FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

In document Political Law Cases (Page 96-110)

ALMARIO V. EXECUTIVE SECRETARY

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Francisco Chavez V. Raul M. Gonzales G.R. No. 168338, February 15, 2008, Puno, C.J.

A governmental action that restricts freedom of speech or of the press based on content is given the strictest scrutiny, with the government having the burden of overcoming the presumed unconstitutionality by the clear and present danger rule. This rule applies equally to all kinds of media, including broadcast media.

Facts:

On June 5, 2005, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye told reporters that the opposition was planning to destabilize the administration by releasing an audiotape of a mobile phone conversation allegedly between the President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and a high-ranking official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec). The conversation was audiotaped allegedly through wire-tapping. On June 8, 2005, respondent Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Raul Gonzales warned reporters that those who had copies of the compact disc (CD) and those broadcasting or publishing its contents could be held liable under the Anti-Wiretapping Act. These persons included Secretary Bunye and Atty. Paguia. He also stated that persons possessing or airing said tapes were committing a continuing offense, subject to arrest by anybody who had personal knowledge if the crime was committed or was being committed in their presence. On June 11, 2005, the NTC issued a press release giving fair warning to radio and television owners/operators to observe anti-wiretapping law and pertinent circulars on program standards.

Alleging that the acts of respondents are violations of the freedom on expression and of the press, and the right of the people to information on matters of public concern. Respondents denied that the acts transgress the Constitution, and questioned petitioners legal standing to file the petition.

Among the arguments they raised as to the validity of the fair warning issued by respondent NTC, is that broadcast media enjoy lesser constitutional guarantees compared to print media, and the warning was issued pursuant to the NTCs mandate to regulate the telecommunications industry.It was also stressed that most of the [television] and radio stations continue, even to this date, to air the tapes, but of late within the parameters agreed upon between the NTC and KBP.

Issue:

Whether the official statements made by respondents on June 8, and 11, 2005 warning the media on airing the alleged wiretapped conversation between the President and other personalities constitute unconstitutional prior restraint on the exercise of freedom of speech and of the press.

Ruling:

Yes. The Court applied the Content-based restriction test and ruled that respondents’ evidence falls short of satisfying the clear and present danger test. With respect to content-based restrictions, the government must show the type of harm the speech sought to be restrained would bring about especially the gravity and the imminence of the threatened harm otherwise the prior restraint will be invalid. Prior restraint on speech based on its content cannot be justified by hypothetical fears, but only by showing a substantive and imminent evil that has taken the life of a reality already on ground. As formulated, the question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree.

A governmental action that restricts freedom of speech or of the press based on content is given the strictest scrutiny, with the government having the burden of overcoming the presumed unconstitutionality by the clear and present danger rule. This rule applies equally to all kinds of media, including broadcast media. This outlines the procedural map to follow in cases like the one at bar as it spells out the following: (a) the test; (b) the presumption; (c) the burden of proof; (d) the party to discharge the burden; and (e) the quantum of evidence necessary. On the basis of the records of the case at bar, respondents who have the burden to show that these acts do not abridge freedom of speech and of the press failed to hurdle the clear and present danger test. It appears that the great evil which government wants to prevent is the airing of a tape recording in alleged violation of the anti-wiretapping law. The records of the case at bar, however, are confused and confusing, and respondents evidence falls short of satisfying the clear and present danger test. Firstly, the various statements of the Press Secretary obfuscate the identity of the voices in the tape recording. Secondly, the integrity of the taped conversation is also suspect. The Press Secretary showed to the public two versions, one supposed to be a complete version and the other, an altered version. Thirdly, the evidence of the respondents on the whos and the hows of the wiretapping act is ambivalent, especially considering the tapes different versions. The identity of the wire-tappers, the manner of its commission and other related and relevant proofs are some of the invisibles of this case. Fourthly, given all these unsettled facets of the tape, it is even arguable whether its airing would violate the anti-wiretapping law.

For this failure of the respondents alone to offer proof to satisfy the clear and present danger test, the Court has no option but to uphold the exercise of free speech and free press. There is no showing that the feared violation of the anti-wiretapping law clearly endangers the national security of the State.

