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[G.R. No.

165036 : July 05, 2010]


HAZEL MA. C. ANTOLIN, PETITIONER, VS. ABELARDO T. DOMONDON, JOSE A.
GANGAN, AND VIOLETA J. JOSEF, RESPONDENTS.
[G.R. NO. 175705]
HAZEL MA. C. ANTOLIN PETITIONER, VS. ANTONIETA FORTUNA-IBE,
RESPONDENT.
DECISION
DEL CASTILLO, J.:
Examinations have a two-fold purpose. First, they are summative; examinations are
intended to assess and record what and how much the students have learned. Second,
and perhaps more importantly, they are formative; examinations are intended to be part
and parcel of the learning process. In a perfect system, they are tools for learning. In
view of the pedagogical aspect of national examinations, the need for all parties to fully
ventilate their respective positions, and the view that government transactions can only
be improved by public scrutiny, we remand these cases to the trial court for further
proceedings.
Factual Antecedents
Petitioner took the accountancy licensure examinations (the Certified Public Accountant
[CPA] Board Exams) conducted by the Board of Accountancy (the Board) in October
1997.[1] The examination results were released on October 29, 1997; out of 6,481
examinees, only 1,171 passed. Unfortunately, petitioner did not make it. When the
results were released, she received failing grades in four out of the seven subjects. [2]
Subject
Theory of Accounts
Business Law
Management Services
Auditing Theory
Auditing Problems
Practical Accounting I
Practical Accounting II

Petitioner's Grade
65 %
66 %
69 %
82 %
70 %
68 %
77 %

Convinced that she deserved to pass the examinations, she wrote to respondent
Abelardo T. Domondon (Domondon), Acting Chairman of the Board of Accountancy, and
requested that her answer sheets be re-corrected. [3] On November 3, 1997, petitioner
was shown her answer sheets, but these consisted merely of shaded marks, so she

was unable to determine why she failed the exam.[4] Thus, on November 10, 1997, she
again wrote to the Board to request for copies of (a) the questionnaire in each of the
seven subjects (b) her answer sheets; (c) the answer keys to the questionnaires, and
(d) an explanation of the grading system used in each subject (collectively, the
Examination Papers).[5]
Acting Chairman Domondon denied petitioner's request on two grounds: first, that
Section 36, Article III of the Rules and Regulations Governing the Regulation and
Practice of Professionals, as amended by Professional Regulation Commission (PRC)
Resolution No. 332, series of 1994, only permitted access to the petitioner's answer
sheet (which she had been shown previously), and that reconsideration of her
examination result was only proper under the grounds stated therein:
Sec. 36 An examinee shall be allowed to have access or to go over his/her test papers
or answer sheets on a date not later than thirty (30) days from the official release of the
results of the examination. Within ten (10) days from such date, he/she may file his/her
request for reconsideration of ratings. Reconsideration of rating shall be effected only
on grounds of mechanical error in the grading of his/her testpapers or answer sheets, or
malfeasance.[6]
Second, Acting Chairman Domondon clarified that the Board was precluded from
releasing the Examination Papers (other than petitioner's answer sheet) by Section 20,
Article IV of PRC Resolution No. 338, series of 1994, which provides:
Sec. 20. Illegal, Immoral, Dishonorable, Unprofessional Acts - The hereunder acts shall
constitute prejudicial, illegal, grossly immoral, dishonorable, or unprofessional conduct:
A. Providing, getting, receiving, holding, using or reproducing questions
xxxx
3. that have been given in the examination except if the test bank for the subject has on
deposit at least two thousand (2,000) questions. [7]
After a further exchange of correspondence, [8] the Board informed petitioner that an
investigation was conducted into her exam and there was no mechanical error found in
the grading of her test papers.[9]
Proceedings before the Regional Trial Court
Undeterred, on January 12, 1998, petitioner filed a Petition for Mandamus with
Damages against the Board of Accountancy and its members [10] before the Regional
Trial Court (RTC) of Manila. The case was raffled to Branch 33, and docketed as Civil
Case No. 98-86881. The Petition included a prayer for the issuance of a preliminary
mandatory injunction ordering the Board of Accountancy and its members (the
respondents) to furnish petitioner with copies of the Examination Papers. Petitioner

also prayed that final judgment be issued ordering respondents to furnish petitioner with
all documents and other materials as would enable her to determine whether
respondents fairly administered the examinations and correctly graded petitioner's
performance therein, and, if warranted, to issue to her a certificate of registration as a
CPA.[11]
On February 5, 1998, respondents filed their Opposition to the Application for a Writ of
Preliminary Mandatory Injunction, and argued, inter alia, that petitioner was not entitled
to the relief sought, that the respondents did not have the duty to furnish petitioner with
copies of the Examination Papers, and that petitioner had other plain, speedy, adequate
remedy in the ordinary course of law, namely, recourse to the PRC. [12] Respondents also
filed their Answer with Compulsory Counterclaim in the main case, which asked that the
Petition for Mandamus with Damages be dismissed for lack of merit on the following
grounds: (1) petitioner failed to exhaust administrative remedies; (2) the petition stated
no cause of action because there was no ministerial duty to release the information
demanded; and (3) the constitutional right to information on matters of public concern is
subject to limitations provided by law, including Section 20, Article IV, of PRC Resolution
No. 338, series of 1994.[13]
On March 3, 1998, petitioner filed an Amended Petition (which was admitted by the
RTC), where she included the following allegation in the body of her petition:
The allegations in this amended petition are meant only to plead a cause of action for
access to the documents requested, not for re-correction which petitioner shall assert in
the proper forum depending on, among others, whether she finds sufficient error in the
documents to warrant such or any other relief. None of the allegations in this amended
petition, including those in the following paragraphs, is made to assert a cause of action
for re-correction.[14]
If only to underscore the fact that she was not asking for a re-checking of her exam, the
following prayer for relief was deleted from the Amended Petition: "and, if warranted, to
issue to her a certificate of registration as a CPA."
On June 23, 1998, respondents filed a Manifestation and Motion to Dismiss Application
for Writ of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction, on the ground that petitioner had taken and
passed the May 1998 CPA Licensure Examination and had taken her oath as a CPA. [15]
Petitioner filed her Opposition on July 8, 1998. [16] Subsequently, on October 29, 1998,
respondents filed their Answer with Counterclaim to the amended petition. They
reiterated their original allegations and further alleged that there was no cause of action
because at the time the Amended Petition was admitted, they had ceased to be
members of the Board of Accountancy and they were not in possession of the
documents sought by the petitioner.[17]
Ruling of the Regional Trial Court
In an Order dated October 16, 1998, the trial court granted respondent's Motion to

Dismiss Petitioner's Application for a Writ of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction (not the
main case), ruling that the matter had become moot since petitioner passed the May
CPA Licensure 1998 Examination and had already taken her oath as a CPA. [18]
Undaunted, petitioner sought and obtained leave to file a Second Amended Petition for
Mandamus with Damages[19] where she finally impleaded the PRC as respondent and
included the following plea in her prayer:
WHEREFORE, petitioner respectfully prays that:
xxxx
2. Judgment be issued (a) commanding respondents to give petitioner all documents and other materials as
would enable her to determine whether respondents fairly administered the same
examinations and correctly graded petitioner's performance therein and, if warranted,
to make the appropriate revisions on the results of her examination. (Emphasis
ours)
On June 21, 2002, the trial court dismissed the petition on the ground that the petition
had already become moot, since petitioner managed to pass the 1998 CPA Board
examinations.[20] Petitioner sought reconsideration[21] which was granted by the trial court
in its Omnibus Order[22] dated November 11, 2002. The Omnibus Order provides in part:
On the motion for reconsideration filed by the petitioner, the Court is inclined to
reconsider its Order dismissing the petition. The Court agrees with the petitioner that
the passing of the petitioner in the subsequent CPA examination did not render the
petition moot and academic because the relief "and if warranted, to issue to her a
certificate of registration as Certified Public Accountant" was deleted from the original
petition. As regard the issue of whether the petitioner has the constitutional right to
have access to the questioned documents, the Court would want first the parties to
adduce evidence before it can resolve the issue so that it can make a complete
determination of the rights of the parties.
The Court would also want the Professional Regulation Commission to give its side of
the case the moment it is impleaded as a respondent in the Second Amended Petition
for Mandamus filed by the petitioner which this Court is inclined to grant.
As to the Motion for Conservatory Measures filed by the petitioner, the Court denies the
same. It is clear that the PRC has in custody the documents being requested by the
petitioner. It has also an adequate facility to preserve and safeguard the documents.
To be sure that the questioned documents are preserved and safeguarded, the Court
will order the PRC to preserve and safeguard the documents and make them available
anytime the Court or petitioner needs them.

