G.R. No. 170338 and G.R. NO. 179275 - VIRGILIO O. GARCILLANO v. THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEES ON PUBLIC INFORMATION, ET AL.
[G.R. NO. 170338 : December 23, 2008]
VIRGILIO O. GARCILLANO, Petitioner, v. THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEES ON PUBLIC INFORMATION, PUBLIC ORDER AND SAFETY, NATIONAL DEFENSE AND SECURITY, INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY, and SUFFRAGE AND ELECTORAL REFORMS, Respondents.
[G.R. NO. 179275 : December 23, 2008]
SANTIAGO JAVIER RANADA and OSWALDO D. AGCAOILI, Petitioners, v. THE SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, REPRESENTED BY THE SENATE PRESIDENT THE HONORABLE MANUEL VILLAR, Respondents.
MAJ. LINDSAY REX SAGGE, Petitioner-In-Intervention
AQUILINO Q. PIMENTEL, JR., BENIGNO NOYNOY C. AQUINO, RODOLFO G. BIAZON, PANFILO M. LACSON, LOREN B. LEGARDA, M.A. JAMBY A.S. MADRIGAL, and ANTONIO F. TRILLANES, Respondents-intervenors.
D E C I S I O N
More than three years ago, tapes ostensibly containing a wiretapped conversation purportedly between the President of the Philippines and a high-ranking official of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) surfaced. They captured unprecedented public attention and thrust the country into a controversy that placed the legitimacy of the present administration on the line, and resulted in the near-collapse of the Arroyo government. The tapes, notoriously referred to as the "Hello Garci" tapes, allegedly contained the President's instructions to COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to manipulate in her favor results of the 2004 presidential elections. These recordings were to become the subject of heated legislative hearings conducted separately by committees of both Houses of Congress.1
In the House of Representatives (House), on June 8, 2005, then Minority Floor Leader Francis G. Escudero delivered a privilege speech, "Tale of Two Tapes," and set in motion a congressional investigation jointly conducted by the Committees on Public Information, Public Order and Safety, National Defense and Security, Information and Communications Technology, and Suffrage and Electoral Reforms (respondent House Committees). During the inquiry, several versions of the wiretapped conversation emerged. But on July 5, 2005, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Reynaldo Wycoco, Atty. Alan Paguia and the lawyer of former NBI Deputy Director Samuel Ong submitted to the respondent House Committees seven alleged "original" tape recordings of the supposed three-hour taped conversation. After prolonged and impassioned debate by the committee members on the admissibility and authenticity of the recordings, the tapes were eventually played in the chambers of the House.2
On August 3, 2005, the respondent House Committees decided to suspend the hearings indefinitely. Nevertheless, they decided to prepare committee reports based on the said recordings and the testimonies of the resource persons.3
Alarmed by these developments, petitioner Virgilio O. Garcillano (Garcillano) filed with this Court a Petition for Prohibition and Injunction, with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction4 docketed as G.R. No. 170338. He prayed that the respondent House Committees be restrained from using these tape recordings of the "illegally obtained" wiretapped conversations in their committee reports and for any other purpose. He further implored that the said recordings and any reference thereto be ordered stricken off the records of the inquiry, and the respondent House Committees directed to desist from further using the recordings in any of the House proceedings.5
Without reaching its denouement, the House discussion and debates on the "Garci tapes" abruptly stopped.
After more than two years of quiescence, Senator Panfilo Lacson roused the slumbering issue with a privilege speech, "The Lighthouse That Brought Darkness." In his discourse, Senator Lacson promised to provide the public "the whole unvarnished truth - the what's, when's, where's, who's and why's" of the alleged wiretap, and sought an inquiry into the perceived willingness of telecommunications providers to participate in nefarious wiretapping activities.