JOSE JESUS M. DISINI, JR., ROWENA S. DISINI, et. al. v. THE SECRETARY OF JUSTICE, et. al.

G.R. No. 203335, G.R. No. 203299, G.R. No. 203306, G.R. No. 203359, G.R. No. 203378, G.R. No. 203391, G.R. No. 203440, G.R. No. 203453,

G.R. No. 203454, G.R. No. 203469, G.R. No. 203501, G.R. No. 203509, G.R. No. 203515, G.R. No. 203518, February 11, 2014, Abad, J.

The cyberspace is an incomparable, pervasive medium of communication. It is inevitable that any government threat of punishment regarding certain uses of the medium creates a chilling effect on the constitutionally-protected freedom of expression of the great masses that use it. In this case, the particularly complex web of interaction on social media websites would give law enforcers such latitude that they could arbitrarily or selectively enforce the law.

Facts:

The cybercrime law aims to regulate access to and use of the cyberspace. The cyberspace is a boon to the need of the current generation for greater information and facility of communication. But all is not well with the system since it could not filter out a number of persons of ill will who would want to use cyberspace technology for mischiefs and crimes. For this reason, the government has a legitimate right to regulate the use of cyberspace and contain and punish wrongdoings. But petitioners claim that the means adopted by the cybercrime law for regulating undesirable cyberspace activities violate certain of their constitutional rights. Hence, Petitioners challenge the constitutionality of the certain provisions of the cybercrime law.

Issue:

Whether or not certain provisions of the Cyber Crime Law is unconstitutional as it poses restraint on the exercise of freedom of speech.

Ruling:

Yes. The Court declared void for being unconstitutional the following provisions of the Cyber Crime Law:

Section 4(c)(3) of Republic Act 10175 that penalizes posting of unsolicited commercial communications

Reason: The above penalizes the transmission of unsolicited commercial communications, also known as "spam." xxx The government presents no basis for holding that unsolicited electronic ads reduce the

"efficiency of computers." These have never been outlawed as nuisance since people might have interest in such ads.

(2) Section 12 that authorizes the collection or recording of traffic data in real-time;

Reason: xxx The Court must ensure that laws seeking to take advantage of these technologies be written with specificity and definiteness as to ensure respect for the rights that the Constitution guarantees.

(3)Section 19 of the same Act that authorizes the Department of Justice to restrict or block access to suspected Computer Data.

Reason: xxx Section 2, Article III of the 1987 Constitution provides that the right to be secure in one’s papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable. Further, it states that no search warrant shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge. Here, the Government, in effect, seizes and places the computer data under its control and disposition without a warrant. The Department of Justice order cannot substitute for judicial search warrant.

Further, the Court DECLARES: A. Section 4(c)(4) that penalizes online libel as VALID and CONSTITUTIONAL with respect to the original author of the post;

but VOID and UNCONSTITUTIONAL with respect to others who simply receive the post and react to it.

Reason: Section 4(c)(4) above merely affirms that online defamation constitutes "similar means" for committing libel. But the Court’s acquiescence goes only insofar as the cybercrime law penalizes the author of the libelous statement or article.

B. Section 5 that penalizes aiding or abetting and attempt in the commission of cybercrimes as VA L I D and CONSTITUTIONAL only in relation to Section 4(a)(1) on Illegal Access, Section 4(a)(2) on Illegal Interception, Section 4(a) (3) on Data Interference, Section 4(a)(4) on System. Interference, Section 4(a)(5) on Misuse of Devices, Section 4(a)(6) on Cyber-squatting, Section 4(b) (1) on Computer-related Forgery, Section 4(b)(2) on Computer-related Fraud, Section 4(b)(3) on Computer-related Identity Theft, and Section 4(c)(1) on Cybersex; but VOID and UNCONSTITUTIONAL with respect to Sections 4(c)(2) on Child Pornography, 4(c)(3) on Unsolicited Commercial Communications, and 4(c)(4) on online Libel.

Reason: Unless the legislature crafts a cyber libel law that takes into account its unique circumstances and culture, such law will tend to create a chilling effect on the millions that use this new medium of communication in violation of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to freedom of expression.

