigundo, hereinafter referred to as the FIRST PARTY, and Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos, represented by Imelda Romualdez Marcos and Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., all of legal age, and with address at c/o No. 154 Lopez Rizal St., Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, and Imelda Romualdez Marcos, Imee Marcos Manotoc, Ferdinand E. Marcos, Jr., and Irene Marcos Araneta, hereinafter collectively referred to as the PRIVATE PARTY. W I T N E S S E T H: The parties in this case entered into a General Agreement dated Dec. 28, 1993; The PRIVATE PARTY expressly reserve their right to pursue their interest and/or sue over local assets located in the Philippines against parties other than the FIRST PARTY.

The parties hereby agree that all expenses related to the recovery and/or withdrawal of all assets including lawyers' fees, agents' fees, nominees' service fees, bank charges, traveling expenses and all other expenses related thereto shall be for the account of the PRIVATE PARTY. In consideration of the foregoing, the parties hereby agree that the PRIVATE PARTY shall be entitled to the equivalent of 25% of the amount that may be eventually withdrawn from said $356 million Swiss deposits. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties have signed this instrument this 28th day of December, 1993, in Makati, Metro Manila. PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON GOOD GOVERNMENT By: [Sgd.] MAGTANGGOL C. GUNIGUNDO Chairman ESTATE OF FERDINAND E. MARCOS, IMELDA R. MARCOS, MA. IMELDA MARCOS-MANOTOC, FERDINAND R. MARCOS, JR., & IRENE MARCOS ARANETA By: [Sgd.] IMELDA ROMUALDEZ-MARCOS [Sgd.] MA. IMELDA MARCOS-MANOTOC FERDINAND R. MARCOS, JR. 9 [Sgd.] IRENE MARCOS-ARANETA Assisted by: [Sgd.] ATTY. SIMEON M. MESINA, JR. Counsel & Attorney-in-Fact Acting on a motion of petitioner, the Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order 10 dated March 23, enjoining respondents, their agents and/or representatives from "entering into, or perfecting and/or executing any agreement with the heirs of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos relating to and concerning their ill-gotten wealth." Issues The Oral Argument, held on March 16, 1998, focused on the following issues: (a) Procedural:

(1) Whether or not the petitioner has the personality or legal standing to file the instant petition; and (2) Whether or not this Court is the proper court before which this action may be filed. (b) Substantive: (1) Whether or not this Court could require the PCGG to disclose to the public the details of any agreement, perfected or not, with the Marcoses; and (2) Whether or not there exist any legal restraints against a compromise agreement between the Marcoses and the PCGG relative to the Marcoses' ill-gotten wealth. 11 After their oral presentations, the parties filed their respective memoranda. On August 19, 1998, Gloria, Celnan, Scarlet and Teresa, all surnamed Jopson, filed before the Court a Motion for Intervention, attaching thereto their Petition in Intervention. They aver that they are "among the 10,000 claimants whose right to claim from the Marcos Family and/or the Marcos Estate is recognized by the decision in In re Estate of Ferdinand Marcos, Human Rights Litigation, Maximo Hilao, et al., Class Plaintiffs No. 92-15526, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit US App. Lexis 14796, June 16, 1994 and the Decision of the Swiss Supreme Court of December 10, 1997." As such, they claim to have personal and direct interest in the subject matter of the instant case, since a distribution or disposition of the Marcos properties may adversely affect their legitimate claims. In a minute Resolution issued on August 24, 1998, the Court granted their motion to intervene and required the respondents to comment thereon. The September 25, 1998 Comment 12 of the solicitor general on said motion merely reiterated his aforecited arguments against the main petition. 13 The Court's Ruling The petition id imbued with merit. First Procedural Issue: Petitioner's Standing

Petitioner, on the one hand, explains that as a taxpayer and citizen, he has the legal personality to file the instant petition. He submits that since illgotten wealth "belongs to the Filipino people and [is], in truth hand in fact, part of the public treasury," any compromise in relation to it would constitute a diminution of the public funds, which can be enjoined by a taxpayer whose interest is for a full, if not substantial, recovery of such assets. Besides, petitioner emphasize, the matter of recovering the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses is an issue "of transcendental importance the public." He asserts that ordinary taxpayers have a right to initiate and prosecute actions questioning the validity of acts or orders of government agencies or instrumentalities, if the issues raised are "of paramount public interest;" and if they "immeasurably affect the social, economic, and moral well-being of the people." Moreover, the mere fact that he is a citizen satisfies the requirement of personal interest, when the proceeding involves the assertion of a public right, 14 such as in this case. He invokes several decisions 15 of this Court which have set aside the procedural matter of locus standi, when the subject of the case involved public interest. On the other hand, the solicitor general, on behalf of respondents, contends that petitioner has no standing to institute the present action, because no expenditure of public funds is involved and said petitioner has no actual interest in the alleged agreement. Respondents further insist that the instant petition is premature, since there is no showing that petitioner has requested PCGG to disclose any such negotiations and agreements; or that, if he has, the Commission has refused to do so. Indeed, the arguments cited by petitioner constitute the controlling decisional rule as regards his legal standing to institute the instant petition. Access to public documents and records is a public right, and the real parties in interest are the people themselves. 16

In Taada v. Tuvera, 17 the Court asserted that when the issue concerns a public a right and the object of mandamus is to obtain the enforcement of a public duty, the people are regarded as the real parties in interest; and because it is sufficient that petitioner is a citizen and as such is interested in the execution of the laws, he need not show that he has any legal or special interest in the result of the action. 18 In the aforesaid case, the petitioners sought to enforce their right to be informed on matters of public concern, a right then recognized in Section 6, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution, 19 in connection with the rule that laws in order to be valid and enforceable must be published in the Official Gazette or otherwise effectively promulgated. In ruling for the petitioners' legal standing, the Court declared that the right they sought to be enforced "is a public right recognized by no less than the fundamental law of the land." Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, 20 while reiterating Taada, further declared that "when a mandamus proceeding involves the assertion of a public right, the requirement of personal interest is satisfied by the mere fact that petitioner is a citizen and, therefore, part of the general 'public' which possesses the right." 21 Further, in Albano v. Reyes, 22 we said that while expenditure of public funds may not have been involved under the questioned contract for the development, the management and the operation of the Manila International Container Terminal, "public interest [was] definitely involved considering the important role [of the subject contract] . . . in the economic development of the country and the magnitude of the financial consideration involved." We concluded that, as a consequence, the disclosure provision in the Constitution would constitute sufficient authority for upholding the petitioner's standing. Similarly, the instant petition is anchored on the right of the people to information and access to official records, documents and papers a right guaranteed under Section 7, Article III of the 1987 Constitution. Petitioner, a former solicitor general, is a Filipino citizen. Because of the satisfaction of the two basic requisites laid down by decisional law to sustain petitioner's legal standing, i.e. (1) the enforcement of a public right (2) espoused by a Filipino citizen, we rule that the petition at bar should be allowed.

In any event, the question on the standing of Petitioner Chavez is rendered moot by the intervention of the Jopsons, who are among the legitimate claimants to the Marcos wealth. The standing of the Jopsons is not seriously contested by the solicitor general. Indeed, said petitionersintervenors have a legal interest in the subject matter of the instant case, since a distribution or disposition of the Marcoses' ill-gotten properties may adversely affect the satisfaction of their claims. Second Procedural Issue: The Court's Jurisdiction Petitioner asserts that because this petition is an original action for mandamus and one that is not intended to delay any proceeding in the Sandiganbayan, its having been filed before this Court was proper. He invokes Section 5, Article VIII of the Constitution, which confers upon the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over petitions for prohibition and mandamus. The solicitor general, on the other hand, argues that the petition has been erroneously brought before this Court, since there is neither a justiciable controversy nor a violation of petitioner's rights by the PCGG. He alleges that the assailed agreements are already the very lis mota in Sandiganbayan Civil Case No. 0141, which has yet to dispose of the issue; thus, this petition is premature. Furthermore, respondents themselves have opposed the Marcos heirs' motion, filed in the graft court, for the approval of the subject Agreements. Such opposition belies petitioner's claim that the government, through respondents, has concluded a settlement with the Marcoses as regards their alleged ill-gotten assets. In Taada and Legaspi, we upheld therein petitioners' resort to a mandamus proceeding, seeking to enforce a public right as well as to compel performance of a public duty mandated by no less than the fundamental law. 23 Further, Section 5, Article VIII of the Constitution, expressly confers upon the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over petitions for certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto and habeas corpus.

Respondents argue that petitioner should have properly sought relief before the Sandiganbayan, particularly in Civil Case No. 0141, in which the enforcement of the compromise Agreements is pending resolution. There may seem to be some merit in such argument, if petitioner is merely seeking to enjoin the enforcement of the compromise and/or to compel the PCGG to disclose to the public the terms contained in said Agreements. However, petitioner is here seeking the public disclose of "all negotiations and agreement, be they ongoing or perfected, and documents related to or relating to such negotiations and agreement between the PCGG and the Marcos heirs." In other words, this petition is not confined to the Agreements that have already been drawn, but likewise to any other ongoing or future undertaking towards any settlement on the alleged Marcos loot. Ineluctably, the core issue boils down to the precise interpretation, in terms of scope, of the twin constitutional provisions on "public transactions." This broad and prospective relief sought by the instant petition brings it out of the realm of Civil Case No. 0141. First Substantive Issue: Public Disclosure of Terms of Any Agreement, Perfected or Not In seeking the public disclosure of negotiations and agreements pertaining to a compromise settlement with the Marcoses as regards their alleged ill-gotten wealth, petitioner invokes the following provisions of the Constitution: Sec. 7 [Article III]. The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law. Sec. 28 [Article II]. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.