WHEREFORE, the Order of this Court dated June 20, 2002 is reconsidered and set
aside. The Professional Regulation Commission is ordered to preserve and safeguard
the following documents:
a) Questionnaire in each of the seven subjects comprising the Accountancy
Examination of October, 1997;
b) Petitioner's Answer Sheets; and
c) Answer keys to the questionnaires.
SO ORDERED.[23]
Respondents filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied. [24]
Proceedings before the Court of Appeals
The RTC Decisions led to the filing of three separate petitions for certiorari before the
Court of Appeals (CA):
(a) CA-GR SP No. 76498, a petition filed by respondents Domondon, Gangan, and
Josef on April 11, 2003;
(b) CA-GR SP No. 76546, a petition filed by respondent Ibe on April 30, 2003; and
(c) CA-GR SP No. 76545, a petition filed by the Board of Accountancy and PRC.
It is the first two proceedings that are pending before us. In both cases, the CA set
aside the RTC Decisions and ordered the dismissal of Civil Case No. 98-8681.
Ruling of the Court of Appeals
In its December 11, 2006 Decision[25] in CA-GR SP No. 76546, the CA ruled that the
petition has become moot in view of petitioner's eventual passing of the 1998 CPA
Board Exam. In CA-GR SP No. 76498, the CA found, in a Decision dated February 16,
2004,[26] that (i) Section 20, Article IV of PRC Resolution No. 338 constituted a valid
limitation on petitioner's right to information and access to government documents; (ii)
the Examination Documents were not of public concern, because petitioner merely
sought review of her failing marks; (iii) it was not the ministerial or mandatory function
of the respondents to review and reassess the answers to examination questions of a
failing examinee; (iv) the case has become moot, since petitioner already passed the
May 1998 CPA Board Examinations and took her oath as a CPA; and (v) petitioner
failed to exhaust administrative remedies, because, having failed to secure the desired
outcome from the respondents, she did not elevate the matter to the PRC before
seeking judicial intervention.[27]
CA-GR SP No. 76498 and CA-GR SP No. 76546 were brought before us by the
petitioner and docketed as G.R. Nos. 165036 and 175705, respectively. The cases

were then consolidated, in view of the similarity of the factual antecedents and issues,
and to avoid the possibility of conflicting decisions by different divisions of this Court. [28]
Issues
Before us, petitioner argues that she has a right to obtain copies of the examination
papers so she can determine for herself why and how she failed and to ensure that the
Board properly performed its duties. She argues that the Constitution [29] as well as the
Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees [30] support
her right to demand access to the Examination Papers. Furthermore, she claims that
there was no need to exhaust administrative remedies, since no recourse to the PRC
was available, and only a pure question of law is involved in this case. Finally, she
claims that her demand for access to documents was not rendered moot by her passing
of the 1998 CPA Board Exams.
Our Ruling
Propriety of Writ of Mandamus
At the very outset let us be clear of our ruling. Any claim for re-correction or revision of
her 1997 examination cannot be compelled by mandamus. This much was made
evident by our ruling in Agustin-Ramos v. Sandoval,[31] where we stated:
After deliberating on the petition in relation to the other pleadings filed in the
proceedings at bar, the Court resolved to DENY said petition for lack of merit. The
petition at bar prays for the setting aside of the Order of respondent Judge dismissing
petitioners' mandamus action to compel the other respondents (Medical Board of
Examiners and the Professional Regulation Commission) "to reconsider, recorrect
and/or rectify the board ratings of the petitioners from their present failing grades to
higher or passing marks." The function of reviewing and re-assessing the
petitioners' answers to the examination questions, in the light of the facts and
arguments presented by them x x x is a discretionary function of the Medical
Board, not a ministerial and mandatory one, hence, not within the scope of the
writ of mandamus. The obvious remedy of the petitioners from the adverse judgment
by the Medical Board of Examiners was an appeal to the Professional Regulation
Commission itself, and thence to the Court of Appeals; and since they did not apply for
relief to the Commission prior to their institution of the special civil action of mandamus
in the Regional Trial Court, the omission was fatal to the action under the familiar
doctrine requiring exhaustion of administrative remedies. Apart from the obvious
undesirability of a procedure which would allow Courts to substitute their judgment for
that of Government boards in the determination of successful examinees in any
administered examination - an area in which courts have no expertise - and the
circumstance that the law declares the Court of Appeals to be the appropriate review
Court, the Regional Trial Court was quite correct in refusing to take cognizance of an
action seeking reversal of the quasi-judicial action taken by the Medical Board of
Examiners.[32] (Emphasis ours)

For a writ of mandamus to issue, the applicant must have a well-defined, clear, and
certain legal right to the thing demanded. The corresponding duty of the respondent to
perform the required act must be equally clear.[33] No such clarity exists here; neither
does petitioner's right to demand a revision of her examination results. And despite
petitioner's assertions that she has not made any demand for re-correction, the most
cursory perusal of her Second Amended Petition and her prayer that the respondents
"make the appropriate revisions on the results of her examination" belies this claim.
Like the claimants in Agustin, the remedy of petitioner from the refusal of the Board to
release the Examination Papers should have been through an appeal to the PRC.
Undoubtedly, petitioner had an adequate remedy from the Board's refusal to provide her
with copies of the Examination Papers. Under Section 5(a) of Presidential Decree No.
223,[34] the PRC has the power to promulgate rules and regulations to implement
policies for the regulation of the accounting profession. [35] In fact, it is one such
regulation (PRC Resolution No. 338) that is at issue in this case. In addition, under
Section 5(c), the PRC has the power to
review, coordinate, integrate and approve the policies, resolutions, rules and
regulations, orders or decisions promulgated by the various Boards with respect
to the profession or occupation under their jurisdictions including the results of their
licensure examinations but their decisions on administrative cases shall be final and
executory unless appealed to the Commission within thirty (30) days from the date of
promulgation thereof.
Petitioner posits that no remedy was available because the PRC's power to "review"
and "approve" in Section 5(c) only refers to appeals in decisions concerning
administrative investigations[36] and not to instances where documents are being
requested. Not only is this position myopic and self-serving, it is bereft of either statutory
or jurisprudential basis. The PRC's quasi-legislative and enforcement powers,
encompassing its authority to review and approve "policies, resolutions, rules and
regulations, orders, or decisions" cover more than administrative investigations
conducted pursuant to its quasi-judicial powers. [37] More significantly, since the PRC
itself issued the resolution questioned by the petitioner here, it was in the best position
to resolve questions addressed to its area of expertise. Indeed, petitioner could have
saved herself a great deal of time and effort had she given the PRC the opportunity to
rectify any purported errors committed by the Board.
One of the reasons for exhaustion of administrative remedies is our well-entrenched
doctrine on separation of powers, which enjoins upon the Judiciary a becoming policy of
non-interference with matters falling primarily (albeit not exclusively) within the
competence of other departments.[38] Courts, for reasons of law, comity and
convenience, should not entertain suits unless the available administrative remedies
have first been resorted to and the proper authorities have been given an appropriate
opportunity to act and correct their alleged errors, if any, committed in the administrative
forum. [39]