On motion of Senator Francis Pangilinan, Senator Lacson's speech was referred to the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, chaired by Senator Rodolfo Biazon, who had previously filed two bills6 seeking to regulate the sale, purchase and use of wiretapping equipment and to prohibit the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from performing electoral duties.7
In the Senate's plenary session the following day, a lengthy debate ensued when Senator Richard Gordon aired his concern on the possible transgression of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 42008 if the body were to conduct a legislative inquiry on the matter. On August 28, 2007, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago delivered a privilege speech, articulating her considered view that the Constitution absolutely bans the use, possession, replay or communication of the contents of the "Hello Garci" tapes. However, she recommended a legislative investigation into the role of the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP), the Philippine National Police or other government entities in the alleged illegal wiretapping of public officials.9
On September 6, 2007, petitioners Santiago Ranada and Oswaldo Agcaoili, retired justices of the Court of Appeals, filed before this Court a Petition for Prohibition with Prayer for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction,10 docketed as G.R. No. 179275, seeking to bar the Senate from conducting its scheduled legislative inquiry. They argued in the main that the intended legislative inquiry violates R.A. No. 4200 and Section 3, Article III of the Constitution.11
As the Court did not issue an injunctive writ, the Senate proceeded with its public hearings on the "Hello Garci" tapes on September 7,12 1713 and October 1,14 2007.
Intervening as respondents,15 Senators Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr., Benigno Noynoy C. Aquino, Rodolfo G. Biazon, Panfilo M. Lacson, Loren B. Legarda, M.A. Jamby A.S. Madrigal and Antonio F. Trillanes filed their Comment16 on the petition on September 25, 2007.
The Court subsequently heard the case on oral argument.17
On October 26, 2007, Maj. Lindsay Rex Sagge, a member of the ISAFP and one of the resource persons summoned by the Senate to appear and testify at its hearings, moved to intervene as petitioner in G.R. No. 179275.18
On November 20, 2007, the Court resolved to consolidate G.R. NOS. 170338 and 179275.19
It may be noted that while both petitions involve the "Hello Garci" recordings, they have different objectives–the first is poised at preventing the playing of the tapes in the House and their subsequent inclusion in the committee reports, and the second seeks to prohibit and stop the conduct of the Senate inquiry on the wiretapped conversation.
The Court dismisses the first petition, G.R. No. 170338, and grants the second, G.R. No. 179275.
- I -
Before delving into the merits of the case, the Court shall first resolve the issue on the parties' standing, argued at length in their pleadings.
In Tolentino v. COMELEC,20 we explained that "' [l]egal standing' or locus standi refers to a personal and substantial interest in a case such that the party has sustained or will sustain direct injury because of the challenged governmental act x x x," thus,
generally, a party will be allowed to litigate only when (1) he can show that he has personally suffered some actual or threatened injury because of the allegedly illegal conduct of the government; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action; and (3) the injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable action.21
The gist of the question of standing is whether a party has "alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions."22
However, considering that locus standi is a mere procedural technicality, the Court, in recent cases, has relaxed the stringent direct injury test. David v. Macapagal-Arroyo23 articulates that a "liberal policy has been observed, allowing ordinary citizens, members of Congress, and civic organizations to prosecute actions involving the constitutionality or validity of laws, regulations and rulings."24 The fairly recent Chavez v. Gonzales25 even permitted a non-member of the broast media, who failed to allege a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy, to challenge the acts of the Secretary of Justice and the National Telecommunications Commission. The majority, in the said case, echoed the current policy that "this Court has repeatedly and consistently refused to wield procedural barriers as impediments to its addressing and resolving serious legal questions that greatly impact on public interest, in keeping with the Court's duty under the 1987 Constitution to determine whether or not other branches of government have kept themselves within the limits of the Constitution and the laws, and that they have not abused the discretion given to them."26
In G.R. No. 170338, petitioner Garcillano justifies his standing to initiate the petition by alleging that he is the person alluded to in the "Hello Garci" tapes. Further, his was publicly identified by the members of the respondent committees as one of the voices in the recordings.27 Obviously, therefore, petitioner Garcillano stands to be directly injured by the House committees' actions and charges of electoral fraud. The Court recognizes his standing to institute the petition for prohibition.
