Category: Civil Law

Evidence & Speaking with the Media

So you decided to speak with the media to “give your side of the story” about an instance or situation or fact, but you are wondering whether this media mileage may or may not hunt you later on.

Among others, according to the Philippine Rules of Court and related jurisprudence, these are some of the things to keep in mind;

  • Take note that your statements to the media as to a relevant fact may be given in evidence against you [Rule 130, Sec. 26, Rules of Court]. 
  • Also remember the rule that “silence means yes”. The rules provide that “An act or declaration made in the presence and within the hearing or observation of a party who does or says nothing when the act or declaration is such as naturally to call for action or comment if not true, and when proper and possible for him to do so, may be given in evidence against him” [Rule 130, Sec. 32].
  • If you are presented as a witness in court later on, be mindful of your former statement because you may be discredited if your past statement will be inconsistent with your would-be court testimony [Rule 132, Sec. 11] although there are certain preconditions before you can be discredited. 
  • Note that in a criminal case, the accused as a general rule has the right to have a court order issued to compel and secure your attendance as witness for such statement that maybe used in his defense [Rule 115, Sec. 1(g)].

Of course, if you are a lawyer you know that you are not to make public statements in the media regarding a pending case tending to arouse public opinion for or against a party [Rule 13.02, Canon].

Importantly, be mindful that nowadays minors have easy access to read, listen, or watch media publications.

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Filipino Lawyers who become citizens of other countries

A Filipino lawyer who becomes a citizen of another country is automatically NO LONGER a member of the Philippine bar and is thus PROHIBITED from practicing Philippine law within or outside the Philippines, or to practice law in the Philippines, or even to provide legal advice on Philippine law within or outside the Philippines. Otherwise, he/she is engaging in illegal practice of law.

“Filipino citizenship is a requirement for admission to the bar and is, in fact, a continuing requirement for the practice of law. The loss thereof means termination of the petitioner’s membership in the bar; ipso jure the privilege to engage in the practice of law.” (Bar Matter 2112, Supreme Court of the Philippines, July 24, 2012)

Any person who engages in illegal practice of law in the Philippines can be charged with Indirect Contempt (Sec. 3e, Rule 71, Rules of Court).

To report illegal practice of law or verify whether a person is a legitimate member of the Philippine Bar, contact: Public Information Office, Supreme Court of the Philippines, 3rd Floor, New Supreme Court Building Annex, Padre Faura St., Ermita, 1000 Manila Philippines, Telephone (02) 5225090 to 94, Telefax (02) 526-8129, Email pio@sc.judiciary.gov.ph.

The current costs of knowing the Philippine Supreme Court Decisions

Judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws or the Constitution form part of the legal system of the Philippines (Art. 8, Philippine Civil Code), and so it is important to know and be aware of decisions of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.

After all, the people have a fundamental right to information about these judicial decisions according to Art. III, Sec. 7, 1987 Philippine Constitution.

This section 7 right 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.”

Meaning, access to documents and papers pertaining to these Supreme Court decisions must be afforded the people and subject only to such limitations as may be provided by law.

Entering into private contract to exercise your right to information on judicial decisions

May the Supreme Court force or compel you, without your consent, to agree to a private contract with a private entity before you can be allowed to know the content of its decisions?

Put differently, may the Supreme Court force you to consent to a private contract first before you can exercise your right to information on these Supreme Court decisions?

More bluntly, may the Supreme Court force you to consent to a private contract which would involve your giving up of your personal private data or “personally identifiable” information (such as your name, email address, postal mailing address, home/mobile telephone number) if you log in to a platform, features, or functionality used by it before you can exercise your right to information on these Supreme Court decisions?

Your consent to enter into a contract is very important (Art. 1318, Philippine Civil Code) and you should not be forced to enter into a contract in order to exercise your right to information on these Philippine Supreme Court decisions.

However, that is not the one happening in http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence at the moment.

Philippine Supreme Court decisions maybe accessed online via http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence (last accessed by author on November 10, 2013). When you visit this website, the decisions are presented and arranged according to Year and Month.

And when you select a month in a year, you will be directed to sub-links within http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence to choose the decision you want to be informed with even if you are not party to that decision.

However, starting January 2013, the website sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence controlled by the Philippine Supreme Court could have;

1. Been forcing you or compelling you, without your consent, to agree to a private contract with a private entity before you can be allowed to know the content of its decisions.