However, the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies is subject to exceptions,


among which is when only a question of law is involved. [40] This is because issues of law
- such as whether petitioner has a constitutional right to demand access to the
Examination Papers - cannot be resolved with finality by the administrative officer.[41]
Issues of Mootness
We now turn to the question of whether the petition has become moot in view of
petitioner's having passed the 1998 CPA examination. An issue becomes moot and
academic when it ceases to present a justiciable controversy, so that a declaration on
the issue would be of no practical use or value. [42]
In this jurisdiction, any citizen may challenge any attempt to obstruct the exercise of his
or her right to information and may seek its enforcement by mandamus. [43] And since
every citizen possesses the inherent right to be informed by the mere fact of citizenship,
[44]
we find that petitioner's belated passing of the CPA Board Exams does not
automatically mean that her interest in the Examination Papers has become mere
superfluity. Undoubtedly, the constitutional question presented, in view of the likelihood
that the issues in this case will be repeated, warrants review.[45]
The crux of this case is whether petitioner may compel access to the Examination
Documents through mandamus. As always, our inquiry must begin with the
Constitution. Section 7, Article III provides:
Sec.7. 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 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.
Together with the guarantee of the right to information, Section 28, Article II promotes
full disclosure and transparency in government, viz:
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.
Like all the constitutional guarantees, the right to information is not absolute. 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". The Court has always grappled with the
meanings of the terms "public interest" and "public concern." As observed in Legaspi v.
Civil Service Commission:[46]

In determining whether x x x 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.
We have also recognized the need to preserve a measure of confidentiality on some
matters, such as national security, trade secrets and banking transactions, criminal
matters, and other confidential matters. [47]
We are prepared to concede that national board examinations such as the CPA Board
Exams are matters of public concern. The populace in general, and the examinees in
particular, would understandably be interested in the fair and competent administration
of these exams in order to ensure that only those qualified are admitted into the
accounting profession. And as with all matters pedagogical, these examinations could
be not merely quantitative means of assessment, but also means to further improve the
teaching and learning of the art and science of accounting.
On the other hand, we do realize that there may be valid reasons to limit access to the
Examination Papers in order to properly administer the exam. More than the mere
convenience of the examiner, it may well be that there exist inherent difficulties in the
preparation, generation, encoding, administration, and checking of these multiple choice
exams that require that the questions and answers remain confidential for a limited
duration. However, the PRC is not a party to these proceedings. They have not been
given an opportunity to explain the reasons behind their regulations or articulate the
justification for keeping the Examination Documents confidential. In view of the farreaching implications of this case, which may impact on every board examination
administered by the PRC, and in order that all relevant issues may be ventilated, we
deem it best to remand these cases to the RTC for further proceedings.
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the petitions are GRANTED. The December 11, 2006
and February 16, 2004 Decisions of the Court of Appeals in CA-GR SP No. 76546 and
CA-GR SP No. 76498, respectively, are hereby SET ASIDE. The November 11, 2002
and January 30, 2003 Orders of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 33, in Civil
Case No. 98-86881 are AFFIRMED. The case is remanded to the Regional Trial Court
for further proceedings.
SO ORDERED.

Province of Cotabato vs GRP

>FACTS: The Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) brought


about by the Government of the republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) as an aspect of Tripoli Agreement of Peace in 2001 is scheduled
to be signed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
This agreement was petitioned by the Province of North Cotabato for Mandamus and
Prohibition with Prayer for the Issuance of Writ of Preliminary Injunction and Temporary
Restraining Order. The agreement mentions Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) to
which it grants the authority and jurisdiction over the Ancestral Domain and Ancestral
Lands of the Bangsamoro; authority and jurisdiction over all natural resources within
internal waters. The agreement is composed of two local statutes: the organic act for
autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).
ISSUE: Whether or not the GRP violated the Constitutional and statutory provisions on
public consultation and the right to information when they negotiated and initiated the
MOA-AD and Whether or not the MOA-AD brought by the GRP and MILF is
constitutional
HELD:GRP violated the Constitutional and statutory provisions on public consultation
and the right to information when they negotiated and initiated the MOA-AD and it are
unconstitutional because it is contrary to law and the provisions of the constitution
thereof.
REASONING: The GRP is required by this law to carry out public consultations on both
national and local levels to build consensus for peace agenda and process and the
mobilization and facilitation of peoples participation in the peace process.
Article III (Bill of Rights)
Sec. 7. The right of people 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.
Article II
Sec. 28. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law , that state adopts and
implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public
interest.
LGC (1991), require all national agencies and officers to conduct periodic
consultations. No project or program be implemented unless such consultations are
complied with and approval mus be obtained.
Article VII (Executive Department)

Sec. 21. No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless
concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate.
Article X. (Local Government)
Sec. 1. The territorial and political subdivisions of the Republic of the Philippines are the
province, cities, municipalities and barangays. There shall be autonomous regions on
Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera as hereinafter provided.
Sec. 15. There shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the
Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities and geographical areas sharing
common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures
and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this constitution and the
national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.
Section 16. The President shall exercise general supervision over autonomous regions
to ensure that laws are faithfully executed.
Sec. 18. The creation of autonomous region shall be effective when approved by a
majority of the votes cast by the constituents units in a plebiscite called for the purpose,
provided that only provinces, cities and geographic areas voting favourably in such
plebiscite shall be included in the autonomous region.
Sec. 20. Within its territorial jurisdiction and subject to the provisions of this Constitution
and national laws, the organic act of autonomous regions shall provide for legislative
powers over:
1. Administrative organization;
2. Creation of sources of revenues;
3. Ancestral domain and natural resources;
4. Personal, family, and property relations;
5. Regional urban and rural planning development;
6. Economic, social, and tourism development;
7. Educational policies;
8. Preservation and development of the cultural heritage; and
9. Such other matters as may be authorized by law for the promotion of the general
welfare of the people of the region.
The President has sole authority in the treaty-making.
ARTICLE XVII (AMENDMENTS OR REVISIONS)
Section 1. Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by:
1. The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or
2. A constitutional convention.

Section 4. Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution under Section 1 hereof
shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be
held not earlier than sixty days nor later than ninety days after the approval of such
amendment or revision.
MOA-AD states that all provisions thereof which cannot be reconciled with the present
constitution and laws shall come into force upon signing of a comprehensive compact
and upon effecting the necessary changes to the legal framework. The presidents
authority is limited to proposing constitutional amendments. She cannot guarantee to
any third party that the required amendments will eventually be put in place nor even be
submitted to a plebiscite. MOA-AD itself presents the need to amend therein.
Akbayan vs Aquino July 16 2008
FACTS:
Petition for mandamus and prohibition was filed by the petitioners, as congresspersons,
citizens and taxpayers, requesting respondents to submit to them the full text of the
Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).
Petitioner emphasize that the refusal of the government to disclose the said agreement
violates there right to information on matters of public concern and of public interest.
That the non-disclosure of the same documents undermines their right to effective and
reasonable participation in all levels of social, political and economic decision making.
Respondent herein invoke executive privilege. They relied on the ground that the matter
sought involves a diplomatic negotiation then in progress, thus constituting an exception
to the right to information and the policy of full disclosure of matters that are of public
concern like the JPEPA. That diplomatic negotiation are covered by the doctrine of
executive privilege.
Issue:
Whether or not the petition has been entirely rendered moot and academic because of
the subsequent event that occurred?
Whether the information sought by the petitioners are of public concern and are still
covered by the doctrine of executive privilege?
Held:
On the first issue, the Supreme Court ruled that t]he principal relief petitioners are
praying for is the disclosure of the contents of the JPEPA prior to its finalization between
the two States parties, public disclosure of the text of the JPEPA after its signing by the
President, during the pendency of the present petition, has been largely rendered moot
and academic.