In G.R. No. 179275, petitioners Ranada and Agcaoili justify their standing by alleging that they are concerned citizens, taxpayers, and members of the IBP. They are of the firm conviction that any attempt to use the "Hello Garci" tapes will further divide the country. They wish to see the legal and proper use of public funds that will necessarily be defrayed in the ensuing public hearings. They are worried by the continuous violation of the laws and individual rights, and the blatant attempt to abuse constitutional processes through the conduct of legislative inquiries purportedly in aid of legislation.28
Intervenor Sagge alleges violation of his right to due process considering that he is summoned to attend the Senate hearings without being apprised not only of his rights therein through the publication of the Senate Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation, but also of the intended legislation which underpins the investigation. He further intervenes as a taxpayer bewailing the useless and wasteful expenditure of public funds involved in the conduct of the questioned hearings.29
Given that petitioners Ranada and Agcaoili allege an interest in the execution of the laws and that intervenor Sagge asserts his constitutional right to due process,30 they satisfy the requisite personal stake in the outcome of the controversy by merely being citizens of the Republic.
Following the Court's ruling in Francisco, Jr. v. The House of Representatives,31 we find sufficient petitioners Ranada's and Agcaoili's and intervenor Sagge's allegation that the continuous conduct by the Senate of the questioned legislative inquiry will necessarily involve the expenditure of public funds.32 It should be noted that in Francisco, rights personal to then Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. had been injured by the alleged unconstitutional acts of the House of Representatives, yet the Court granted standing to the petitioners therein for, as in this case, they invariably invoked the vindication of their own rights–as taxpayers, members of Congress, citizens, individually or in a class suit, and members of the bar and of the legal profession–which were also supposedly violated by the therein assailed unconstitutional acts.33
Likewise, a reading of the petition in G.R. No. 179275 shows that the petitioners and intervenor Sagge advance constitutional issues which deserve the attention of this Court in view of their seriousness, novelty and weight as precedents. The issues are of transcendental and paramount importance not only to the public but also to the Bench and the Bar, and should be resolved for the guidance of all.34
Thus, in the exercise of its sound discretion and given the liberal attitude it has shown in prior cases climaxing in the more recent case of Chavez, the Court recognizes the legal standing of petitioners Ranada and Agcaoili and intervenor Sagge.
- II -
The Court, however, dismisses G.R. No. 170338 for being moot and academic. Repeatedly stressed in our prior decisions is the principle that the exercise by this Court of judicial power is limited to the determination and resolution of actual cases and controversies.35 By actual cases, we mean existing conflicts appropriate or ripe for judicial determination, not conjectural or anticipatory, for otherwise the decision of the Court will amount to an advisory opinion. The power of judicial inquiry does not extend to hypothetical questions because any attempt at abstraction could only lead to dialectics and barren legal questions and to sterile conclusions unrelated to actualities.36 Neither will the Court determine a moot question in a case in which no practical relief can be granted. A case becomes moot when its purpose has become stale.37 It is unnecessary to indulge in academic discussion of a case presenting a moot question as a judgment thereon cannot have any practical legal effect or, in the nature of things, cannot be enforced.38
In G.R. No. 170338, petitioner Garcillano implores from the Court, as aforementioned, the issuance of an injunctive writ to prohibit the respondent House Committees from playing the tape recordings and from including the same in their committee report. He likewise prays that the said tapes be stricken off the records of the House proceedings. But the Court notes that the recordings were already played in the House and heard by its members.39 There is also the widely publicized fact that the committee reports on the "Hello Garci" inquiry were completed and submitted to the House in plenary by the respondent committees.40 Having been overtaken by these events, the Garcillano petition has to be dismissed for being moot and academic. After all, prohibition is a preventive remedy to restrain the doing of an act about to be done, and not intended to provide a remedy for an act already accomplished.41
- III -
As to the petition in G.R. No. 179275, the Court grants the same. The Senate cannot be allowed to continue with the conduct of the questioned legislative inquiry without duly published rules of procedure, in clear derogation of the constitutional requirement.