Respondents' opposite view is that the above constitutional provisions refer to completed and operative official acts, not to those still being considered. As regards the assailed Agreements entered into by the PCGG with the Marcoses, there is yet no right of action that has accrued, because said Agreements have not been approved by the President, and the Marcos heirs have failed to fulfill their express undertaking therein. Thus, the Agreements have not become effective. Respondents add that they are not aware of any ongoing negotiation for another compromise with the Marcoses regarding their alleged ill-gotten assets. The "information" and the "transactions" referred to in the subject provisions of the Constitution have as yet no defined scope and extent. There are no specific laws prescribing the exact limitations within which the right may be exercised or the correlative state duty may be obliged. However, the following are some of the recognized restrictions: (1) national security matters and intelligence information, (2) trade secrets and banking transactions, (3) criminal matters, and (4) other confidential information. Limitations to the Right: (1) National Security Matters At the very least, this jurisdiction recognizes the common law holding that there is a governmental privilege against public disclosure with respect to state secrets regarding military, diplomatic and other national security matters. 24 But where there is no need to protect such state secrets, the privilege may not be invoked to withhold documents and other information, 25 provided that they are examined "in strict confidence" and given "scrupulous protection." Likewise, information on inter-government exchanges prior to the conclusion of treaties and executive agreements may be subject to reasonable safeguards for the sake of national interest. 26 (2) Trade Secrets and Banking Transactions The drafters of the Constitution also unequivocally affirmed that, aside from national security matters and intelligence information, trade or industrial secrets (pursuant to the Intellectual Property Code 27 and other related laws) as well as banking transactions (pursuant to the Secrecy of Bank Deposits Act 28) are also exempted from compulsory disclosure. 29 (3) Criminal Matters

Also excluded are classified law enforcement matters, such as those relating to the apprehension, the prosecution and the detention of criminals, 30 which courts may nor inquire into prior to such arrest, detention and prosecution. Efforts at effective law enforcement would be seriously jeopardized by free public access to, for example, police information regarding rescue operations, the whereabouts of fugitives, or leads on covert criminal activities. (4) Other Confidential Information The Ethical Standards Act 31 further prohibits public officials and employees from using or divulging "confidential or classified information officially known to them by reason of their office and not made available to the public." 32 Other acknowledged limitations to information access include diplomatic correspondence, closed door Cabinet meetings and executive sessions of either house of Congress, as well as the internal deliberations of the Supreme Court. 33 Scope: Matters of Public Concern and Transactions Involving Public Interest In Valmonte v. Belmonte Jr., 34 the Court emphasized that the information sought must be "matters of public concern," access to which may be limited by law. Similarly, the state policy of full public disclosure extends only to "transactions involving public interest" and may also be "subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law." As to the meanings of the terms "public interest" and "public concern," the Court, in Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, 35 elucidated: In determining whether or not a particular information is of public concern there is no rigid test which can be applied. "Public concern" like "public interest" is a term that eludes exact definition. Both terms embrace a broad spectrum of subjects which the public may want to know, either because these directly affect their lives, or simply because such matters naturally arouse the interest of an ordinary citizen. In the final analysis, it is for the courts to determine on a case by case basis whether the matter at issue is of interest or importance, as it relates to or affects the public.

Considered a public concern in the above-mentioned case was the "legitimate concern of citizens to ensure that government positions requiring civil service eligibility are occupied only by persons who are eligibles." So was the need to give the general public adequate notification of various laws that regulate and affect the actions and conduct of citizens, as held in Taada. Likewise did the "public nature of the loanable funds of the GSIS and the public office held by the alleged borrowers (members of the defunct Batasang Pambansa)" qualify the information sought in Valmonte as matters of public interest and concern. In Aquino-Sarmiento v. Morato, 36 the Court also held that official acts of public officers done in pursuit if their official functions are public in character; hence, the records pertaining to such official acts and decisions are within the ambit of the constitutional right of access to public records. Under Republic Act No. 6713, public officials and employees are mandated to "provide information on their policies and procedures in clear and understandable language, [and] ensure openness of information, public consultations and hearings whenever appropriate . . .," except when "otherwise provided by law or when required by the public interest." In particular, the law mandates free public access, at reasonable hours, to the annual performance reports of offices and agencies of government and government-owned or controlled corporations; and the statements of assets, liabilities and financial disclosures of all public officials and employees. 37 In general, writings coming into the hands of public officers in connection with their official functions must be accessible to the public, consistent with the policy of transparency of governmental affairs. This principle is aimed at affording the people an opportunity to determine whether those to whom they have entrusted the affairs of the government are honesty, faithfully and competently performing their functions as public servants. 38 Undeniably, the essence of democracy lies in the free flow of thought; 39 but thoughts and ideas must be well-informed so that the public would gain a better perspective of vital issues confronting them and, thus, be able to criticize as well as participate in the affairs of the government in a responsible, reasonable and effective manner. Certainly, it is by ensuring an unfettered and uninhibited exchange of ideas among a well-informed public that a government remains responsive to the changes desired by the people.
40

The Nature of the Marcoses' Alleged Ill-Gotten Wealth We now come to the immediate matter under consideration. Upon the departure from the country of the Marcos family and their cronies in February 1986, the new government headed by President Corazon C. Aquino was specifically mandated to "[r]ecover ill-gotten properties amassed by the leaders and supporters of the previous regime and [to] protect the interest of the people through orders of sequestration or freezing of assets or accounts." 41 Thus, President Aquino's very first executive orders (which partook of the nature of legislative enactments) dealt with the recovery of these alleged ill-gotten properties. Executive Order No. 1, promulgated on February 28, 1986, only two (2) days after the Marcoses fled the country, created the PCGG which was primarily tasked to assist the President in the recovery of vast government resources allegedly amassed by former President Marcos, his immediate family, relatives and close associates both here and abroad. Under Executive Order No. 2, issued twelve (12) days later, all persons and entities who had knowledge or possession of ill-gotten assets and properties were warned and, under pain of penalties prescribed by law, prohibited from concealing, transferring or dissipating them or from otherwise frustrating or obstructing the recovery efforts of the government. On May 7, 1986, another directive (EO No. 14) was issued giving additional powers to the PCGG which, taking into account the overriding considerations of national interest and national survival, required it to achieve expeditiously and effectively its vital task of recovering ill-gotten wealth.

With such pronouncements of our government, whose authority emanates from the people, there is no doubt that the recovery of the Marcoses' alleged ill-gotten wealth is a matter of public concern and imbued with public interest. 42 We may also add that "ill-gotten wealth," by its very nature, assumes a public character. Based on the aforementioned Executive Orders, "ill-gotten wealth" refers to assets and properties purportedly acquired, directly or indirectly, by former President Marcos, his immediate family, relatives and close associates through or as a result of their improper or illegal use of government funds or properties; or their having taken undue advantage of their public office; or their use of powers, influences or relationships, "resulting in their unjust enrichment and causing grave damage and prejudice to the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines." Clearly, the assets and properties referred to supposedly originated from the government itself. To all intents and purposes, therefore, they belong to the people. As such, upon reconveyance they will be returned to the public treasury, subject only to the satisfaction of positive claims of certain persons as may be adjudged by competent courts. Another declared overriding consideration for the expeditious recovery of ill-gotten wealth is that it may be used for national economic recovery. We believe the foregoing disquisition settles the question of whether petitioner has a right to respondents' disclosure of any agreement that may be arrived at concerning the Marcoses' purported ill-gotten wealth. Access to Information on Negotiating Terms But does the constitutional provision likewise guarantee access to information regarding ongoing negotiations or proposals prior to the final agreement? This same clarification was sought and clearly addressed by the constitutional commissioners during their deliberations, which we quote hereunder: 43 MR. SUAREZ. And when we say "transactions" which should be distinguished from contracts, agreements, or treaties or whatever, does the Gentleman refer to the steps leading to the consummation of the contract, or does he refer to the contract itself? MR. OPLE. The "transactions" used here, I suppose, is generic and, therefore, it can cover both steps leading to a contract, and already a consummated contract, Mr. Presiding Officer.

MR. SUAREZ. This contemplates inclusion of negotiations leading to the consummation of the transaction? MR. OPLE. Yes, subject to reasonable safeguards on the national interest. Considering the intent of the Constitution, we believe that it is incumbent upon the PCGG and its officers, as well as other government representatives, to disclose sufficient public information on any proposed settlement they have decided to take up with the ostensible owners and holders of ill-gotten wealth. Such information, though, must pertain to definite propositions of the government, not necessarily to intra-agency or inter-agency recommendations or communications 44 during the stage when common assertions are still in the process of being formulated or are in the "exploratory" stage. There is a need, of course, to observe the same restrictions on disclosure of information in general, as discussed earlier such as on matters involving national security, diplomatic or foreign relations, intelligence and other classified information. Second Substantive Issue: Legal Restraints on a Marcos-PCGG Compromise Petitioner lastly contends that any compromise agreement between the government and the Marcoses will be a virtual condonation of all the alleged wrongs done by them, as well as an unwarranted permission to commit graft and corruption. Respondents, for their part, assert that there is no legal restraint on entering into a compromise with the Marcos heirs, provided the agreement does not violate any law. Prohibited Compromises

In general, the law encourages compromises in civil cases, except with regard to the following matters: (1) the civil status of persons, (2) the validity of a marriage or a legal separation, (3) any ground for legal separation, (4) future support, (5) the jurisdiction of courts, and (6) future legitimate. 45 And like any other contract, the terms and conditions of a compromise must not be contrary to law, morals, good customs, public policy or public order. 46 A compromise is binding and has the force of law between the parties, 47 unless the consent of a party is vitiated such as by mistake, fraud, violence, intimidation or undue influence or when there is forgery, or if the terms of the settlment are so palpably unconscionable. In the latter instances, the agreement may be invalidated by the courts. 48 Effect of Compromise on Civil Actions One of the consequences of a compromise, and usually its primary object, is to avoid or to end a litigation. 49 In fact, the law urges courts to persuade the parties in a civil case to agree to a fair settlement. 50 As an incentive, a court may mitigate damages to be paid by a losing party who shows a sincere desire to compromise. 51 In Republic & Campos Jr. v. Sandiganbayan, 52 which affirmed the grant by the PCGG of civil and criminal immunity to Jose Y. Campos and the family, the Court held that in the absence an express prohibition, the rule on compromises in civil actions under the Civil Code is applicable to PCGG cases. Such principle is pursuant to the objectives of EO No. 14 particularly the just and expeditious recovery of ill-gotten wealth, so that it may be used to hasten economic recovery. The same principle was upheld in Benedicto v. Board of Administrators of Television Stations RPN, BBC and IBC 53 and Republic v. Benedicto, 54 which ruled in favor of the validity of the PCGG compromise agreement with Roberto S. Benedicto. Immunity from Criminal Prosecution