The text of the JPEPA having then been made accessible to the public, the petition has
become moot and academic to the extent that it seeks the disclosure of the full text
thereof.
The petition is not entirely moot, however, because petitioners seek to obtain, not
merely the text of the JPEPA, but also the Philippine and Japanese offers in the course
of the negotiations.
Moving on to the second issue, The Supreme Court Ruled that Diplomatic negotiations,
therefore, are recognized as privileged in this jurisdiction, the JPEPA negotiations
constituting no exception. It bears emphasis, however, that such privilege is only
presumptive. For as Senate v. Ermita holds, recognizing a type of information as
privileged does not mean that it will be considered privileged in all instances. Only after
a consideration of the context in which the claim is made may it be determined if there is
a public interest that calls for the disclosure of the desired information, strong enough to
overcome its traditionally privileged status.
The court adopted also the doctrine in PMPF v. Manglapus, Wherein petitioners were
seeking information from the Presidents representatives on the state of the then ongoing negotiations of the RP-US Military Bases Agreement. The Court denied the
petition, stressing that secrecy of negotiations with foreign countries is not violative of
the constitutional provisions of freedom of speech or of the press nor of the freedom of
access to information.
RESOLUTION
MENDOZA, J.:
In a letter,1 dated July 30, 2009, Rowena C. Paraan, Research Director of the
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), sought copies of the Statement of
Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN) of the Justices of this Court for the year 2008.
She also requested for copies of the Personal Data Sheet (PDS) or the Curriculum
Vitae (CV) of the Justices of this Court for the purpose of updating their database of
information on government officials.
In her Letter,2 dated August 13, 2009, Karol M. Ilagan, a researcher-writer also of
the PCIJ, likewise sought for copies of the SALN and PDS of the Justices of the Court
1
2

of Appeals (CA), for the same above-stated purpose.


The two requests were ordered consolidated by the Court on August 18, 2009. 3
On the same day, the Court resolved to create a special committee (Committee) to
review the policy on requests for SALN and PDS and other similar documents, and to
recommend appropriate action on such requests.4
On November 23, 2009, the Committee, chaired by then Associate Justice Minita
V. Chico-Nazario submitted its Memorandum 5 dated November 18, 2009 and its
Resolution6 dated November 16, 2009, recommending the creation of Committee on
Public Disclosure that would, in essence, take over the functions of the Office of the
Court Administrator (OCA) with respect to requests for copies of, or access to, SALN,
and other personal documents of members of the Judiciary.
Meanwhile, several requests for copies of the SALN and other personal
documents of the Justices of this Court, the CA and the Sandiganbayan (SB) were filed.
In particular, these requests include the:
(1) SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM,7 dated September 10, 2009,
issued by Atty. E. H. Amat, Acting Director, General Investigation Bureau-B
of the Office of the Ombudsman, directing the Office of Administrative
Services, Supreme Court to submit two (2) copies of the SALN of Associate
Justice Roland B. Jurado of the Sandiganbayan for the years 1997-2008,
his latest PDS, his Oath of Office, appointment papers, and service
records.

3
4
5
6
7

(2) LETTER,8 dated April 21, 2010, of the Philippine Public


Transparency Reporting Project, asking permission to be able to access
and copy the SALN of officials and employees of the lower courts.
(3) LETTER,9 filed on August 24, 2011, by Marvin Lim, seeking
copies of the SALN of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, Associate Justices
Antonio T. Carpio, Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro,
Arturo D. Brion, Diosdado M. Peralta, Lucas P. Bersamin, Mariano C. Del
Castillo, Roberto A. Abad, Martin S. Villarama, Jr., Jose Portugal Perez,
Jose C. Mendoza, and Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno.
(4) LETTER,10 dated August 26, 2011, of Rawnna Crisostomo,
Reporter, GMA News and Public Affairs also requesting for copies of the
SALN of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, Associate Justices Antonio T.
Carpio, Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo D.
Brion, Diosdado M. Peralta, Lucas P. Bersamin, Mariano C. Del Castillo,
Roberto A. Abad, Martin S. Villarama, Jr., Jose Portugal Perez, Jose C.
Mendoza, and Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, for purposes of producing a
story on transparency and governance, and updating their database.

(5) LETTER,11 dated October 11, 2011, of Bala S. Tamayo,


requesting for a copy of the 2010 SALN of any Justice of the Supreme
Court as well as a copy of the Judiciary Development Fund, for purposes of
her securing a huge percentage in final examination in Constitutional Law I
at the San Beda College Alabang School of Law and for her study on the
state of the Philippine Judiciary, particularly the manner, nature and
disposition of the resources under the JDF and how these have evolved
through the years.
(6) LETTERS, all dated December 19, 2011, of Harvey S. Keh, Lead
Convenor of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical
Leadership, addressed to Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, 12 Associate
Justices Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., 13 Teresita Leonardo-De Castro,14 Arturo
8
9
10
11
12

D. Brion,15 Diosdado M. Peralta,16 Mariano C. Del Castillo,17 Jose Portugal


Perez,18 and Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, 19 requesting for copies of their
SALN and seeking permission to post the same on their website for the
general public.
(7) LETTER,20 dated December 21, 2011, of Glenda M. Gloria,
Executive Director, Newsbreak, seeking copies of the SALN of the
Supreme Court Justices covering various years, for the purpose of the
stories they intend to put on their website regarding the Supreme Court and
the Judiciary.
(8) LETTERS, all dated January 3, 2012, of Phillipe Manalang of
Unlimited Productions, Inc., addressed to Associate Justices Presbitero J.
Velasco, Jr.,21 Teresita Leonardo-De Castro,22 Mariano C. Del Castillo 23 and
Jose Portugal Perez,24 and Atty. Enriqueta Esguerra-Vidal, Clerk of Court,
Supreme Court25 requesting for copies of the SALN of the Supreme Court
Justices for the years 2010 and 2011.

13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25

(9) LETTER,26 dated December 19, 2011, of Malou Mangahas,


Executive Director, PCIJ, requesting for copies of the SALN, PDS or CVs of
the Justices of the Supreme Court from the year they were appointed to the
present.
(10) SUBPOENA AD TESTIFICANDUM ET DUCES TECUM, 27
issued on January 17, 2012, by the Senate, sitting as an Impeachment
Court, in connection with Impeachment Case No. 002-2011 against Chief
Justice Renato C. Corona, requiring the Clerk of Court, among others, to
bring with her the SALN of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona for the years
2002 to 2011.
(11) LETTER,28 dated January 16, 2012, of Nilo Ka Nilo H. Baculo,
Sr., requesting copies of the SALN of the Supreme Court Justices for the
years 2008 to 2011, for his use as a media practitioner.
(12) LETTER,29 dated January 25, 2012, of Roxanne Escaro-Alegre
of GMA News, requesting for copies of the SALN of the Supreme Court
Justices for the networks story on the political dynamics and process of
decision-making in the Supreme Court.
(13) LETTER,30 dated January 27, 2012, of David Jude Sta. Ana,
Head, News Operations, News 5, requesting for copies of the 2010-2011
SALN of the Supreme Court Justices for use as reference materials for
stories that will be aired in the newscasts of their television network.
(14) LETTER,31 dated January 31, 2012, of Michael G. Aguinaldo,
Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs, Malacaang, addressed to
Atty. Enriqueta Esguerra-Vidal, Clerk of Court, Supreme Court, seeking her
comments and recommendation on House Bill No. 5694, 32 to aid in their
determination of whether the measure should be certified as urgent.
26
27
28
29
30
31
32