Section 21, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution explicitly provides that "[t]he Senate or the House of Representatives, or any of its respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure." The requisite of publication of the rules is intended to satisfy the basic requirements of due process.42 Publication is indeed imperative, for it will be the height of injustice to punish or otherwise burden a citizen for the transgression of a law or rule of which he had no notice whatsoever, not even a constructive one.43 What constitutes publication is set forth in Article 2 of the Civil Code, which provides that "[l]aws shall take effect after 15 days following the completion of their publication either in the Official Gazette, or in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines."44
The respondents in G.R. No. 179275 admit in their pleadings and even on oral argument that the Senate Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation had been published in newspapers of general circulation only in 1995 and in 2006.45 With respect to the present Senate of the 14th Congress, however, of which the term of half of its members commenced on June 30, 2007, no effort was undertaken for the publication of these rules when they first opened their session.
Recently, the Court had occasion to rule on this very same question. In Neri v. Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations,46 we said:
Fourth, we find merit in the argument of the OSG that respondent Committees likewise violated Section 21 of Article VI of the Constitution, requiring that the inquiry be in accordance with the "duly published rules of procedure." We quote the OSG's explanation:
The phrase "duly published rules of procedure" requires the Senate of every Congress to publish its rules of procedure governing inquiries in aid of legislation because every Senate is distinct from the one before it or after it. Since Senatorial elections are held every three (3) years for one-half of the Senate's membership, the composition of the Senate also changes by the end of each term. Each Senate may thus enact a different set of rules as it may deem fit. Not having published its Rules of Procedure, the subject hearings in aid of legislation conducted by the 14th Senate, are therefore, procedurally infirm.
Justice Antonio T. Carpio, in his Dissenting and Concurring Opinion, reinforces this ruling with the following rationalization:
The present Senate under the 1987 Constitution is no longer a continuing legislative body. The present Senate has twenty-four members, twelve of whom are elected every three years for a term of six years each. Thus, the term of twelve Senators expires every three years, leaving less than a majority of Senators to continue into the next Congress. The 1987 Constitution, like the 1935 Constitution, requires a majority of Senators to "constitute a quorum to do business." Applying the same reasoning in Arnault v. Nazareno, the Senate under the 1987 Constitution is not a continuing body because less than majority of the Senators continue into the next Congress. The consequence is that the Rules of Procedure must be republished by the Senate after every expiry of the term of twelve Senators.47
The subject was explained with greater lucidity in our Resolution48 (On the Motion for Reconsideration) in the same case, viz.:
On the nature of the Senate as a "continuing body," this Court sees fit to issue a clarification. Certainly, there is no debate that the Senate as an institution is "continuing," as it is not dissolved as an entity with each national election or change in the composition of its members. However, in the conduct of its day-to-day business the Senate of each Congress acts separately and independently of the Senate of the Congress before it. The Rules of the Senate itself confirms this when it states:
SEC. 123. Unfinished business at the end of the session shall be taken up at the next session in the same status.
All pending matters and proceedings shall terminate upon the expiration of one (1) Congress, but may be taken by the succeeding Congress as if present for the first time.
Undeniably from the foregoing, all pending matters and proceedings, i.e., unpassed bills and even legislative investigations, of the Senate of a particular Congress are considered terminated upon the expiration of that Congress and it is merely optional on the Senate of the succeeding Congress to take up such unfinished matters, not in the same status, but as if presented for the first time. The logic and practicality of such a rule is readily apparent considering that the Senate of the succeeding Congress (which will typically have a different composition as that of the previous Congress) should not be bound by the acts and deliberations of the Senate of which they had no part. If the Senate is a continuing body even with respect to the conduct of its business, then pending matters will not be deemed terminated with the expiration of one Congress but will, as a matter of course, continue into the next Congress with the same status.