EMILIO M. R. OSMEA and PABLO P. GARCIA v. THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS

G.R. No. 132231, March 31, 1998, MENDOZA, J.

Any restriction on speech is only incidental, and it is no more than is necessary to achieve its purpose of promoting equality of opportunity in the use of mass media for political advertising.

Facts:

Petitioners filed a petition for prohibition, seeking a re-examination of the validity of 11(b) of RA 6646, the Electoral Reforms Law of 1987, which

prohibits mass media from selling or giving free of charge print space or air time for campaign or other political purposes, except to the Commission on Elections. They contended that when the Court upheld in NPC v. Comelec the validity of Section 11(b) against claims that it abridged freedom of speech and of the press, the said law exhibited undesirable effects because the ban on political advertising has not only failed to level the playing field, but actually worked to the grave disadvantage of the poor candidates by depriving them of a medium which they can afford to pay for while their more affluent rivals can always resort to other means of reaching voters like airplanes, boats, rallies, parades, and handbills.

Issue:

Whether or not Section 11(b) is unconstitutional as it poses restraint on the exercise of freedom of speech.

Ruling:

No. The main purpose of Section 11(b) is regulatory. Any restriction on speech is only incidental, and it is no more than is necessary to achieve its purpose of promoting equality of opportunity in the use of mass media for political advertising. The restriction on speech, as pointed out in NPC, is limited both as to time and as to scope. There is no total ban on political ads, much less restriction on the content of the speech. Given the fact that print space and air time can be controlled or dominated by rich candidates to the disadvantage of poor candidates, there is a substantial or legitimate governmental interest justifying exercise of the regulatory power of the Comelec under Art. IX-C, 4 of the Constitution, which provides that the commission may, during the election period, supervise or regulate the enjoyment or utilization of all franchises or permits for the operation of transportation and other public utilities, media of communication or information, all grants, special privileges, or concessions granted by the Government or any subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including any government-owned or controlled corporation or its subsidiary. Such supervision or regulation shall aim to ensure equal opportunity, time, and space, and the right to reply, including reasonable, equal rates therefor, for public information campaigns and forums among candidates in connection with the objective of holding free, orderly, honest, peaceful, and credible elections.

The provisions in question involve no suppression of political ads. They only prohibit the sale or donation of print space and air time to candidates but require the Comelec instead to procure space and time in the mass media for allocation, free of charge, to the candidates. In effect, during the election period, the Comelec takes over the advertising page of newspapers or the commercial time of radio and TV stations and allocates these to the candidates.

SOCIAL WEATHER STATIONS, INCORPORATED and KAMAHALAN PUBLISHING CORPORATION, doing business as MANILA STANDARD v.

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS

G.R. No. 147571, May 5, 2001, Mendoza, J.

Under the O’Brien test, even if a law furthers an important or substantial governmental interest, it should be invalidated if such governmental interest is not unrelated to the suppression of free expression.

Facts:

Comelec sought to enforce Sec. 5.4 of RA 9006 (Fair Election Act), which provides: “Surveys affecting national candidates shall not be published fifteen (15) days before an election and surveys affecting local candidates shall not be published seven (7) days before an election.” Petitioners brought an action for prohibition to enjoin Comelec from enforcing such provision, claiming that it constitutes a prior restraint on the exercise of freedom of speech without any clear and present danger to justify such restraints.

Issue:

Whether or not Sec. 5.4 of RA 9006 constitutes an unconstitutional abridgment of freedom of speech, expression and the press.

Ruling:

Yes. The Court applied the O’Brien Test under, under which even if a law furthers an important or substantial governmental interest, it should be invalidated if such governmental interest is not unrelated to the suppression of free expression. Moreover, even if the purpose is unrelated to the suppression of free speech, the law should nevertheless be invalidated if the restriction on freedom of expression is greater than is necessary to achieve the governmental purpose in question.