(15) Undated LETTER33 of Benise P. Balaoing, Intern of


Rappler.com, a news website, seeking copies of the 2010 SALN of the
Justices of the Court and the CA for the purpose of completing its database
in preparation for its coverage of the 2013 elections.
(16) LETTER,34 dated April 27, 2012, of Maria A. Ressa, Chief
Executive Officer and Executive Officer and Executive Editor of Rappler,
Inc., requesting for copies of the current SALN of all the Justices of the
Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals and the Sandiganbayan also for the
purpose of completing its database in preparation for its coverage of the
2013 elections.
(17) LETTER,35 dated May 2, 2012, of Mary Ann A. Seir, Junior
Researcher, News Research Section, GMA News and Public Affairs,
requesting for copies of the SALN of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona and
the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court for the calendar year 2011 for
the networks use in their public affairs programs.
(18) LETTER,36 dated May 4, 2012, of Edward Gabud, Sr., Desk
Editor of Solar Network, Inc., requesting for copies of the 2011 SALN of all
the Justices of the Supreme Court.
(19) LETTER,37 dated May 30, 2012, of Gerry Lirio, Senior News
Editor, TV5 requesting for copies of the SALN of the Justices of the Court
for the last three (3) years for the purpose of a special report it would
produce as a result of the impeachment and subsequent conviction of
Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.
(20) LETTER,38 dated May 31, 2012, of Atty. Joselito P. Fangon,
Assistant Ombudsman, Field Investigation Office, Office of the
Ombudsman, requesting for 1] certified copies of the SALN of former Chief
Justice Renato C. Corona for the years 2002-2011, as well as 2] a
33
34
35
36
37
38

certificate of his yearly compensation, allowances, and bonuses, also for


the years 2002-2011.
(21) LETTER,39 dated June 8, 2012, of Thea Marie S. Pias,
requesting a copy of the SALN of any present Supreme Court Justice, for
the purpose of completing her grade in Legal Philosophy at the San Beda
College of Law.

Pursuant to Section 6, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, 40 the Court, upon
recommendation of the OCA, issued its Resolution 41 dated October 13, 2009, denying
the subpoena duces tecum for the SALNs and personal documents of Justice Roland B.
Jurado of the SB. The resolution also directed the Ombudsman to forward to the Court
any complaint and/or derogatory report against Justice Roland B. Jurado, in
consonance with the doctrine laid down in Caiobes v. Ombudsman.42 Upon compliance
by the Ombudsman, the Court, in its Resolution 43 dated February 2, 2010, docketed this
matter as a regular administrative complaint.44
Also, considering the development in Impeachment Case No. 002-2011 against
Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, the Court, on January 24, 2012, resolved to consider
moot the Subpoena Ad Testificandum Et Duces Tecum issued by the Senate
impeachment court.45

39
40
41
42
43
44
45

In resolving the remaining pending incidents, the Court, on January 17, 2012
required the CA, the SB, the CTA, the Philippine Judges Association, the Metropolitan
and City Judges Association of the Philippines, the Philippine Trial Judges League, and
the Philippine Women Judges Association (PWJA), to file their respective comments.

In essence, it is the consensus of the Justices of the above-mentioned courts and


the various judges associations that while the Constitution holds dear the right of the
people to have access to matters of concern, the Constitution also holds sacred the
independence of the Judiciary. Thus, although no direct opposition to the disclosure of
SALN and other personal documents is being expressed, it is the uniform position of the
said magistrates and the various judges associations that the disclosure must be made
in accord with the guidelines set by the Court and under such circumstances that would
not undermine the independence of the Judiciary.
After a review of the matters at hand, it is apparent that the matter raised for
consideration of the Court is not a novel one. As early as 1989, the Court had the
opportunity to rule on the matter of SALN disclosure in Re: Request of Jose M.
Alejandrino,46 where the Court denied the request of Atty. Alejandrino for the SALNs of
the Justices of the Court due to a plainly discernible improper motive. Aggrieved by an
adverse decision of the Court, he accused the Justices of patent partiality and alluded
that they enjoyed an early Christmas as a result of the decision promulgated by the
Court. Atty. Alejandrino even singled out the Justices who took part in the decision and
conspicuously excluded the others who, for one reason or another, abstained from
voting therein. While the Court expressed its willingness to have the Clerk of Court
furnish copies of the SALN of any of its members, it however, noted that requests for
SALNs must be made under circumstances that must not endanger, diminish or destroy
the independence, and objectivity of the members of the Judiciary in the performance of
their judicial functions, or expose them to revenge for adverse decisions, kidnapping,
extortion, blackmail or other untoward incidents. Thus, in order to give meaning to the
46

constitutional right of the people to have access to information on matters of public


concern, the Court laid down the guidelines to be observed for requests made. Thus:
1. All requests for copies of statements of assets and liabilities of
any Justice or Judge shall be filed with the Clerk of Court of the Supreme
Court or with the Court Administrator, as the case may be (Section 8 [A]
[2], R.A. 6713), and shall state the purpose of the request.
2. The independence of the Judiciary is constitutionally as important
as the right to information which is subject to the limitations provided by
law. Under specific circumstances, the need for fair and just adjudication
of litigations may require a court to be wary of deceptive requests for
information which shall otherwise be freely available. Where the request is
directly or indirectly traced to a litigant, lawyer, or interested party in a
case pending before the court, or where the court is reasonably certain
that a disputed matter will come before it under circumstances from which
it may, also reasonably, be assumed that the request is not made in good
faith and for a legitimate purpose, but to fish for information and, with the
implicit threat of its disclosure, to influence a decision or to warn the court
of the unpleasant consequences of an adverse judgment, the request may
be denied.
3. Where a decision has just been rendered by a court against the
person making the request and the request for information appears to be a
fishing expedition intended to harass or get back at the Judge, the
request may be denied.
4. In the few areas where there is extortion by rebel elements or
where the nature of their work exposes Judges to assaults against their
personal safety, the request shall not only be denied but should be
immediately reported to the military.
5. The reason for the denial shall be given in all cases.
In the 1992 case of Re: Request for Certified True Copies of the Sworn
Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Networth,47 the request was denied because the
Court found that the purpose of the request was to fish for information against certain
members of the Judiciary. In the same case, the Court resolved to authorize the Court
Administrator to act on all requests for copies of SALN, as well as other papers on file
with the 201 Personnel Records of lower court judges and personnel, provided that
47