However, any compromise relating to the civil liability arising from an offense does not automatically terminate the criminal proceeding against or extinguish the criminal liability of the malefactor. 55 While a compromise in civil suits is expressly authorized by law, there is no similar general sanction as regards criminal liability. The authority must be specifically conferred. In the present case, the power to grant criminal immunity was confered on PCGG by Section 5 of EO No. 14, as amended by EO No. 14-A, whci provides: Sec. 5. The President Commission on Good Government is authorized to grant immunity from criminal prosecution to any person who provides information or testifies in any investigation conducted by such Commission to establish the unlawful manner in which any respondent, defendant or accused has acquired or accumulated the property or properties in question in any case where such information or testimony is necessary to ascertain or prove the latter's guilt or his civil liability. The immunity thereby granted shall be continued to protect the witness who repeats such testimony before the Sandiganbayan when required to do so by the latter or by the Commission. The above provision specifies that the PCGG may exercise such authority under these conditions: (1) the person to whom criminal immunity is granted provides information or testifies in an investigation conducted by the Commission; (2) the information or testimony pertains to the unlawful manner in which the respondent, defendant or accused acquired or accumulated ill-gotten property; and (3) such information or testimony is necessary to ascertain or prove guilt or civil liability of such individual. From the wording of the law, it can be easily deducted that the person referred to is a witness in the proceeding, not the principal respondent, defendant or accused.

Thus, in the case of Jose Y. Campos, the grant of both civil and criminal immunity to him and his family was "[i]n consideration of the full cooperation of Mr. Jose Y. Campos [with] this Commission, his voluntary surrender of the properties and assets [] disclosed and declared by him to belong to deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos [] to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines[;] his full, complete and truthful disclosures[;] and his commitment to pay a sum of money as determined by the Philippine Government." 56 Moreover, the grant of criminal immunity to the Camposes and the Benedictos was limited to acts and omissions prior to February 25, 1996. At the time such immunity was granted, no criminal cases have yet been filed against them before the competent court. Validity of the PCGG-Marcos Compromise Agreements Going now to the subject General and Supplemental Agreements between the PCGG and the Marcos heirs, a cursory perusal thereof reveals serious legal flaws. First, the Agreements do not conform to the above requirements of EO Nos. 14 and 14-A. We believe that criminal immunity under Section 5 cannot be granted to the Marcoses, who are the principal defendants in the spate of ill-gotten wealth cases now pending before the Sandiganbayan. As stated earlier, the provision is applicable mainly to witnesses who provide information or testify against a respondent, defendant or accused in an ill-gotten wealth case. While the General Agreement states that the Marcoses "shall provide the [government] assistance by way of testimony or deposition on any information [they] may have that could shed light on the cases being pursued by the [government] against other parties," 57 the clause does not fully comply with the law. Its inclusion in the Agreement may have been only an afterthought, conceived in pro forma compliance with Section 5 of EO No. 14, as amended. There is no indication whatsoever that any of the Marcos heirs has indeed provided vital information against any respondent or defendant as to the manner in which the latter may have unlawfully acquired public property.

Second, under Item No. 2 of the General Agreement, the PCGG commits to exempt from all forms of taxes the properties to be retained by the Marcos heirs. This is a clear violation of the Construction. The power to tax and to grant tax exemptions is vested in the Congress and, to a certain extent, in the local legislative bodies. 58 Section 28 (4), Article VI of the Constitution, specifically provides: "No law granting any tax exemption shall be passed without the concurrence of a majority of all the Member of the Congress." The PCGG has absolutely no power to grant tax exemptions, even under the cover of its authority to compromise ill-gotten wealth cases. Even granting that Congress enacts a law exempting the Marcoses form paying taxes on their properties, such law will definitely not pass the test of the equal protection clause under the Bill of Rights. Any special grant of tax exemption in favor only of the Marcos heirs will constitute class legislation. It will also violate the constitutional rule that "taxation shall be uniform and equitable." 59 Neither can the stipulation be construed to fall within the power of the commissioner of internal revenue to compromise taxes. Such authority may be exercised only when (1) there is reasonable doubt as to the validity of the claim against the taxpayer, and (2) the taxpayer's financial position demonstrates a clear inability to pay. 60 Definitely, neither requisite is present in the case of the Marcoses, because under the Agreement they are effectively conceding the validity of the claims against their properties, part of which they will be allowed to retain. Nor can the PCGG grant of tax exemption fall within the power of the commissioner to abate or cancel a tax liability. This power can be exercised only when (1) the tax appears to be unjustly or excessively assessed, or (2) the administration and collection costs involved do not justify the collection of the tax due. 61 In this instance, the cancellation of tax liability is done even before the determination of the amount due. In any event, criminal violations of the Tax Code, for which legal actions have been filed in court or in which fraud is involved, cannot be compromised. 62

Third, the government binds itself to cause the dismissal of all cases against the Marcos heirs, pending before the Sandiganbayan and other court. 63 This is a direct encroachment on judicial powers, particularly in regard to criminal jurisdiction. Well-settled is the doctrine that once a case has been filed before a court of competent jurisdiction, the matter of its dismissal or pursuance lies within the full discretion and control of the judge. In a criminal case, the manner in which the prosecution is handled, including the matter of whom to present as witnesses, may lie within the sound discretion of the government prosecution; 64 but the court decides, based on the evidence proffered, in what manner it will dispose of the case. Jurisdiction, once acquired by the trial court, is not lost despite a resolution, even by the justice secretary, to withdraw the information or to dismiss the complaint. 65 The prosecution's motion to withdraw or to dismiss is not the least binding upon the court. On the contrary, decisional rules require the trial court to make its own evaluation of the merit of the case, because granting such motion is equivalent to effecting a disposition of the case itself. 66 Thus, the PCGG, as the government prosecutor of ill-gotten wealth cases, cannot guarantee the dismissal of all such criminal cases against the Marcoses pending in the courts, for said dismissal is not within its sole power and discretion. Fourth, the government also waives all claims and counterclaims, "whether past, present, or future, matured or inchoate," against the Marcoses. 67 Again, this ill-encompassing stipulation is contrary to law. Under the Civil Code, an action for future fraud may not be waived. 68 The stipulation in the Agreement does not specify the exact scope of future claims against the Marcoses that the government thereby relinquishes. Such vague and broad statement may well be interpreted to include all future illegal acts of any of the Marcos heirs, practically giving them a license to perpetrate fraud against the government without any liability at all. This is a palpable violation of the due process and equal protection guarantees of the Constitution. It effectively ensconces the Marcoses beyond the reach of the law. It also sets a dangerous precedent for public accountability. It is a virtual warrant for public officials to amass public funds illegally, since there is an open option to compromise their liability in exchange for only a portion of their ill-gotten wealth.

Fifth, the Agreements do not provide for a definite or determinable period within which the parties shall fulfill their respective prestations. It may take a lifetime before the Marcoses submit an inventory of their total assets. Sixth, the Agreements do not state with specificity the standards for determining which assets shall be forfeited by the government and which shall be retained by the Marcoses. While the Supplemental Agreement provides that the Marcoses shall be entitled to 25 per cent of the $356 million Swiss deposits (less government recovery expenses), such sharing arrangement pertains only to the said deposits. No similar splitting scheme is defined with respect to the other properties. Neither is there, anywhere in the Agreements, a statement of the basis for the 25-75 percent sharing ratio. Public officers entering into an arrangement appearing to be manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government, in violation of the Ati-Graft and Corruption Practice Act, 69 invite their indictment for corruption under the said law. Finally, the absence of then President Ramos' approval of the principal Agreement, an express condition therein, renders the compromise incomplete and unenforceable. Nevertheless, as detailed above, even if such approval were obtained, the Agreements would still not be valid. From the foregoing disquisition, it is crystal clear to the Court that the General and Supplemental Agreements, both dated December 28, 1993, which the PCGG entered into with the Marcos heirs, are violative of the Constitution and the laws aforementioned. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The General and Supplemental Agreement dated December 28, 1993, which PCGG and the Marcos heirs entered into are hereby declared NULL AND VOID for being contrary to law and the Constitution. Respondent PCGG, its officers and all government functionaries and officials who are or may be directly ot indirectly involved in the recovery of the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their associates are DIRECTED to disclose to the public the terms of any proposed compromise settlment, as well as the final agreement, relating to such alleged ill-gotten wealth, in accordance with the discussions embodied in this Decision. No pronouncement as to cost. SO ORDERED. Davide, Jr., C.J., Melo and Quisumbing, JJ., concur.

Vitug, J., Please see separate opinion.