This dichotomy of the continuity of the Senate as an institution and of the opposite nature of the conduct of its business is reflected in its Rules. The Rules of the Senate (i.e. the Senate's main rules of procedure) states:
AMENDMENTS TO, OR REVISIONS OF, THE RULES
SEC. 136. At the start of each session in which the Senators elected in the preceding elections shall begin their term of office, the President may endorse the Rules to the appropriate committee for amendment or revision.
The Rules may also be amended by means of a motion which should be presented at least one day before its consideration, and the vote of the majority of the Senators present in the session shall be required for its approval.
DATE OF TAKING EFFECT
SEC. 137. These Rules shall take effect on the date of their adoption and shall remain in force until they are amended or repealed.
Section 136 of the Senate Rules quoted above takes into account the new composition of the Senate after an election and the possibility of the amendment or revision of the Rules at the start of each session in which the newly elected Senators shall begin their term.
However, it is evident that the Senate has determined that its main rules are intended to be valid from the date of their adoption until they are amended or repealed. Such language is conspicuously absent from the Rules. The Rules simply state "(t)hese Rules shall take effect seven (7) days after publication in two (2) newspapers of general circulation." The latter does not explicitly provide for the continued effectivity of such rules until they are amended or repealed. In view of the difference in the language of the two sets of Senate rules, it cannot be presumed that the Rules (on legislative inquiries) would continue into the next Congress. The Senate of the next Congress may easily adopt different rules for its legislative inquiries which come within the rule on unfinished business.
The language of Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution requiring that the inquiry be conducted in accordance with the duly published rules of procedure is categorical. It is incumbent upon the Senate to publish the rules for its legislative inquiries in each Congress or otherwise make the published rules clearly state that the same shall be effective in subsequent Congresses or until they are amended or repealed to sufficiently put public on notice.
If it was the intention of the Senate for its present rules on legislative inquiries to be effective even in the next Congress, it could have easily adopted the same language it had used in its main rules regarding effectivity.
Respondents justify their non-observance of the constitutionally mandated publication by arguing that the rules have never been amended since 1995 and, despite that, they are published in booklet form available to anyone for free, and accessible to the public at the Senate's internet web page.49
The Court does not agree. The absence of any amendment to the rules cannot justify the Senate's defiance of the clear and unambiguous language of Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution. The organic law instructs, without more, that the Senate or its committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation only in accordance with duly published rules of procedure, and does not make any distinction whether or not these rules have undergone amendments or revision. The constitutional mandate to publish the said rules prevails over any custom, practice or tradition followed by the Senate.
Justice Carpio's response to the same argument raised by the respondents is illuminating:
The publication of the Rules of Procedure in the website of the Senate, or in pamphlet form available at the Senate, is not sufficient under the Tañada v. Tuvera ruling which requires publication either in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation. The Rules of Procedure even provide that the rules "shall take effect seven (7) days after publication in two (2) newspapers of general circulation," precluding any other form of publication. Publication in accordance with Tañada is mandatory to comply with the due process requirement because the Rules of Procedure put a person's liberty at risk. A person who violates the Rules of Procedure could be arrested and detained by the Senate.
The invocation by the respondents of the provisions of R.A. No. 8792,50 otherwise known as the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, to support their claim of valid publication through the internet is all the more incorrect. R.A. 8792 considers an electronic data message or an electronic document as the functional equivalent of a written document only for evidentiary purposes.51 In other words, the law merely recognizes the admissibility in evidence (for their being the original) of electronic data messages and/or electronic documents.52 It does not make the internet a medium for publishing laws, rules and regulations.
Given this discussion, the respondent Senate Committees, therefore, could not, in violation of the Constitution, use its unpublished rules in the legislative inquiry subject of these consolidated cases. The conduct of inquiries in aid of legislation by the Senate has to be deferred until it shall have caused the publication of the rules, because it can do so only "in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure."