there was a court subpoena duly signed by the Presiding Judge in a pending criminal
case against a judge or personnel of the Judiciary. The Court added that for requests
made by the Office of the Ombudsman, the same must be personally signed by the
Ombudsman himself. Essentially, the Court resolved that, in all instances, requests
must conform to the guidelines set in the Alejandrino case and that the documents or
papers requested for must be relevant and material to the case being tried by the court
or under investigation by the Ombudsman.
In 1993, the Court, in Request for Certified True Copies of the Sworn Statements
of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth of former Judge Luis D. Dictado,48 ruled that the
OCA may extend its granted authority to retired members of the Judiciary.
With respect to investigations conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman in a
criminal case against a judge, the Court, in Maceda v. Vasquez,49 upheld its
constitutional duty to exercise supervision over all inferior courts and ruled that an
investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman without prior referral of the criminal case
to the Court was an encroachment of a constitutional duty that ran afoul to the doctrine
of separation of powers. This pronouncement was further amplified in the
abovementioned case of Caiobes. Thus:
x x x Under Section 6, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is the
Supreme Court which is vested with exclusive administrative supervision
over all courts and its personnel. Prescinding from this premise, the
Ombudsman cannot determine for itself and by itself whether a criminal
complaint against a judge, or court employee, involves an administrative
matter. The Ombudsman is duty bound to have all cases against judges
and court personnel filed before it, referred to the Supreme Court for
determination as to whether an administrative aspect is involved therein.
This rule should hold true regardless of whether an administrative case
based on the act subject of the complaint before the Ombudsman is
already pending with the Court. For, aside from the fact that the
Ombudsman would not know of this matter unless he is informed of it, he
should give due respect for and recognition of the administrative authority
of the Court, because in determining whether an administrative matter is
48
49

involved, the Court passes upon not only administrative liabilities but also
administrative concerns, as is clearly conveyed in the case of Maceda v.
Vasquez (221 SCRA 464[1993]).
The Ombudsman cannot dictate to, and bind the Court, to its
findings that the case before it does or does not have administrative
implications. To do so is to deprive the Court of the exercise of its
administrative prerogatives and to arrogate unto itself a power not
constitutionally sanctioned. This is a dangerous policy which impinges, as
it does, on judicial independence.
Maceda is emphatic that by virtue of its constitutional power of
administrative supervision over all courts and court personnel, from the
Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals down to the lowest municipal trial
court clerk, it is only the Supreme Court that can oversee the judges and
court personnels compliance with all laws, and take the proper
administrative action against them if they commit any violation thereof. No
other branch of government may intrude into this power, without running
afoul of the doctrine of separation of powers.
Corollary to the above pronouncements, Section 7, Article III of the Constitution is
relevant in the issue of public disclosure of SALN and other documents of public
officials, viz:
Sec. 7. 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.
Emphasizing the import and meaning of the foregoing constitutional provision,
the Court, in the landmark case of Valmonte v. Belmonte, Jr.,50 elucidated on the import
of the right to information in this wise:
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
50

those to whom the power had been delegated. The postulate of public
office is a public trust, institutionalized in the Constitution to protect
the people from abuse of governmental power, would certainly be
mere empty words if access to such information of public concern is
denied x x x.
x x x 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. (Emphases supplied)
In Baldoza v. Dimaano,51 the importance of the said right was pragmatically
explicated:
The incorporation of this right in the Constitution is a recognition of
the fundamental role of free exchange of information in a democracy.
There can be no realistic perception by the public of the nations problems,
nor a meaningful democratic decision-making if they are denied access to
information of general interest. Information is needed to enable the
members of society to cope with the exigencies of the times. As has been
aptly observed: 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. However, restrictions
on access to certain records may be imposed by law.

Thus, while public concern like public interest eludes exact definition and has
been said to embrace a broad spectrum of subjects which the public may want to know,
either because such matters directly affect their lives, or simply because such matters
naturally arouse the interest of an ordinary citizen, 52 the Constitution itself, under
Section 17, Article XI, has classified the information disclosed in the SALN as a matter
of public concern and interest. In other words, a duty to disclose sprang from the
right to know. Both of constitutional origin, the former is a command while the latter is
a permission. Hence, the duty on the part of members of the government to disclose
51
52

their SALNs to the public in the manner provided by law:

Section 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 of 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. [Emphasis supplied]
This Constitutional duty is echoed and particularized in a statutory creation of
Congress: Republic Act No. 6713, also known as "Code of Conduct and Ethical
Standards for Public Officials and Employees":53

Section 8. Statements and Disclosure. - Public officials and employees


have an obligation to accomplish and submit declarations under oath of,
and the public has the right to know, their assets, liabilities, net worth
and financial and business interests including those of their spouses and
of unmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their
households.
(A) Statements of Assets and Liabilities and Financial Disclosure. All public officials and employees, except those who serve in an honorary
capacity, laborers and casual or temporary workers, shall file under oath
their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth and a Disclosure of
Business Interests and Financial Connections and those of their spouses
and unmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their
households.
The two documents shall contain information on the following:
(a) real property, its improvements, acquisition costs, assessed
value and current fair market value;
(b) personal property and acquisition cost;

53

(c) all other assets such as investments, cash on hand or in banks,


stocks, bonds, and the like;
(d) liabilities, and;
(e) all business interests and financial connections.
The documents must be filed:
(a) within thirty (30) days after assumption of office;
(b) on or before April 30, of every year thereafter; and
(c) within thirty (30) days after separation from the service.

All public officials and employees required under this section to file
the aforestated documents shall also execute, within thirty (30) days from
the date of their assumption of office, the necessary authority in favor of
the Ombudsman to obtain from all appropriate government agencies,
including the Bureau of Internal Revenue, such documents as may show
their assets, liabilities, net worth, and also their business interests and
financial connections in previous years, including, if possible, the year
when they first assumed any office in the Government.
Husband and wife who are both public officials or employees may
file the required statements jointly or separately.
The Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth and the
Disclosure of Business Interests and Financial Connections shall be filed
by:
(1) Constitutional and national elective officials, with the national
office of the Ombudsman;
(2) Senators and Congressmen, with the Secretaries of the Senate
and the House of Representatives, respectively; Justices, with the Clerk of
Court of the Supreme Court; Judges, with the Court Administrator; and all
national executive officials with the Office of the President.
(3) Regional and local officials and employees, with the Deputy
Ombudsman in their respective regions;

(4) Officers of the armed forces from the rank of colonel or naval
captain, with the Office of the President, and those below said ranks, with
the Deputy Ombudsman in their respective regions; and
(5) All other public officials and employees, defined in Republic Act
No. 3019, as amended, with the Civil Service Commission.
(B) Identification and disclosure of relatives. - It shall be the duty of
every public official or employee to identify and disclose, to the best of his
knowledge and information, his relatives in the Government in the form,
manner and frequency prescribed by the Civil Service Commission.
(Emphasis supplied)

Like all constitutional guarantees, however, the right to information, with its
companion right of access to official records, is not absolute. While providing guaranty
for that right, the Constitution also provides that the peoples right to know is limited to
matters of public concern and is further subject to such limitations as may be provided
by law.
Jurisprudence54 has provided the following limitations to that right: (1) national
security matters and intelligence information; (2) trade secrets and banking
transactions; (3) criminal matters; and (4) other confidential information such as
confidential or classified information officially known to public officers and employees by
reason of their office and not made available to the public as well as diplomatic
correspondence, closed door Cabinet meetings and executive sessions of either house
of Congress, and the internal deliberations of the Supreme Court.
This could only mean that while no prohibition could stand against access to
official records, such as the SALN, the same is undoubtedly subject to regulation.
In this regard, Section 8 (c) and (d) of R.A. No. 6713 provides for the limitation
and prohibition on the regulated access to SALNs of government officials and
employees, viz:
54

(C) Accessibility of documents. - (1) Any and all statements filed under this
Act, shall be made available for inspection at reasonable hours.
(2) Such statements shall be made available for copying or
reproduction after ten (10) working days from the time they are filed as
required by law.
(3) Any person requesting a copy of a statement shall be required
to pay a reasonable fee to cover the cost of reproduction and mailing of
such statement, as well as the cost of certification.
(4) Any statement filed under this Act shall be available to the public
for a period of ten (10) years after receipt of the statement. After such
period, the statement may be destroyed unless needed in an ongoing
investigation.
(D) Prohibited acts. - It shall be unlawful for any person to obtain or
use any statement filed under this Act for:
(a) any purpose contrary to morals or public policy; or
(b) any commercial purpose other than by news
communications media for dissemination to the general public.