Separate Opinions

VITUG, J., separate opinion; In concur in the results, pro hac vice, for it is paramount that matters of national interest deserve a proper place in any forum. The procedural rules in the courts of law, like the locus standi of petitioner Francisco I. Chavez, the propriety of the special legal action of mandamus used as a vehicle to reach this Court on the issues involved and considered by the Court, as well as kindred legal technicalities and nicety raised by respondents to thwart the petition are no trickle matters, to be sure, but I do not see them to be cogent reasons to deny to the Court its taking cognizance of the case. It is a cardinal principle in constitutional adjudication that anyone who invokes it has a personal and substantial interest on the dispute. 1 Jurisprudentially there is either the lenient or the strict approach in the appreciation of legal standing of legal standing. The liberal approach recognizes legal standing to raise constitutional issues of nontraditional plaintiffs, such as taxpayers and citizens, directly affecting them. 2 A developing trend appears to be towards a narrow and exacting approach, requiring that a logical nexus must be shown between the status asserted and the claim sought to be adjudicated in order to ensure that one is the proper and appropriate party to invoke judicial power. 3 With respect to the right to information, it being a public right where the real parties in interest are the people themselves in general 4 and where the only recognized limitations is "public concern," it would seem that the framers of the Constitution have favored the liberal approach. Rev. Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J., a member of the Constitutional Commission, observe:

The real problem, however, lies in determining what matters are of public concern and what are not. Unwitingly perhaps, by this provision the Constitution might have opened a Pandora's box. For certainly every act of a public officer in the conduct of the governmental process is a matter of public concern. Jurisprudence in fact has said that "public concern," like "public interest," eludes exact definition and embraces a broad spectrum of subjects which the public may want to kno, either because these directly affect their lives or simply because such matters arouse the interest of an ordinary sitizen. 5 Corrolarily, there is need of preserving a certain degree of confidentiality in matters involving national security and public relations, to cite a few, 6 and until a balance is struck, the Court may be constrained on occasions to accept an electric notion that frees itself from the shackles of the trenchant requisites of locus standi. The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) has a limited life in carying out its tasks and time is running short. It is thus imperative that the Court must hold even now, and remind PCGG, that it has indeed exceeded its bounds in entering into the General and Supplemental Agreements. The agreements clearly suffer from Constitutional and statutory infirmities, 7 to wit: (1) The agreements contravene the statute in granting criminal immunity to the Marcos heirs; 8 (2) PCGG's commitment to exempt from all form of taxes the property to be retained the Marcos' heirs controverts the Constitution; 9 and (3) the government's underatking to cause the dismissal of all cases filed against the Marcoses pending before the Sandiganbayan and other courts encroaches upon judicial powers. I also see, like my other colleagues, too much vagueness on such items as the period within which the parties shall fulfill their respective prestations and the lack of appropriate standards for determining the assets to be forfeited by the government and those to be retained by the Marcoses.

In this respect, while there is legal posibility when the terms of a contract are not totally invalidated and only those opposed to law, morals, good customs, public order and public policy are rendered inefficacious, when however, the assailed provisions can be seen to be of essence, like here, the agreement in its entirety can be adversely affected. True, the validity or invalidity of a contract is a matter that generally may not be passed upon in a mandamus petitonn, for it is as if petitioner were seeking declaratory relief or an advisory opinion from this Court over which it has no original jurisdiction, 10 the immediacy and significance of the issues, neverthless, has impelled the Court to rightly assume jurisdiction and to resolve the incidental, albeit major, issues that evidently and continually vex the parties. WHEREFORE, I vote to grant the petition. Separate Opinions VITUG, J., separate opinion; In concur in the results, pro hac vice, for it is paramount that matters of national interest deserve a proper place in any forum. The procedural rules in the courts of law, like the locus standi of petitioner Francisco I. Chavez, the propriety of the special legal action of mandamus used as a vehicle to reach this Court on the issues involved and considered by the Court, as well as kindred legal technicalities and nicety raised by respondents to thwart the petition are no trickle matters, to be sure, but I do not see them to be cogent reasons to deny to the Court its taking cognizance of the case. It is a cardinal principle in constitutional adjudication that anyone who invokes it has a personal and substantial interest on the dispute. 1 Jurisprudentially there is either the lenient or the strict approach in the appreciation of legal standing of legal standing. The liberal approach recognizes legal standing to raise constitutional issues of nontraditional plaintiffs, such as taxpayers and citizens, directly affecting them. 2 A developing trend appears to be towards a narrow and exacting approach, requiring that a logical nexus must be shown between the status asserted and the claim sought to be adjudicated in order to ensure that one is the proper and appropriate party to invoke judicial power. 3

With respect to the right to information, it being a public right where the real parties in interest are the people themselves in general 4 and where the only recognized limitations is "public concern," it would seem that the framers of the Constitution have favored the liberal approach. Rev. Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J., a member of the Constitutional Commission, observe: The real problem, however, lies in determining what matters are of public concern and what are not. Unwitingly perhaps, by this provision the Constitution might have opened a Pandora's box. For certainly every act of a public officer in the conduct of the governmental process is a matter of public concern. Jurisprudence in fact has said that "public concern," like "public interest," eludes exact definition and embraces a broad spectrum of subjects which the public may want to kno, either because these directly affect their lives or simply because such matters arouse the interest of an ordinary sitizen. 5 Corrolarily, there is need of preserving a certain degree of confidentiality in matters involving national security and public relations, to cite a few, 6 and until a balance is struck, the Court may be constrained on occasions to accept an electric notion that frees itself from the shackles of the trenchant requisites of locus standi. The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) has a limited life in carying out its tasks and time is running short. It is thus imperative that the Court must hold even now, and remind PCGG, that it has indeed exceeded its bounds in entering into the General and Supplemental Agreements. The agreements clearly suffer from Constitutional and statutory infirmities, 7 to wit: (1) The agreements contravene the statute in granting criminal immunity to the Marcos heirs; 8 (2) PCGG's commitment to exempt from all form of taxes the property to be retained the Marcos' heirs controverts the Constitution; 9 and (3) the government's underatking to cause the dismissal of all cases filed against the Marcoses pending before the Sandiganbayan and other courts encroaches upon judicial powers. I also see, like my other colleagues, too much vagueness on such items as the period within which the parties shall fulfill their respective prestations and the lack of appropriate standards for determining the assets to be forfeited by the government and those to be retained by the Marcoses.

In this respect, while there is legal posibility when the terms of a contract are not totally invalidated and only those opposed to law, morals, good customs, public order and public policy are rendered inefficacious, when however, the assailed provisions can be seen to be of essence, like here, the agreement in its entirety can be adversely affected. True, the validity or invalidity of a contract is a matter that generally may not be passed upon in a mandamus petitonn, for it is as if petitioner were seeking declaratory relief or an advisory opinion from this Court over which it has no original jurisdiction, 10 the immediacy and significance of the issues, neverthless, has impelled the Court to rightly assume jurisdiction and to resolve the incidental, albeit major, issues that evidently and continually vex the parties. WHEREFORE, I vote to grant the petition.

08/07/2011 08:30:00
Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC G.R. No. L-1631 February 27, 1948 ABELARDO SUBIDO, Editor, The Manila Post, petitioner, vs. ROMAN OZAETA, Secretary of Justice, and MARIANO VILLANUEVA, Register of Deeds of City of Manila, respondents. Abelardo Subido in his own behalf. First Assistant Solicitor General Roberto A. Gianzon and Solicitor Felix V. Makasiar for respondents. TUAZON, J.: This is a petition for mandamus. The petitioner, editor of the Manila Post, a morning daily, prays that an order issue "commanding the respondents to furnish (petitioner) the list of real estates sold to aliens and registered with the Register of Deeds of Manila since the promulgation of the Department 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 the (said) transactions."

The first alternative of the petition was denied by the Register of Deeds and later, on appeal, by the Secretary of Justice. No request to inspect the records seems to have ever been made, but the Solicitor General, answering for the respondents, gives to understand that not even this would the petitioner or his representatives be allowed to do if they tried. As the petitioner appears not to insist on his request for a list of sales of real estate to aliens, we shall confine our discussion to the second part of the prayer; namely, that the petitioner be allowed to examine all the records in the respondents' custody to gather the material he wants. In this connection, the Solicitor General contends that "the examination or inspection of the records in the office of the register of deeds may be made only by those having special interest therein and subject to such reasonable regulations as may be prescribed by the Chief of the Land Registration Office, and that the Secretary of Justice has reasonably ruled, to safeguard the public interest and the interest of those directly concerned in the records, that records may not be disclosed for publication." The petition in part is grounded on the liberty of the press. We do not believe that this constitutional right is in any way involved. The refusal by the respondents does not constitute a restriction upon or censorship or 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. The case is governed by statute and to a certain degree be general principles of democratic institutions. It has been expressly stated that the right to examine or inspect public records is purely a question of statutory construction. (80 A. L. R., 761 citing cases.)

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. Nevertheless, we do not believe this omission relevant. 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. (45 Am. Jur., 531.) The question at issue boils down to a determination of the scope of this discretion. No one will contest the proposition that 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 was 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. To say that only those who have a present and existing interest of a pecuniary character in the particular information sought are given the right of inspection is to make an unwarranted distinction. This interpretation is contrary to the letter of the law and the whole concept and purpose of registration of recorded titles, which is to serve notice to all who might be affected by the registries.

From the language of section 56 of Act No. 496, as amended, it is our opinion that 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. The idea is aptly expressed in People ex rel. Title Guarantee & T. Co. vs. Railly ([1886], 38 Hun [N. Y.], 429): "The subject is necessarily committed, to a great degree, to his (register of deeds') discretion as to how much of the conveniences of the office are required to be preserved for the accommodation of these persons. It is not his duty to permit the office to be thronged needlessly with persons examining its books or papers, but it is his duty to regulate, govern, and control his office in such a manner as to permit the statutory advantages to be enjoyed by other persons not employed by him as largely and extensibly as that consistently can be done ... . What the law expects and requires from him is the exercise of an unbiased and impartial judgment, by which all persons resorting to the office, under legal authority, and conducting themselves in an orderly manner, shall be secured their lawful rights and privileges, and that a corporation formed in the manner in which the relator has been, shall be permitted to obtain all the information either by searchers, abstracts, or copies, that the law has entitled it to obtain." Except, perhaps, when it is clear that the purpose of the examination is unlawful, or sheer, idle curiosity, we do not believe it is the duty under the law of registration officers to concern themselves with the motives, reasons, and objects of the persons seeking access to the records. It is not their prerogative to see 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 to publish the contents of the records, it is the legislature and not the officials having custody thereof which is called upon to devise a remedy. As to the moral or material injury which the publication might inflict on other parties, that is the publisher's responsibility and lookout. The publication is made subject to the consequences of the law.