Very recently, the Senate caused the publication of the Senate Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation in the October 31, 2008 issues of Manila Bulletin and Malaya. While we take judicial notice of this fact, the recent publication does not cure the infirmity of the inquiry sought to be prohibited by the instant petitions. Insofar as the consolidated cases are concerned, the legislative investigation subject thereof still could not be undertaken by the respondent Senate Committees, because no published rules governed it, in clear contravention of the Constitution.
With the foregoing disquisition, the Court finds it unnecessary to discuss the other issues raised in the consolidated petitions.
WHEREFORE, the petition in G.R. No. 170338 is DISMISSED, and the petition in G.R. No. 179275 is GRANTED. Let a writ of prohibition be issued enjoining the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines and/or any of its committees from conducting any inquiry in aid of legislation centered on the "Hello Garci" tapes.
* On leave.
1 Rollo (G.R. No. 179275), p. 168.
2 Rollo (G.R. No. 170338), pp. 7-9.
3 Id. at 9.
4 Id. at 1-38.
5 Id. at 36-38.
6 Rollo (G.R. No. 179275), pp. 215-220.
7 Id. at 169.
8 An Act to Prohibit and Penalize Wire Tapping and Other Related Violations of the Privacy of Communications and for Other Purposes.
9 Rollo (G.R. No. 179275), pp. 169-170.
10 Id. at 3-17.
11 Id. at 7-13.
12 Id. at 24.
13 Id. at 44.
14 Memorandum of Respondents-Intervenors, p. 6.
15 Rollo (G.R. No. 179275), pp. 68-70.
16 Id. at 71-90.
17 Id. at 62. The Court identified the following issues for discussion in the October 2, 2007 Oral Argument:
1. Whether the petitioners have locus standi to bring this suit.
2. Whether the Rules of Procedure of the Senate and the Senate Committees governing the conduct of inquiries in aid of legislation have been published, in accordance with Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution. Corollarily:
(a) Whether these Rules must be published by every Congress.
(b) What mode/s of publication will comply with the constitutional requirement.
3. Whether the inquiry, which is centered on the so-called "Garci tapes," violates Section 3, Article III of the Constitution and/or Republic Act No. 4200. (Id. at 66.)
18 Motion for Leave to Intervene and Petition-in-Intervention filed on October 26, 2007.
19 Resolution dated November 20, 2007.
20 465 Phil. 385, 402 (2004).
21 Tolentino v. Commission on Elections, id.
22 Province of Batangas v. Romulo, G.R. No. 152774, May 27, 2004, 429 SCRA 736, 755.
23 G.R. NOS. 171396, 171409, 171485, 171483, 171400, 171489 and 171424, May 3, 2006, 489 SCRA 160.
24 David v. Macapagal-Arroyo, id. at 218.
25 G.R. No. 168338, February 15, 2008, 545 SCRA 441.
27 Reply in G.R. No. 170338, pp. 36-37.
28 Rollo (G.R. No. 179275), p. 4.
29 Petition-in-Intervention, p. 3.
30 David v. Macapagal-Arroyo, supra note 23, at 223.
31 460 Phil. 830 (2003).
32 Francisco, Jr. v. The House of Representatives, id. at 897.
33 Francisco, Jr. v. The House of Representatives, supra note 31, at 895.
34 Kilosbayan, Inc. v. Guingona, Jr., G.R. No. 113375, May 5, 1994, 232 SCRA 110, 139.
35 Dumlao v. COMELEC, 184 Phil. 369, 377 (1980). This case explains the standards that have to be followed in the exercise of the power of judicial review, namely: (1) the existence of an appropriate case; (2) an interest personal and substantial by the party raising the constitutional question; (3) the plea that the function be exercised at the earliest opportunity; and (4) the necessity that the constitutional question be passed upon in order to decide the case.
36 La Bugal-B laan Tribal Association, Inc. v. Ramos, 465 Phil. 860, 889-890 (2004).
37 Rufino v. Endriga, G.R. NOS. 139554 and 139565, July 21, 2006, 496 SCRA 13, 46.
38 Lanuza, Jr. v. Yuchengco, G.R. No. 157033, March 28, 2005, 454 SCRA 130, 138.
39 Rollo (G.R. No. 170338), p. 9.
40 See news article "Separate findings, no closure" by Michael Lim Umbac published in The Philippine Daily Inquirer on March 29, 2006; News item "5 House committees in 'Garci' probe file report on Monday" published in The Manila Bulletin on March 25, 2006.