and

Moreover, the following provisions in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of


R.A. No. 6713 provide:
Rule IV
Transparency of Transactions and Access to Information
xxxx
Section 3. Every department, office or agency shall provide official
information, records or documents to any requesting public, except if:
(a) such information, record or document must be
kept secret in the interest of national defense or security or
the conduct of foreign affairs;
(b) such disclosure would put the life and safety of an
individual in imminent danger;

(c) the information, record or document sought falls


within the concepts of established privilege or recognized
exceptions as may be provided by law or settled policy or
jurisprudence;
(d) such information, record or document
compromises drafts or decisions, orders, rulings, policy,
decisions, memoranda, etc;
(e) it would disclose information of a personal nature
where disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted
invasion of personal privacy;
(f) it would disclose investigatory records complied for
law enforcement purposes, or information which if written
would be contained in such records or information would (i)
interfere with enforcement proceedings, (ii) deprive a person
of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, (iii)
disclose the identity of a confidential source and, in the case
of a record compiled by a criminal law enforcement authority
in the course of a criminal investigation, or by an agency
conducting a lawful national security intelligence
investigation, confidential information furnished only by the
confidential source, or (iv) unjustifiably disclose investigative
techniques and procedures; or
(g) it would disclose information the premature
disclosure of which would (i) in the case of a department,
office or agency which agency regulates currencies,
securities, commodities, of financial institutions, be likely to
lead to significant financial speculation in currencies,
securities, or commodities or significantly endanger the
stability of any financial institution, or (ii) in the case of any
department, office or agency be likely or significantly to
frustrate implementation of a proposed official action, except
that subparagraph (f) (ii) shall not apply in any instance
where the department, office or agency has already
disclosed to the public the content or nature of its proposed
action, or where the department, office or agency is required
by law to make such disclosure on its own initiative prior to
taking final official action on such proposal.
xxxx
Rule VI

Duties of Public Officials and Employees


Section 6. All public documents must be made accessible to, and
readily available for inspection by, the public during working hours, except
those provided in Section 3, Rule IV.

The power to regulate the access by the public to these documents stems from
the inherent power of the Court, as custodian of these personal documents, to control
its very office 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; and that the right of other persons entitled to make
inspection may be insured.55
In this connection, Section 11 of the same law provides for the penalties in case
there should be a misuse of the SALN and the information contained therein, viz:
Section 11. Penalties. - (a) Any public official or employee, regardless of
whether or not he holds office or employment in a casual, temporary,
holdover, permanent or regular capacity, committing any violation of this
Act shall be punished with a fine not exceeding the equivalent of six (6)
months' salary or suspension not exceeding one (1) year, or removal
depending on the gravity of the offense after due notice and hearing by
the appropriate body or agency. If the violation is punishable by a heavier
penalty under another law, he shall be prosecuted under the latter statute.
Violations of Sections 7, 8 or 9 of this Act shall be punishable with
imprisonment not exceeding five (5) years, or a fine not exceeding five
thousand pesos (5,000), or both, and, in the discretion of the court of
competent jurisdiction, disqualification to hold public office.
(b) Any violation hereof proven in a proper administrative
proceeding shall be sufficient cause for removal or dismissal of a public
official or employee, even if no criminal prosecution is instituted against
him.
(c) Private individuals who participate in conspiracy as coprincipals, accomplices or accessories, with public officials or employees,

55

in violation of this Act, shall be subject to the same penal liabilities as the
public officials or employees and shall be tried jointly with them.
(d) The official or employee concerned may bring an action against
any person who obtains or uses a report for any purpose prohibited by
Section 8 (d) of this Act. The Court in which such action is brought may
assess against such person a penalty in any amount not to exceed
twenty-five thousand pesos (25,000.00). If another sanction hereunder or
under any other law is heavier, the latter shall apply.

Considering the foregoing legal precepts vis--vis the various requests made, the
Court finds no cogent reason to deny the public access to the SALN, PDS and CV of
the Justices of the Court and other magistrates of the Judiciary subject, of course, to the
limitations and prohibitions provided in R.A. No. 6713, its implementing rules and
regulations, and in the guidelines set forth in the decretal portion.
The Court notes the valid concerns of the other magistrates regarding the
possible illicit motives of some individuals in their requests for access to such personal
information and their publication. However, custodians of public documents must not
concern themselves with the motives, reasons and objects of the persons seeking
access to the records. The moral or material injury which their misuse might inflict on
others is the requestors responsibility and lookout. Any publication is made subject to
the consequences of the law.56 While public officers in the custody or control of public
records have the discretion to regulate the manner in which records may be inspected,
examined or copied by interested persons, such discretion does not carry with it the
authority to prohibit access, inspection, examination, or copying of the records. 57 After
all, 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 patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives. 58
56
57
58

WHEREFORE, the Court resolves to GRANT the requests contained in the (1)
Letter, dated July 30, 2009, of Rowena C. Paraan; (2) Letter, dated August 13, 2009, of
Karol M. Ilagan; (3) Letter, dated April 21, 2010, of the Philippine Public Transparency
Reporting Project; (4) Letter, filed on August 24, 2011, by Marvin Lim; (5) Letter, dated
August 26, 2011, of Rawnna Crisostomo; (6) Letter, dated October 11, 2011, of Bala S.
Tamayo; (7) Letters, all dated December 19, 2011, of Harvey S. Keh; (8) Letter, dated
December 21, 2011, of Glenda M. Gloria; (9) Letters, all dated January 3, 2012, of
Phillipe Manalang; (10) Letter, dated December 19, 2011, of Malou Mangahas; (11)
Letter, dated January 16, 2012, of Nilo Ka Nilo H. Baculo; (12) Letter, dated January
25, 2012, of Roxanne Escaro-Alegre; (13) Letter, dated January 27, 2012, of David
Jude Sta. Ana; (14) Letter, dated January 31, 2012, of Michael G. Aguinaldo; (15)
undated Letter of Benise P. Balaoing; (16) Letter, dated April 27, 2012, of Maria A.
Ressa; (17) Letter, dated May 2, 2012, of Mary Ann A. Seir; (18) Letter, dated May 4,
2012, of Edward Gabud, Sr., Desk Editor of Solar Network, Inc.; (19) Letter, dated May
30, 2012, of Gerry Lirio, Senior News Editor, TV5; (20) Letter, dated May 31, 2002, of
Atty. Joselito P. Fangon of the Office of the Ombudsman; and (21) Letter, dated June 7,
2012, of Thea Marie S. Pias, insofar as copies of the 2011 SALN, PDS, and CV of the
Justices of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, and the Court
of Tax Appeals; Judges of lower courts; and other members of the Judiciary, are
concerned, subject to the limitations and prohibitions provided in R.A. No. 6713, its
implementing rules and regulations, and the following guidelines:
1 All requests shall be filed with the Office of the Clerk of Court of the
Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, the Court of
Tax Appeals; for the lower courts, with the Office of the Court
Administrator; and for attached agencies, with their respective heads of
offices.
2 Requests shall cover only copies of the latest SALN, PDS and CV of
the members, officials and employees of the Judiciary, and may cover
only previous records if so specifically requested and considered as

justified, as determined by the officials mentioned in par. 1 above,


under the terms of these guidelines and the Implementing Rules and
Regulations of R.A. No. 6713.
3 In the case of requests for copies of SALN of the Justices of the
Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan and the
Court of Tax Appeals, the authority to disclose shall be made by the
Court En Banc.
4 Every request shall explain the requesting partys specific purpose and
their individual interests sought to be served; shall state the
commitment that the request shall only be for the stated purpose; and
shall be submitted in a duly accomplished request form secured from
the SC website. The use of the information secured shall only be for
the stated purpose.
5 In the case of requesting individuals other than members of the media,
their interests should go beyond pure or mere curiosity.
6 In the case of the members of the media, the request shall additionally
be supported by proof under oath of their media affiliation and by a
similar certification of the accreditation of their respective organizations
as legitimate media practitioners.
7 The requesting party, whether as individuals or as members of the
media, must have no derogatory record of having misused any
requested information previously furnished to them.
The requesting parties shall complete their requests in accordance with these
guidelines. The custodians of these documents 59 (the respective Clerks of Court of the
Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, and Court of Tax Appeals for the
Justices; and the Court Administrator for the Judges of various trial courts) shall
preliminarily determine if the requests are not covered by the limitations and prohibitions
59

provided in R.A. No. 6713 and its implementing rules and regulations, and in
accordance with the aforecited guidelines. Thereafter, the Clerk of Court shall refer the
matter pertaining to Justices to the Court En Banc for final determination.