The respondents have been guided in their action by the rule laid down in the decision of the Supreme Court of Georgia in Buck vs. Collins ([1874], 51 Ga., 391; 21 Am. Rep., 236), copy of which was furnished the Register of Deeds by the Secretary of Justice in 1933, evidently in answer to a query covering a situation similar to the case at bar. As the respondents place much or entire reliance on this decision, we shall dwell at length on its relevancy in the present case. Since, as we have pointed out, the right of inspection is dependent on the construction to be given the statute in force in the particular jurisdiction, the decision relied upon can not have any controlling or persuasive effect here unless it is predicated on a statute like or similar to the Philippine law. It is not. That decision was inspired largely by common law principles. It is not in harmony with modern tendencies, and the common law rule has been found to be inapplicable to the conditions obtaining in the United States and, for that matter, in the Philippines. The present tendency is to extend the right of inspection of recorded titles to abstracters, a right denied in Buck vs. Collins. This tendency, according to American Law Reports (80, p. 760), has even led the courts in some instances to overrule prior well-recognized decisions, among which are Buck vs. Collins and Land Title Warranty & S. D. Co. vs. Tanner (1896, 99 Ga., 470; 27 S. E., 727); while in at least one other instance, a holding by the supreme court that abstracters were not entitled to have access to public records le to the enactment of a statute by the legislature expressly conferring such right. (80 A. L. R., 762.) In Atlanta Title & T. Co. vs. Tidewell Co. ([1931], 173 Ga., 499; 160 S. E., 620), the same court which announced the doctrine in Buck vs. Collins, while not definitely reversing that decision says its opinion does not entirely accord with the views expressed therein. The development of the more modern tendencies is ably explained with a discussion of the common law rule in Shelby County Co. vs. Memphis Abstract Co. (1918, 140 Tenn., 74; 203 S. W., 339). The court said:

"According to the rules of the common law as administered in England there was no general or public right of inspection of public records, that right being confined to those who had a personal interest in the property affected by the records. The greater portion of the real property in England was held by the nobility and the aristocracy in large estates, and the system that prevailed looked to the descent of reality to the oldest son and other heirs, often by entail, and this resulted in few transfers. In America different ideals have prevailed, and these brought, as a necessary consequence, a decided change. Small holdings in fee have resulted from the American concept and principle of equality as heirs, and activity of sales and freedom of transfer have been encouraged by the policy of our laws. The earlier common law decisions are, therefore, not applicable to the changed conditions, and should have little influence in the molding of precedents respecting the right to inspect and make use of registries of titles. If subsequent purchasers and encumbrances are to be charged with notice of all that appears of record affecting the particular real estate, it is but sheer justice that the law should be liberalized so as not only to extend the right of inspection to members of the public who may be interested in the title, but so as to expand the opportunity for notice to all who may be injured should they act or deal without notice. Sound policy would give to the contents of the registries of deeds, mortgages and liens the widest possible publicity, and in the form that is most reliable and reassuring. Whatever adds to the vendibility of real property at its full value augments the wealth of the state. While the title examiner or abstractor has followed his profession ever since a system of registration was adopted, there has come in modern times the creation and development of the abstract company, which in turn has paved the way for and made possible the title guaranty company. The constantly increasing complication of land titles, especially in populous estates, has made each of these not only a utility, but a necessity, as aids in the ascertainement and assurance of rights based upon titles of reality."

Independently of statutes the petitioner, as editor of a newspaper, has the requisite interest in land records even under the common law theory entitling him to the writ of mandamus. Newspapers have a betterestablished right of access to records of titles by reason of their relations to the public than abstracters 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 abstracters 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 transaction in real estate which they believe, correctly or erroneously, 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. In this connection, it will profit us to quote the following passages from The Rights and Privileges of the Press, Chapter II, by Siebert: If the Press is to report fully and accurately the affairs of government, it must have ready access to all relevant sources of information. Public officers, public records, and public proceedings furnish quantities of such information to the daily newspaper, whose duty in turn is to pass it on to the reading public. The majority rule in the United States is that any member of the public can demand the right of access to public documents where it can be shown that the public's interest would be benefited. No special pecuniary interest in the record need be shown. This rule does not apply, for reasons of public policy, to demands for access to certain records such as diplomatic correspondence, police records, records of the grand jury, and communications by voluntary informers. Also, where examination has been prompted by a desire for scandalous details, the inspection of court records (especially in divorce cases) has been denied.

In addition to his rights as a citizen and an elector, the newspaper proprietor can demand access to public records on the basis of his special pecuniary interest. The interest of the newspaper man in public records is the interest of the manufacturer in his raw materials. By being denied access to the records the newspaper is cut off from a source of income and profit. That the newspaper's prospective business from the sale of copies containing information gathered from the records was a sufficient pecuniary interest to entitle the proprietor or employee to access to the documents was finally established in two cases. Upon the foregoing considerations, mandamus is the appropriate remedy, and the petition will be 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 his decision, without costs. Moran, C.J., Paras, Feria, Hilado, Bengzon, and Padilla, JJ., concur. Separate Opinions BRIONES, M., conforme en parte y disidente en parte: Estoy substancialmente conforme con la ponencia, pero no puedo suscribir el pronunciamiento hecho en ella de que la libertad de la prensa no esta envuelta o comprometida en este asunto; que el acto de los recurridos negando acceeso al recurrente, en particular, y a todos los representantes de la prensa, en general, a los libros y demas documentos del Registro de la Propiedad para fines de publicacion en las columnas de los periodicos, no constituye una restriccion o una previa censura equivalente a negacion y abrogacion de la liberted de imprenta consagrada y garantida en la Constitucion como uno de los derechos fundamentales del pueblo y del ciudadano (Bill of Rights, Art. III, Sec. 1, inc. 8, Constitucion de Filipinas); que dicho acto afecta solamente a facilidades de publicacion, y que "los recurridos aciertan al decir que la libertad de informacion o libertad para obtener informacion para fines de publicacion no esta garantizada por la Constitucion." Este pronunciamiento reduce, si es que no deshace y anula, la tremenda importancia del presente asunto. Su meollo es precisamente constitucional. Quitadle ese meollo, casi no queda nada.

Se comprendera esta asercion si examinamos el fondo y la perspectiva del asunto. El recurrente, en su concepto de editor del diario "Manila Post," deseaba obtener ciertos datos del Registro de la Propiedad de Manila para la seccion informativa de su periodico. Se invocaron al efecto razones evidentes de interes publico, entre ellas la de que se deseaba informar al publico sobre la verdad o falsedad de los rumores de que ventas y traspasos de terrenos residenciales y comerciales a extranjeros se estaban inscribiendo y registrando en la oficina del Registrador de Manila, con grave infraccion de la Constitucion. (Se debe hacer constar, entre parentesis, que el "Manila Post" estaba empeado entonces en una fuerte e intensa campana de publicidad contra la enajenacion de terrenos a extranjeros y en favor de una rigida aplicacion de la prohibicion constitucional correspondiente). Otra razon insinuada era que se deseaba informar correcta y honradamente al publico acerca de la verdad o falsedad de otros rumores siniestos en el sentido de que algunos funcionarios y empleados del gobierno unos de nombramiento, otros electivos y algunos parientes de los mismos se estaban enriqueciendo rapidamente, de la noche a la maana, en terminos y bajo circunstancias harto sospechosas, adquiriendo propiedades raices de cuantioso valor, cuando generalmente se sabia que sus disponibilidades eran bien limitadas, y se queria comprobar la veracidad de tales rumores en los datos del Registro de la Propiedad. Pues bien; el Registrador de Titulos de Manila, obedeciendo instrucciones del Departamento de Justicia que a su vez invocaba una circular expedida hace varios aos y ya casi olvidada bajo el polvo de los archivos, dijo al recurrente que no podia acceder a lo pedido, esto es, a que le dejara examinar los libros y documents de registro para fines de publicacion en la prensa, puesto que estaba prohibido el hacerlo. Se ha apuntado como una de las razones de la prohibicion el deseo de evitar que los ladrones y bandidos se enterasen de quienes tenian dinero en virtud de los datos del registro. De ahi la inteposicion del presente recurso de mandamus.

Si esto no es restriccion, previa censura, tengo que declarar paladinamente que no encuentro otro termino para denominarlo. El recurrente queria examinar los libros y documentos de registro para ver de publicar algo en su periodico. No pudo hacerlo, porque el Registrador se lo prohibio, obedeciendo ordenes superiores. No es esto restringir, poner cortapisa, imponer una interdiccion? Se dice, sin embargo, que esa prohibicion nada tiene que ver con la libertad de imprenta. Pero pregunto: de que le sirve a la prensa la libertad si, por otro lado, se le niegan los instrumentos para ejercer esa libertad, se le cierran las fuentes publicas de informacion fuentes que son de vida o muerte para la prensa, pues de ellas mismas dimana y fluye el jugo esencial de su existencia? No equivale ello a dar la libertad con una mano para arrebatarla con la otra? Esto me recuerda la filosofia de la llamada libertad del hambre, de la escasez (freedom from want). Como podeis convencer al indigente, al hambriento de que goza de las libertades esenciales entre ellas la de comer lo que la plazca si no le poneis en condicion razonable de satisfacerlas? Lo mas de que podeis convencerle es que goza de una libertad la libertad de morir. Lo que la prensa pide y necesita bajo un gobierno de opinion, dentro de un regimen democratico, no es una libertad academica, vacia, la sombra de la libertad, sino una libertad real, efectiva, substancial. Y esto solamente se puede lograr asegurandole una libertad completa de informacion mediante un acceso facil y desembarazado a las fuentes noticieras, sobre todo las de caracter oficial y publico, salvo ciertas limitaciones que imponen los usus de la diplomacia, o relativas a la seguridad de la nacion y del estado, u otras analogas. La esencia de nuestro sistema es dejar a la conciencia y sentido de responsabilidad del periodista un margen de propias inhibiciones en aras del interes publico. Interesa al estado y al pueblo el mantener constantemente abiertas las fuentes de informacion publica no solo para permitir el mas amplio juego posible a la opinion publica como ingrediente esencial de las instituciones democraticas, sino tambien para impedir que la mentira, el rumor falso, el "canard" y la calumnia suplan al dato autentico, a la noticia veraz y cierta, al informe correcto y honrado, con todas las siniestras consecuencias que se siguen de tal suplantacion.