2. Been forcing you to consent to a private contract first before you can exercise your right to information on these Supreme Court decisions.

3. Been forcing you to consent to a private contract which would involve your giving up of your “personally identifiable” information if you log in to a platform, features, or functionality used by it before you can exercise your right to information on these Supreme Court decisions.

“Are these happening?” you may ask.

January 2013 to August 2013 decisions

For example, if you click January in 2013 from the http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence, you will be directed to another link http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2013/toc/january.php listing the decisions for January 2013. But if you do try to read a particular decision, you will be forced or compelled to agree to a private contract with a private entity before you can be allowed to know the content of that particular decision in January 2013. And what is that private entity: Google.

So if you want to read the Supreme Court decision docketed as G.R. No. 173559 January 7, 2013, you will be directed to Google’s:

  • docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2013/january2013/173559.pdf

Note that you are being directed to get it from docs.google.com.  In effect, you are being forced to agree to Google Docs’ terms of services stated in http://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/terms (last modified by Google on March 1, 2012; last accessed by author on November 10, 2013). By using its docs.google.com services by wanting to read the decision docketed as G.R. No. 173559. January 7, 2013 you are agreeing to the terms of services of Google.

An important clause in the terms of services of Google provides that by using its services (ie., Google Docs), you agree that Google can use your personal data in accordance with its privacy policies. Google’s privacy policy can be seen here http://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/privacy (last modified by Google on June 24, 2013; last accessed by author on November 10, 2013).

Another, in case of your dispute with Google “The laws of California, U.S.A., excluding California’s conflict of laws rules, will apply to any disputes arising out of or relating to these terms or the Services. All claims arising out of or relating to these terms or the Services will be litigated exclusively in the federal or state courts of Santa Clara County, California, USA, and you and Google consent to personal jurisdiction in those courts.” This is part of the terms of services which you were compelled to agree upon.

Thus by trying to read and understand the Supreme Court decision G.R. No. 173559 January 7, 2013, you are being forced and compelled to agree to Google Docs’ terms of services because the website sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence controlled by the Philippine Supreme Court published this decision and made it available to online public through Google Docs.

This is true for all decisions from January 2013 to August 2013 found in the website sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence controlled by the Philippine Supreme Court.

September 2013 decisions

For decisions beginning September 2013 appearing in the website sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence controlled by the Philippine Supreme Court, the online public is being forced and compelled to agree to another private entity’s terms of services because the website sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence controlled by the Philippine Supreme Court published and made available to online public decisions beginning September 2013 in this another private entity’s platform: and this entity is Scribd.

Try accessing the September 2013 in Supreme Court’s sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence and you will be directed to sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2013/toc/september.php. In this latter site, last accessed by author on November 10, 2013, if you want to exercise your right to information online on Supreme Court criminal case decision on G.R. No. 189822 September 2, 2013, you will be directed to private entity Scribd’s http://www.scribd.com/doc/173997876/189822.

Scribd’s General Terms of Use can be found in support.scribd.com/forums/33939/entries/25459 (last modified by Scribd on June 10, 2013; last accessed by author on November 10, 2013).

It opens:

“PLEASE READ CAREFULLY THE FOLLOWING TERMS OF USE.  BY REGISTERING FOR, ACCESSING, BROWSING, POSTING, DOWNLOADING FROM OR USING THE SCRIBD PLATFORM, YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD, AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY, THE FOLLOWING TERMS AND CONDITIONS, INCLUDING ANY ADDITIONAL GUIDELINES AND FUTURE MODIFICATIONS (COLLECTIVELY, THE “TERMS”).  IF AT ANY TIME YOU DO NOT AGREE TO THESE TERMS, PLEASE IMMEDIATELY TERMINATE YOUR USE OF THE SCRIBD PLATFORM IN THE MANNER DESCRIBED IN SECTION 11.2 BELOW.” [emphasis supplied]

Meaning, by accessing, browsing, or downloading Philippine Supreme Court decisions posted by the Philippine Supreme Court in Scribd, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions imposed by private entity Scribd.