Applying the O’Brien Test in this case, the Court ruled that Section 5.4 is invalid, because (1) it imposes a prior restraint on the freedom of expression, (2) it is a direct and total suppression of a category of expression even though such suppression is only for a limited period, and (3) the governmental interest sought to be promoted can be achieved by means other than the suppression of freedom of expression. Contrary to the claim of the Solicitor General, the prohibition imposed by Section 5.4 cannot be justified on the ground that it is only for a limited period and is only incidental. The prohibition may be for a limited time, but the curtailment of the right of expression is direct, absolute, and substantial. It constitutes a total suppression of a category of speech and is not made less so because it is only for a period of fifteen (15) days immediately before a national election and seven (7) days immediately before a local election.

GMA NETWORK, INC. v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS G.R. No. 205357, September 2, 2014, PERALTA, J.

The adverted reason for imposing the “aggregate-based” airtime limits

—leveling the playing field—does not constitute a compelling state interest which would justify such a substantial restriction on the freedom of speech of the candidates.

Facts:

Petitioners GMA Network, Incorporated (GMA), ABS-CBN Corporation (ABS-CBN), ABC Development Corporation (ABC), et. al. are owners/operators of radio and television networks in the Philippines, while petitioner Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) is the national organization of broadcasting companies in the Philippines representing operators of radio and television stations and said stations themselves. They sent their respective letters to Comelec questioning the constitutionality of Section 9 (a) of Comelec Resolution No. 9615 (Resolution) limiting the broadcast and radio advertisements of candidates and political parties for national election positions to an aggregate total of one hundred twenty (120) minutes and one hundred eighty (180) minutes, respectively. During the previous May 2007 and 2010, Comelec issued Resolutions implementing and interpreting the airtime limitations, to mean that a candidate is entitled to the aforestated number of minutes "per station.” For the May 2013 elections, however, respondent Comelec promulgated Resolution No. 9615, changing the interpretation of said candidates' and political parties' airtime limitation for political campaigns or advertisements from a “per station” basis, to a “total aggregate” basis.

Petitioners contend that such restrictive regulation on allowable broadcast time violates freedom of the press, impairs the people's right to suffrage as well as their right to information relative to the exercise of their right to choose who to elect during the forth coming elections. However, Comelec contended that its issuance of the assailed Resolution is pursuant to Section 4, Article IX (C) of the Constitution which vests on the Comelec the power to supervise and regulate, during election periods, transportation and other public utilities, as well as mass media

Issue:

Whether or not Section 9 (a) of the assailed Comelec resolution violates freedom of speech and of the press.

Ruling:

Yes. Section 9 (a) of Comelec Resolution No. 9615, with its adoption of the “aggregate-based” airtime limits unreasonably restricts the guaranteed freedom of speech and of the press. It is unreasonable and arbitrary as it unduly restricts and constrains the ability of candidates and political parties to reach out and communicate with the people. Here, the adverted reason for imposing the “aggregate-based” airtime limits—leveling the playing field—

does not constitute a compelling state interest which would justify such a

substantial restriction on the freedom of candidates and political parties to communicate their ideas, philosophies, platforms and programs of government. And, this is specially so in the absence of a clear-cut basis for the imposition of such a prohibitive measure. In this particular instance, what the Comelec has done is analogous to letting a bird fly after one has clipped its wings. It is also particularly unreasonable and whimsical to adopt the aggregate-based time limits on broadcast time when we consider that the Philippines is not only composed of so many islands. There are also a lot of languages and dialects spoken among the citizens across the country.

Accordingly, for a national candidate to really reach out to as many of the electorates as possible, then it might also be necessary that he conveys his message through his advertisements in languages and dialects that the people may more readily understand and relate to. To add all of these airtimes in different dialects would greatly hamper the ability of such candidate to express himself - a form of suppression of his political speech.

THE DIOCESE OF BACOLOD, REPRESENTED BY THE MOST REV. BISHOP VICENTE M. NAVARRA and THE BISHOP HIMSELF IN HIS PERSONAL

CAPACITY v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS AND THE ELECTION OFFICER OF BACOLOD CITY, ATTY. MAVIL V. MAJARUCON

G.R. No. 205728, January 21, 2015, LEONEN, J.

At the heart of democracy is every advocate’s right to make known what the people need to know, while the meaningful exercise of one’s right of

At the heart of democracy is every advocate’s right to make known what the people need to know, while the meaningful exercise of one’s right of

In document Political Law Cases (Page 96-110)