Mi conclusion, por tanto, es que los libros y documentos del Registro de la Propiedad son publicos y a ellos tiene libre acceso el public, maxime la prensa, sujeto solamente a ciertas regulaciones de poca monta, de caracter administrativo; que la libertad de imprenta o prensa esta seriamente comprometida en el presente asunto; que la libertad de informacion esta estrechamente enlazada con la libertad de la prenza; y que, por tanto, todo acto ejecutivo o legislativo que tienda a cerrar y tapiar las fuentes publicas de informacion como el registro de la propiedad, o impedir, prohibir o restringir el libre acceso a dichas fuentes constituye un atentado contra la mencionada libertad, y, por tanto, debe ser considerado y tratado como acto anticonstitucional. Expidase el mandamus solicitado. PERFECTO, M.: Concurro con esta sabia y elocuente opinion de Magistrado Sr. Briones. PABLO, M., dissenting: Disiento. No creo que sea procedente acceder a la solicitud de mandamus ordenando a los recurridos que permitan al recurrente o su representante "to examine, extract, abstract or make memoranda of the reocrds of sales of real properties to aliens subject to such restriction and limitation as may be deemed necessary not incompatible with this decision." No hay alegacion en la solicitud de que el recurrente haya pedido a los recurridos que le dieran acceso a los libros de la oficina del Registro de Propiedad de Manila para tomar datos sobre las ventas de propiedades a extranjeros, y que los recurridos con abuso de discrecion no le hayan permitido. Es evidente que bajo el articulo 56 de la Ley No. 496, el recurrente tiene derecho a tomar datos de las ventas anotadas en los libros de registro, y si los recurridos no le hubieran permitido al pedirles permiso para tal fin, entonces cabe empear el recurso de mandamus.

La simple peticion en la solicitud de que este Tribunal ordene a los recurridos que permitan al recurrente o a su representante a examinar todos los records que estan bajo su custodia, sin alegacion de que los recurridos le hayan indebidamente privado de tal derecho, no es base suficiente para una solicitud de mandamus. La solicitud es defectuosa porque no contiene alegacion en que fundar la peticion. Esto desde el punto de vista procesal. Como hecho consumado, ha pedido el recurrente que le den oportunidad los recurridos para ver los libros sobre las ventas de bienes a extranjeros? No. Nunca. Entonces, en que funda su peticion de una orden perentoria de este Tribunal contra los recurridos? No tenemos derecho a condenar por anticipado a ellos ordenandoles que permitan al recurrente a tomar datos cuando no le han negado tal derecho. El recurrente pidio que le proporcionasen lista completa de las ventas a extranjeros desde la expedicion de la Circular No. 128 del Departamento de Justicia, con los siguientes datos: (1) nombre del vendedor, (2) nombren del comprador, (3) extension y situacion del terreno, (40 precio, (5) fecha de la venta, (6) numero del certificado de titulo del vendedor, y (7) numero del certificado del comprador; pero nunca pidio permiso para ver los records y tomar notas que le interesan. Si el Procurado General alego en su contestacion: "the examination or inspection of the records in the office of the Register of Deeds may be made only be those having special interest therein and subject to such reasonable regulations as may be prescribed by the Chief of the Land Registration Office, and that the Secretary of Justice has reasonably rules, to safeguard the public interest and the interest of those directly concerned in the records, that records may not be disclosed for publication", no se deduce necesariamente que los recurridos con abuso de discrecion hayan impedido al recurrente a ejercitar un derecho que le garantiza la ley del Registro de la Propiedad de tener acceso a los archivos de la oficina del Registrador de Titulos. Y de los datos que obtenga de los archivos, el recurrente tiene perfecto derecho a hacer uso de ellos en la forma que quiera o publicarlos en su periodico, si asi le place. No puedo suscribir a la teoria de que se prohiba su publicacion. Prohibir es coartar el libre albedrio del periodista. Que cada individuo gobierne sus propios actos. Despues de todo, nadie responde de ellos sino el mismo.

Hay muchas causas en este Tribunal porque se abusa demasiado de los remedios especiales. Por cualquiera orden o resolucion de un juzgado inferior que no es del agrado de una parte, se acude a este Tribunal con mandamus o certiorari. Y en el presente caso, sin alegacion que de motivo de accion, y sin culpa, accion u omision de parte de los recurridos, se pide una orden perentoria contra ellos. Y la mayoria les concede. En mi humilde opinion, esa orden perentoria es una herejia procesal. La solicitud debe ser sobreseida.

08/07/2011 08:30:00
Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC A.M. No. 1037-CJ October 28, 1981 MARTIN LANTACO, SR., ESTEBAN DEL BARRIO, ROSALITO ALAMAG and BORROMEO VITALIANO, complainants, vs. CITY JUDGE FRANCISCO R. LLAMAS, respondent. MAKASIAR, J.: This is a verified letter-complaint dated August 7, 1975 addressed to the President of the Philippines (by lst Indorsement, dated August 25, 1975, this case was referred by the Office of the President to this Court, pursuant to Section 7, Article X of the Constitution), by jeepney drivers Martin Lantaco, Sr., Esteban del Barrio, Rosalito Alamag and Borromeo Vitaliano, all residents of Pasay City, against City Judge Francisco R. Llamas of the Pasay City Court for "Backsliding and Grave Abuse of Discretion." On January 8, 1975, an investigating special counsel of the City Fiscal's Office of Pasay City, filed Criminal Cases Nos. 95647, 95648, 95649 and 95650, all for estafa against Ricardo Paredes, an officer of the PASCAMASCON, an association of jeepney operators, for "non-remittance of SSS contribution premiums." These cases were assigned to respondent. After the prosecution had rested its case, the defense moved to dismiss all the criminal cases on the ground that the evidence presented by the prosecution is insufficient to convict the accused beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution opposed the motion. According to the complainants, the respondent set the promulgation of his decision on July 22, 1975, postponed to July 30, 1975 and again to July 31, 1975, when at about 9:45 in the morning, upon respondent's instruction, his clerk of court read the dispositive portion thereof acquitting the accused of all four estafa cases on the ground of reasonable doubt. According to the herein complainants:

After the reading of (the) Decision a recess was made by Judge Llamas and we requested Judge Llamas to furnish us a copy of said Decision. Judge Llamas told us that there are no more copy and we told Judge Llamas if there is no more copy we would like to xerox the original and Judge Llamas told us that xerox copy are not permitted and Judge Llamas instructed one of the employees in his office a- steno-typist to type another copy for us and that the typist told us to come back on Monday, August 4, which we did, but, the steno-typist failed to furnish us the copy as agreed by us and told us again to come back next day, August 5. The next morning we went back of the office of Judge Llamas, same we failed to get copy of the Decision. On August 6, 1975 at 11:00 A.M. one of the complainants, Esteban del Barrio and Ceferino F. Ginete, the President or our labor union went to Judge Llamas to secure copy of said decision to (sic) the same person the stenotypist. The steno-typist went inside the room of Judge Llamas and a few minutes the typist went back to us and informed us that he could not type the Decision because the folder is at the house of Judge Llamas and when Mr. Ginete inquire why the said folder of the complainants are at the house of Judge Llamas, the typist reply the Judge making "CORRECTION." Mr. Ginete wonder why a correction is being made when the decision has already been rendered anti why the delay in furnishing us copy, WHY? This Court required the respondent to comment on the complaint by 2nd Indorsement dated September 16, 1975. This Court also sent by registered mails a follow-up letter dated October 23, 1975 and a tracer letter dated November 25, 1975. The Bureau of Posts in a certification dated November 26, 1975 certified that these follow-up letters were delivered to and received by the office of the respondent. Finally, on March 8, 1976 this Court received respondent's comment dated December 3, 1975. His brief comment: The four related criminal accusations against Mr. Ricardo Paredes, were validly and properly decided by this Court. The motion to dismiss after the prosecution's case was rested, was resolved and said resolution of acquittal is the very decision in this case which was validly promulgated in the presence of the accused, the prosecuting fiscal and Mr. Severino Ginete and all the complaining parties. The records of the decision show that the accused assisted by counsel signed the same on said date and copies thereafter furnished counsel for the accused and the prosecuting fiscal.

Respondent also averred: It is respectfully submitted that on the details of the proceedings and the evidence presented, no better answer could be made by the undersigned except by submitting a copy of said decision promulgated July 31, 1975 and marked as Annex "A" of this comment. In the same breath, the matter of the advisability as suggested that this finding by this Court be reviewed by the Military may best be answered by a thorough reading of the decision. After a careful examination of the records before this Court, We found that respondent committed grave abuse of authority in refusing to give the complainants a copy of his decision in Criminal Cases Nos. 95647-95650. The complainants were understandably interested in securing a copy of the decision as they were the complaining witnesses in these four criminal cases. The request was made during office hours. It was relayed personally to the respondent. The decision in question was already promulgated. Copies were already furnished the counsel for the prosecution and the defense. It was already part of the public record which the citizen has a right to scrutinize. And if there was "no more copy," the complainants were amenable to have a xerox copy of the original on file, copies of which, as part of court records, are allowed to be given to interested parties upon request, duly certified as a true copy of the original on file. What aggravates the situation, as seen from the sequence of events narrated by the complainants which were never denied or rebutted by the respondent, is that respondent, without just cause, denied complainants access to public records and gave the complainants the run-around, which is oppressive as it is arbitrary. In Baldoza vs. Honorable Judge Rodolfo B. Dimaano (A.M. No. 112-MJ, May 5, 1976), WE emphasized the importance of access to public records. predicated as it is on the right of the people to acquire information on matters of public concern in which the public has a legitimate interest. While the public officers in custody or control of public records have the discretion to regulate the manner in which such records may be inspected, examined or copied by interested persons, such discretion does not carry with it the authority to prohibit such access, inspection, examination or copying. Continuing, said this Court:

The New Constitution now expressly recognizes that the people are entitled to information on matters of public concern and thus are expressly granted access to official records, as well as documents of official acts, or transactions, or decisions, subject to such limitations imposed by law (Article IV, Section 6, New Constitution). 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 nation's problems, nor a meaningful democratic decisionmaking 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: Maintaining the flow of such information depends on protection for both its acquisition and its dissemination since, if either process is interrupted, the flow inevitably ceases. (87 Harvard Law Review 1505) [Baldoza vs. Hon. Judge Rodolfo B. Dimaano, A.M. No. 112-MJ, May 5, 1976]. The herein complainants prayed that respondent's decision be reviewed "to obviate any miscarriage of justice considering the adverse effects to the thousands of jeepney drivers and to prevent the other jeepney operators in using (sic) the Decision ... for their own benefits." The respondent commented that "no better answer could be made ... except by submitting a copy of the decision" and the complaint "may best be answered by a thorough reading of the decision." OUR "review" in administrative cases of this nature as defined in Vda. de Zabala vs. Pamaran (A.C. No. 200-J, June 10, 1971, 39 SCRA 430, 433), is limited to the text of the decision and respondent's articulations on the law and the evidence submitted. WE do not review the decision to reverse it or to set it aside as if it were brought to this Court on regular appeal; for this is beyond the objective of an administrative proceedings to protect the public service, to secure the faithful and efficient performance of official functions, and to rid the public service of incompetent, corrupt and unworthy public servants. WE have carefully read, examined and analyzed the decision submitted by the respondent. WE found that in sustaining the motion to dismiss on the ground of insufficiency of evidence after the prosecution rested its case, respondent committed several errors bordering on gross ignorance of the law.