Moreover, you agree to be bound by future modifications; in Terms No. 4, it adds:

4. Modification of these Terms.

Scribd reserves the right, at our discretion, to change, modify, add, or remove portions of these Terms at any time.  Please check these Terms and any Guidelines periodically for changes.  Your continued use of the Scribd Platform after the posting of changes constitutes Your binding acceptance of such changes.  For any material changes to these Terms, such amended terms will automatically be effective ten days after they are initially posted on the Scribd Platform.  We will always make a reasonable effort to notify You if we do change these Terms.” [emphasis supplied]

Whatever those future terms are, the future will tell.

One clause in the terms of Scribd prohibits person under the age of majority in the Philippines or those children under 13 from accesing Scribd – – in effect from accessing the Philippine Supreme Court decision. Terms 1 reads:

 “1. Eligibility.

 The Scribd Platform is not available to persons under the age of majority in their jurisdiction or to any users previously suspended or removed from the Scribd Platform by Scribd.  If you are using or opening an account on the Scribd Platform on behalf of a company, entity, or organization (collectively “Subscribing Organization”), then you represent and warrant that you are an authorized representative of that Subscribing Organization with the authority to bind such organization to these Terms; and agree to be bound by these Terms on behalf of such Subscribing Organization.  BY USING THE SCRIBD PLATFORM, YOU REPRESENT THAT you meet the eligibility requirements in this Section.  In any case, you affirm that you are at least 13 years old, as the Scribd Platform is not intended for children under 13.” [emphasis supplied]

 Let us repeat the Section 7 right in Art. III of the Constitution:

 “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.”

Section 7 did not say “only those of age of majority or at least 13 years of age have the right to information”. However, by asking the online public to go to Scribd and agree to its terms of use before you can exercise your right to information on Supreme Court decision, the Philippine Supreme Court is limiting the exercise of right to information to these decisions published online via Scribd only to those of age of majority or those at least 13 years of age.

What if you will be sued later on by Scribd? “You agree that any action at law or in equity arising out of or relating to these Terms or Scribd will be filed only in the state or federal courts in and for Santa Clara County, California, and You hereby consent and submit to the personal and exclusive jurisdiction of such courts for the purposes of litigating any such action.” (Item 16.4 Jurisdiction, Scribd’s General Terms of Use)

Item 2 of Scribd’s General Terms of Use provides that Scribd’s Privacy Policy is incorporated into these Terms by reference. Its privacy policy can be found here http://support.scribd.com/forums/33939-terms-and-policies/entries/25580-privacy-policy (last modified by Scribd on April 18, 2013; last accessed by author on November 10, 2013).

Did you agree to this privacy policy?

The case of December 2012 and past decisions

The Philippine Supreme Court published its December 2012 and past decisions online through its own sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence and it thus did not force or compel you to agree to a contract with a private entity. For example, you will find the latest December 2012 decision docketed as A.C. No. 8383, a disbarment or administrative case promulgated on December 11, 2012, in http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2012/december2012/8383.pdf.

The use of Google Doc and Scribd

The author is not saying that the use of Google Doc and Scribd is unreasonable or illegal or should not have been done; actually, the use seems innovative and conforms to current thread on cloud computing. However, questions arise:

1. Did you, as a person who has right to information, know that you may have been or were forced or compelled, without your consent, to agree to a private contract with a private entity before you were able to read and know online the content of the Supreme Court decisions posted online beginning January 2013.

2. Did you, as a person who has right to information, know that you may have been or were forced or compelled, without your consent, to agree to a private contract which involved your giving up of your “personally identifiable” information when you log in to a platform, features, or functionality (ie., Google Doc and Scribd) used by Supreme Court to publish online its decisions beginning January 2013?

You might also ask: “did the Supreme Court notify me or us, before it began using private entities to publish online its decisions that I will have to agree to a private contract with these private entities first before I can exercise my right to information on these public judicial decisions posted online?”

The defense of Section 5.5, Art. VIII of the 1987 Constitution

One might say ‘well the use of Google Docs and Scribd could be within the powers of the Supreme Court; your use of these private entities’ websites is within the Section 5.5 powers of the Supreme Court’.

Section 5.5 powers read:

“Section 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:

x x x

Promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law, the integrated bar, and legal assistance to the under-privileged. Such rules shall provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and shall not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights. Rules of procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court.”

But one might also say that compelling you to agree to a private contract to exercise your right to information on judicial decisions is not of the Sec. 5.5 powers as your right to information does not concern the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law, the integrated bar, and legal assistance to the under-privileged. After all, were there such rules that say you must go to Google Doc or Scribd first before you can read and obtain online the judicial decision?