SO ORDERED.
SABIO vs GORDON
On February 20, 2006, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago introduced Senate Res. No.
455 directing an inquiry in aid of legislation on the anomalous losses incurred by the
Philippines

Overseas

Telecommunications

Corporation

(POTC),

Philippine

Communications Satellite Corporation (PHILCOMSAT), and PHILCOMSAT Holdings


Corporation (PHC) due to the alleged improprieties in their operations by their
respective Board of Directors. Pursuant to this, on May 8, 2006, Senator Richard
Gordon, wrote Chairman Camilo Sabio of the PCGG inviting him to be one of the
resource persons in the public meeting jointly conducted by the Committee on
Government Corporations and Public Enterprises and Committee on Public Services.
Chairman Sabio declined the invitation because of prior commitment. At the same time,
he invoked Section 4(b) of E.O. No. 1 No member or staff of the Commission shall be
required to testify or produce evidence in any judicial, legislative or administrative
proceeding concerning matters within its official cognizance. Apparently, the purpose is
to ensure PCGGs unhampered performance of its task. Gordons Subpoenae Ad
Testificandum was repeatedly ignored by Sabio hence he threatened Sabio to be cited
with contempt.
ISSUE: Whether or not Section 4 of EO No. 1 is constitutional.
HELD: No. It can be said that the Congress power of inquiry has gained more solid
existence and expansive construal. The Courts high regard to such power is rendered
more evident in Senate v. Ermita, where it categorically ruled that the power of inquiry
is broad enough to cover officials of the executive branch. Verily, the Court reinforced
the doctrine in Arnault that the operation of government, being a legitimate subject for
legislation, is a proper subject for investigation and that the power of inquiry is co-

extensive with the power to legislate. 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.
Article III, Section 7
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.
These twin provisions of the Constitution seek to promote transparency in policy-making
and in the operations of the government, as well as provide the people sufficient
information to enable them to exercise effectively their constitutional rights. Armed with
the right information, citizens can participate in public discussions leading to the
formulation of government policies and their effective implementation.

Ricardo Valmonte, Oswaldo Carbonell, Doy del Castillo, Rolado Bartolome, Leo
Obligar, Jun Gutierrez, ReynaldoBagatsing, Jun Ninoy Alba, Percy Lapid,
Rommel Corro and Rolando Fadul
petitioners
,
Vs.
Feliciano Belmonte JR.,
respondent
.FACTS:
Petitioner Valmonte wrote a letter to the respondent Feliciano Belmonte, then GSIS
General Manager, requesting to befurnished with the list of names of the defunct interim
and regular Batasang Pambansa including the ten (10) oppositionmembers who were
able to secure a clean loan of P 2 million each on guaranty of Mrs. Imelda Marcos. And
if such is notpossible, an access to those said documents. Apart from Valmontes letter,
he is stressing the premise of the request onthe present provision of the Freedom
constitution at that time which is Art. IV, Sec. 6, that emphasizes the right of thepeople
to information on matters of public concern. Mr. Belmonte, aware that such request
contains serious legalimplications seek the help of Mr. Meynardo A. Tiro, a deputy
General Counsel. In Mr. Tiros reply letter, a confidentialrelationship exists between the
GSIS and all those who borrow from it, whoever they may be; that the GSIS has a duty
toits customers to preserve this confidentiality; and that it would not be proper for the
GSIS to breach this confidentialityunless so ordered by the courts.On June 26, 1986,

apparently not having yet received the reply of the GSIS Deputy General Counsel,
Petitioner Valmontewrote another letter saying that for failure to receive a reply, they are
now considering themselves free to do whateveraction necessary within the premises to
pursue their desired objective in pursuance of public interest.Separate comments were
filed by respondent Belmonte and the Solicitor General. After petitioners filed a
consolidatedreply, the petition was given due course and the parties were required to
file their memoranda. The parties havingcomplied, the case was deemed submitted for
decision.In his comment, respondent raise procedural objection to the issuance of a writ
of mandamus, among which is thatpetitioners have failed to exhaust administrative
remedies. Respondent claims that actions of the GSIS General Managerare 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 causeof action.
ISSUE:
Whether or not that Mr. Valmonte, together with his co-petitioners, are entitled to the
documents sought, by virtue of their constitutional right to information.
RULING:
The cornerstone of this republican system of government is delegation of power by the
people to the state.Governmental agencies and institutions operate within the limits of
the authority conferred by the people. Yet, like allconstitutional guarantees, the right to
information is not absolute. Peoples right to information is limited to matters of public
concern and is further subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.The
GSIS is a trustee of contributions from the government and its employees and the
administrator of various insuranceprograms for the benefit of the latter. Undeniably, its
funds assume a public character. More particularly, Secs. 5(b) and46 of P.D 1146, as
amended (the Revised Government Service Insurance act of 1977 provide for annual
appropriations

Legaspi v CSC 150 SCRA 530 (1987)

Facts: The petitioner invokes his constitutional right to information on matters of public
concern in a special civil action for mandamus against the CSC pertaining to the information of
civil service eligibilities of certain persons employed as sanitarians in the Health Department of
Cebu City. The standing of the petitioner was challenged by the Solicitor General of being devoid
of legal right to be informed of the civil service eligibilities of government employees for failure
of petitioner to provide actual interest to secure the information sought.
Issue: Whether or not petitioner may invoke his constitutional right to information in the case
at
bar.

Held: The court held that when the question is one of public right and the object of the
mandamus is to procure the enforcement of a public duty, the people are regarded as the real
party in interest and the relator at whose instigation the proceedings are instituted need not
show that he has any legal or special interest in the result, it being sufficient to show that he is a
citizen and as such interested in the execution of the laws. The Constitution provides the
guarantee of adopting policy of full public disclosure subject to reasonable conditions prescribed

by law as in regulation in the manner of examining the public records by the government agency
in custody thereof. But the constitutional guarantee to information on matters of public concern
is not absolute. Under the Constitution, access to official records, papers, etc., are "subject to
limitations as may be provided by law" (Art. III, Sec. 7, second sentence). The law may therefore
exempt certain types of information from public scrutiny, such as those affecting national
security.
The court delves into determining whether the information sought for by the petitioner is of
public interest. All appointments in the Civil Service Commission are made according to merit
and fitness while a public office is a public trust. Public employees therefore are accountable to
the people even as to their eligibilities to their positions in the government. The court also noted
that the information on the result of the CSC eligibility examination is released to the public
therefore the request of petitioner is one that is not unusual or unreasonable. The public,
through any citizen, has the right to verify the civil eligibilities of any person occupying
government positions.