1. Respondent erred in concluding that the prosecution failed to prove that the accused, despite repeated demands, refused and still refuses to remit the alleged collected premium contributions and that "if no demand was ever made ... then a criminal prosecution for estafa ... could not prosper." The uniform allegation in all the four informations for estafa that "the accused, despite repeated demands, refused and still refuses to remit ...," need not anymore be proved by the prosecution; because the Social Security Act of 1954 (R.A. No. 1161, as amended by R.A. No. 1792, No. 2658 and No. 3839, and further amended by Presidential Decrees Nos. 24, 65 and 177), makes it the duty of the employer to remit the contributions without need of any demand therefor by the employee. Section 22(a), (b), (c) and (d) of said Act, governing "Remittance of Contributions" requires as a legal obligation of every employer to remit within the first seven (7) days of the month the contributions of the employee and the employer to the Social Security System, failing which invites the imposition of a penalty of three percent (3%). With this mandate of the law, demand on the part of the employee before the employer remits these contributions to the SSS is not a condition precedent for such remittance. The Social Security System can collect such contributions in the same manner as taxes are made collectible under the National Internal Revenue Code (Sec. 22[b], Social Security Act). Thus: SEC. 22. Remittance of contributions The contributions imposed in the proceeding sections shall be remitted to the SSS within the first seven days of each calendar month following the month for which they are applicable or within such time as the Commission may prescribe. Every employer required to deduct and to remit such contributions shall be liable for their payment, and if any contribution is not paid to the SSS, as herein prescribed, he shall pay besides the contribution a penalty thereon of three per cent per month from the date the contribution fans due until paid. If deemed expedient and advisable by the Commission, the collection and remittance of contributions shall be made quarterly or semi-annually in advance, the contributions payable by the employees to be advanced by their respective employers: Provided, That upon separation of an employee, any contributions so paid in advance but not due shall be credited or refunded to his employer.

(b) The contributions payable under this Act in cases where an employer refuses or neglects to pay the same shall be collected by the System in the same manner as taxes are made collectible under the National Internal Revenue Code, as amended Failure or refusal of the employer to pay or remit the contributions herein prescribed shall not prejudice the right of the covered employee to the benefits of the coverage. xxx xxx xxx (e) For purposes of this section, any employer who is delinquent or has not remitted all the monthly contributions due and payable may within six (6) months from approval of this amendatory act remit said contributions to the SSS and submit the corresponding collection lists therefor without incurring the prescribed three per cent penalty. In case the employer fails to remit to the SSS the said contributions within the six months grace period, the penalty of three per cent shall be imposed from the time the contributions first became due as provided in paragraph (a) of this section. Provided, however, That the Administrator, may in meritorious cases, allow employers who have submitted a payment plan, on or before April 19 1973, to pay their contributions due and payable up to December 31, 1973 without incurring the prescribed three per cent penalty. As amended by Rep. Act No. 2658, and by Pres. Decrees Nos. 24 and 177). To prove remittance, the employer can submit his records thereon or a certification from the SSS as to the fact of remittance of the contributions. II. Respondent likewise erred in concluding that, in connection with the daily deductions of P 0.50 as SSS premium contributions, "this Court is not convinced and could not reasonably believe that there was a forced daily deductions or exaction of P0. 50." Section 18 of the Social Security Act governing employees' contribution, provides that ... the employer shall deduct and withhold from such employee's monthly salary, wage, compensation or earnings the employee's contribution in an amount corresponding to his salary, wage, compensation or earnings during the month in accordance with the following schedule effective on January 1, 1973 ... ." With this legal obligation placed on the employer's shoulder, respondent's reasonable belief that "there was or could be no forced daily deductions or exaction of P 0.50" would have no legal basis and support.

III. Respondent again cried in finding "that from the existing relationship between the accused as owner of the utility jeepneys and all the complainants, there is categorically demonstrated no employer-employee relationship in contemplation of the Social Security Act of 1954, as amended by Presidential Decrees Nos. 24, 65 and 177. In other words, if by law there exists no such relationship, then the herein accused truly is not even obligated to collect such amounts; neither is he under obligation to make remittance payments." For, as early as March 23, 1956, in National Labor Union vs. Benedicto Dinglasan (L-7945), this Court already ruled that there is employeremployee relation between jeepney owners/operators and jeepney drivers under the boundary system arrangement, and enunciated:

The main question to determine is whether there exists a relationship of employer-employee between the drivers of the jeeps and the owner thereof. The findings contained in the first order are not disputed by both parties except the last to which the respondent took exception. But in the resolution setting aside the order of 16 February 1954 the Court of Industrial Relations in banc did not state that such finding is not supported by evidence. It merely declares that there is no employer-employee relation between respondent, Benedicto Dinglasan, and the driver complainants in this case. If the findings to which the respondent took exception is unsupported by the evidence, a pronouncement to that effect would have been made by the Court in banc. In the absence of such pronouncement we are not at liberty to ignore or disregard said finding. The findings of the Court of Industrial Relations with respect to question of fact, if supported by substantial evidence on the record shall be conclusive. Taking into consideration the findings of fact made by the Court of Industrial Relations we find it difficult to uphold the conclusion of the Court set forth in its resolution of 23 June 1954. The drivers did not invest a single centavo in the business and the respondent is the exclusive owner of the jeeps. The management of the business is in the respondent's hands. For even if the drivers of the jeeps take material possession of the jeeps, still the respondent as owner thereof and holder of a certificate of public convenience is entitled to exercise, as he does and under the law he must, supervision over the drivers by seeing to it that they follow the route prescribed by the Public Service Commission and the rules and regulations promulgated by it as regards their operation. And when they pass by the gasoline station of the respondent checking by his employees on the water tank, oil and tire pressure is done. The only features that would make the relationship of lessor and lessee between the respondent and the drivers, members of the union, as contended by the respondent, are the fact that he does not pay them any fixed wage but their compensation is the excess of the total amount of P7.50 which they agreed to pay to the respondent, the owner of the jeeps, and the fact that the gasoline burned by the jeeps is for the account of the drivers. These two features are not, however, sufficient to withdraw the relationship between them from that of employer-employee, because the estimated earnings for fares must be over and above the amount they agreed to pay to the respondent for a ten-hour shift or ten-

hour a day operation of the jeeps. Not having any interest in the business because they did not invest anything in the acquisition of the jeeps and did not participate in the management thereof, their service as drivers of the jeeps being their only contribution to the business, the relationship of lessor and lessee cannot be sustained [In the matter of the Park Floral Company, etc., 19 NLRB 403; Radley et al. vs. Commonwealth, 161 SW (2d) 417; Jones vs. Goodson et al., 121 Fed. Rep. (2d) 176; Mitchel vs. Gibbson et al., 172 Fed. Rep. (2d) 970]. In the lease of chattels the lessor loses complete control over the chattel leased although the lessee cannot make bad use thereof, for he would be responsible for damages to the lessor should he do so. In this case there is a supervision and a sort of control that the owner of the jeeps exercises over the drivers. It is an attempt by ingenious scheme to withdraw the relationship between the owner of the jeeps and the drivers thereof from the operation of the labor laws enacted to promote industrial peace. (98 Phil. 650, 651-53). On April 30, 1963, this Court reiterated this doctrine in Magboo, et al. vs. Bernardo (L-16790, 7 SCRA 952) and stated: Appellant assails said decision, assigning three errors which boil down to the question of whether or not an employer- employee relationship exists between a jeepney-owner and a driver under a "boundary system" arrangement. Appellant contends that the relationship is essentially that of lessor and lessee. A similar contention has been rejected by this Court in several cases. In National Labor Union v. Dinglasan, 52 O.B., No. 4, 1933, it was held that the features which characterize the boundary system namely, the fact that the driver does not receive a fixed wage but gets only the excess of the receipt of fares collected by him over the amount he pays to the jeep-owner and that the gasoline consumed by the jeep is for the account of the driver are not sufficient to withdraw the relationship between them from that of employer and employee. The ruling was subsequently cited and applied in Doce v. Workmen's Compensation Commission, L-9417, December 22, 1958, which involved the liability of a bus owner for injury compensation to a conductor working under the boundary system. (7 SCRA 953-54).

Indeed, considering that about nineteen (19) years before July 31, 1975, when respondent rendered his decision in the four estafa cases, it was a settled doctrine that an employer-employee relationship exists between jeepney owners/operators and jeepney drivers under the boundary system arrangement, of which rule respondent was obviously ignorant (Section 1, Rule 129, Rules of Court, and in line with Municipal Board of Manila vs. Agustin, 65 Phil. 144). Respondent mistakenly relied on the cases of Social Security System vs. Court of Appeals and Shriro (37 SCRA 579) and Social Security System vs. Court of Appeals and Manila Jockey Club (30 SCRA 210), which have no bearing on or relevance to the issue posed in the estafa cases filed by the complainants and heard by him. The Shriro and the Manila Jockey Club cases did not involve or resolve the relationship between jeepney owners/operators and jeepney drivers in any manner whatsoever. The Shriro case concerned the relationship of "commission sales agents" and Shriro (Philippines) Inc., the exclusive distributor of "Regal" sewing machine. The Manila Jockey Club, Inc. case concerned jockeys who are connected with the Manila Jockey Club, Inc. and the Philippine Racing Club, Inc. Since an employer-employee relationship subsists between the jeepney owners/operators and jeepney drivers under the boundary system arrangement, SSS coverage "shall be compulsory" (Sec. 9, Social Security Act), the SSS's deduction would follow as a matter of law (Sec. 18, supra), and the accused in the four estafa cases, without previous demand by the jeepney drivers, is under legal obligation to remit the driver's contribution to the SSS. Decisions of the Supreme Court need not be proved as they are matters of judicial notice (Sec. 1, Rule 129, Rev. Rules of Court; V Moran, Rules of Court, 1970 ed., pp. 38-39). Ignorance of the law excuses no one (Art. 3, New Civil Code) and judicial decisions applying or interpreting the law or the Constitution are part of the legal system (Art. 8, New Civil Code).

In the light of the above discussion, respondent gravely erred in sustaining the motion to dismiss the estafa cases by conveniently relying on the accepted axiom that the prosecution cannot rely on the weakness of the defense to gain conviction, for conviction can only rest upon the strength of the prosecution evidence (Duran vs. Court of Appeals, L-39758, May 7, 1976, citing People vs. Barrera, 82 Phil. 391), and, as a consequence, material and moral damages had been inflicted on the numerous complaining drivers whose rights to refile the criminal cases for estafa against the accused are now foreclosed by the rule on double jeopardy. In recapitulation, We find that respondent exhibited gross ignorance of the Social Security Act of 1954, as amended, particularly the sections governing SSS compulsory coverage, employer-employee contributions, deduction of SSS's contributions, and remittance of SSS contributions; and of the settled jurisprudence that the relationship between jeepney owners/operators and jeepney drivers under the boundary system arrangement is that of employer and employee. Or, if respondent was aware of them, he deliberately refrained from applying them, which can never be excused (Quizon, et al. vs. Judge Jose G. Baltazar, Jr., A.C. No. 532-MJ, July 25, 1975) and "is hardly to be condoned" (Fernando, J., concurring opinion, Quizon, et al. vs. Judge Baltazar, Jr., supra). WE, moreover, find that respondent repeatedly ignored this Court's directive to file his comment on the instant complaint within ten (10) days from receipt of our 2nd Indorsement of September 16, 1975, necessitating the sending of two tracer letters dated October 23, 1975 and November 25, 1975. His comment came only on March 8, 1976. His failure to submit the required comment within the period fixed is disrespect to the Court as well as aggravated the delay in the speedy and orderly disposition of this administrative complaint. (cf. Medina, etc., et al. vs. Hon. Valdellon; etc., et al., L- 38810, March 25, 1975; Atienza vs. Perez, etc., A.M. No. P- 216, July 9, 1974) WHEREFORE, RESPONDENT FRANCISCO R. LLAMAS IS HEREBY DISMISSED AS CITY JUDGE OF PASAY CITY WITH FORFEITURE OF ALL RETIREMENT PRIVILEGES AND WITH PREJUDICE TO REINSTATEMENT TO ANY POSITION IN THE NATIONAL OR LOCAL GOVERNMENT, INCLUDING GOVERNMENT-OWNED OR CONTROLLED CORPORATIONS, AGENCIES OR INSTRUMENTALITIES.

SO ORDERED. Fernando, C.J., Teehankee, Aquino, Concepcion, Jr., Fernandez, Guerrero and Abad Santos, JJ., concur. Separate Opinions MELENCIO-HERRERA, J., concurring and dissenting: Respondent Judge has been charged by the four complainants herein with "backsliding" and "grave abuse of discretion". "Backsliding" for his refusal to give complainants a copy of his Decision acquitting the accused, Ricardo Paredes, in four separate criminal accusations for Estafa filed before the City Court of Pasay, Branch IV. And "grave abuse of discretion" for rendering a verdict of acquittal, on the ground of reasonable doubt, in spite of the "strong evidence" against the accused. The Executive Judge, concurred in by the Court Administrator, recommended dismissal of the charges for lack of merit. The majority has voted for dismissal from the service on the principal grounds that respondent committed grave abuse of authority in refusing to give complainants a copy of his Decision in the aforestated criminal cases and because, in acquitting the accused for insufficiency of the prosecution evidence, respondent committed errors bordering on gross ignorance of the law. I agree that respondent was not justified in refusing to give complainants a copy of his Decision for which he can be held administratively accountable. However, insofar as the verdict of acquittal is concerned, I believe that respondent can only be faulted with error of judgment in appraising the evidence and applying doctrinal jurisprudence, for which he should not be held administratively liable and much less dismissed from the service.

In the case of Pabalan vs. Guevarra (Adm. Matter No. 333-CJ, 74 SCRA 53 [19761), we held that a judicial officer cannot be called to account in civil or administrative actions for acts done in the exercise of his judicial function, however erroneous, As pointed out by then Justice Fernando, now the Chief Justice, in the cases of Bartolome vs. Hon. Juan de Borja and Grego vs. Hon. Juan de Borja, "even on the assumption that his interpretation was erroneous, still he could not be held accountable for gross ignorance of the law. At the most, he could have been mistaken. That does not render him liable to administrative sanction" (Adm. Matter No. 1096CFI; Adm. Matter No. 11 14-CFI, 71 SCRA 154 [1976]). No one, called upon to try the facts or interpret the law in the process of administering justice can be infallible in his judgment (Vda. de Zabala vs. Pamaran (Adm. Case No. 200-J, 39 SCRA 430-431 [1971]). "To hold a Judge administratively accountable for every erroneous ruling or decision he renders, assuming that he has erred, would be nothing short of harrassment and would make his position unbearable." (Barroso vs. Arche (Adm. Case No. 216-CFI, 67 SCRA 161,162 [1975]). To hold respondent City Judge administratively liable for ignorance of the law, there must be reliable evidence to show that the judicial acts complained of were ill-motivated, corrupt or inspired by a persistent disregard of well-known rules (Ajeno vs. Inserts, Adm. Matter No. 1098-CFI, 71 SCRA 166 [1976)]. For a Judge to be culpable in an administrative proceeding, there should be a clear and sufficient evidence of his misconduct (In re Horrileno 43 Phil. 212, 1922 cited in Fr. Cabillo vs. Mun. Judge Celis, Adm. Matter No. 825-MJ, 83 SCRA 620 [1978]). There is no showing herein that respondent Judge wilfully perverted his position to inflict a deliberate wrong. Absent is the showing of bad faith or improper considerations. I, therefore, vote to impose suspension for three (3) months. Respondent Judge acted arbitrarily, oppressively and unjustifiedly in refusing to give complainants a copy of his adverse Decision. He had also shown disrespect to this Court when he had repeatedly ignored its directive to submit his comment to the subject complaint. Barredo and De Castro, JJ., concurs. Separate Opinions MELENCIO-HERRERA, J., concurring and dissenting:

Respondent Judge has been charged by the four complainants herein with "backsliding" and "grave abuse of discretion". "Backsliding" for his refusal to give complainants a copy of his Decision acquitting the accused, Ricardo Paredes, in four separate criminal accusations for Estafa filed before the City Court of Pasay, Branch IV. And "grave abuse of discretion" for rendering a verdict of acquittal, on the ground of reasonable doubt, in spite of the "strong evidence" against the accused. The Executive Judge, concurred in by the Court Administrator, recommended dismissal of the charges for lack of merit. The majority has voted for dismissal from the service on the principal grounds that respondent committed grave abuse of authority in refusing to give complainants a copy of his Decision in the aforestated criminal cases and because, in acquitting the accused for insufficiency of the prosecution evidence, respondent committed errors bordering on gross ignorance of the law. I agree that respondent was not justified in refusing to give complainants a copy of his Decision for which he can be held administratively accountable. However, insofar as the verdict of acquittal is concerned, I believe that respondent can only be faulted with error of judgment in appraising the evidence and applying doctrinal jurisprudence, for which he should not be held administratively liable and much less dismissed from the service. In the case of Pabalan vs. Guevarra (Adm. Matter No. 333-CJ, 74 SCRA 53 [19761), we held that a judicial officer cannot be called to account in civil or administrative actions for acts done in the exercise of his judicial function, however erroneous, As pointed out by then Justice Fernando, now the Chief Justice, in the cases of Bartolome vs. Hon. Juan de Borja and Grego vs. Hon. Juan de Borja, "even on the assumption that his interpretation was erroneous, still he could not be held accountable for gross ignorance of the law. At the most, he could have been mistaken. That does not render him liable to administrative sanction" (Adm. Matter No. 1096CFI; Adm. Matter No. 11 14-CFI, 71 SCRA 154 [1976]).

No one, called upon to try the facts or interpret the law in the process of administering justice can be infallible in his judgment (Vda. de Zabala vs. Pamaran (Adm. Case No. 200-J, 39 SCRA 430-431 [1971]). "To hold a Judge administratively accountable for every erroneous ruling or decision he renders, assuming that he has erred, would be nothing short of harrassment and would make his position unbearable." (Barroso vs. Arche (Adm. Case No. 216-CFI, 67 SCRA 161,162 [1975]). To hold respondent City Judge administratively liable for ignorance of the law, there must be reliable evidence to show that the judicial acts complained of were ill-motivated, corrupt or inspired by a persistent disregard of well-known rules (Ajeno vs. Inserts, Adm. Matter No. 1098-CFI, 71 SCRA 166 [1976)]. For a Judge to be culpable in an administrative proceeding, there should be a clear and sufficient evidence of his misconduct (In re Horrileno 43 Phil. 212, 1922 cited in Fr. Cabillo vs. Mun. Judge Celis, Adm. Matter No. 825-MJ, 83 SCRA 620 [1978]). There is no showing herein that respondent Judge wilfully perverted his position to inflict a deliberate wrong. Absent is the showing of bad faith or improper considerations. I, therefore, vote to impose suspension for three (3) months. Respondent Judge acted arbitrarily, oppressively and unjustifiedly in refusing to give complainants a copy of his adverse Decision. He had also shown disrespect to this Court when he had repeatedly ignored its directive to submit his comment to the subject complaint. Barredo and De Castro, JJ., concurs.