41 Simon, Jr. v. Commission on Human Rights, G.R. No. 100150, January 5, 1994, 229 SCRA 117, 135-136; Agustin v. De la Fuente, 84 Phil. 515, 517 (1949).
42 Bernas, The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines, A Commentary, 1996 ed., p. 679.
43 Tañada v. Tuvera, 220 Phil. 422, 432-433 (1985).
44 As amended on June 18, 1987 by Executive Order No. 200 entitled "Providing for the Publication of Laws Either in the Official Gazette or in a Newspaper of General Circulation in the Philippines as a Requirement for their Effectivity".
45 Rollo (G.R. No. 179275), p. 179; Memorandum of Respondents-Intervenors, pp. 9-10.
46 G.R. No. 180643, March 25, 2008, 549 SCRA 77, 135-136.
47 Id. at 297-298.
48 Dated September 4, 2008.
49 TSN, Oral Arguments, March 4, 2008, (G.R. No. 179275), pp. 413-414.
50 Entitled "An Act Providing for the Recognition and Use of Electronic Commercial and Non-Commercial Transactions and Documents, Penalties for Unlawful Use Thereof and For Other Purposes," approved on June 14, 2000.
51 MCC Industrial Sales Corporation v. Ssangyong Corporation, G.R. No. 170633, October 15, 2007, 536 SCRA 408. (Emphasis supplied.)
52 Sections 6, 7 and 10 of R.A. No. 8792 read:
Sec. 6. Legal Recognition of Data Messages. - Information shall not be denied legal effect, validity or enforceability solely on the grounds that it is in the data message purporting to give rise to such legal effect, or that it is merely referred to in that electronic data message.
Sec. 7. Legal Recognition of Electronic Documents. - Electronic documents shall have the legal effect, validity or enforceability as any other document or legal writing, and'
(a) Where the law requires a document to be in writing, that requirement is met by an electronic document if the said electronic document maintains its integrity and reliability, and can be authenticated so as to be usable for subsequent reference, in that '
(i) The electronic document has remained complete and unaltered, apart from the addition of any endorsement and any authorized change, or any change which arises in the normal course of communication, storage and display; and
(ii) The electronic document is reliable in the light of the purpose for which it was generated and in the light of all the relevant circumstances.
(b) Paragraph (a) applies whether the requirement therein is in the form of an obligation or whether the law simply provides consequences for the document not being presented or retained in its original form.
(c) Where the law requires that a document be presented or retained in its original form, that requirement is met by an electronic document if '
(i) There exists a reliable assurance as to the integrity of the document from the time when it was first generated in its final form; and
(ii) That document is capable of being displayed to the person to whom it is to be presented: Provided, That no provision of this Act shall apply to vary any and all requirements of existing laws on formalities required in the execution of documents for their validity.
For evidentiary purposes, an electronic document shall be the functional equivalent of a written document under existing laws.
This Act does not modify any statutory rule relating to the admissibility of electronic data messages or electronic documents, except the rules relating to authentication and best evidence.
Sec. 10. Original Documents. - (1) Where the law requires information to be presented or retained in its original form, that requirement is met by an electronic data message or electronic document if:
(a) The integrity of the information from the time when it was first generated in its final form, as an electronic data message or electronic document is shown by evidence aliunde or otherwise; and
(b) Where it is required that information be presented, that the information is capable of being displayed to the person to whom it is to be presented.
(2) Paragraph (1) applies whether the requirement therein is in the form of an obligation or whether the law simply provides consequences for the information not being presented or retained in its original form.
(3) For the purposes of subparagraph (a) of paragraph (1):
(a) the criteria for assessing integrity shall be whether the information has remained complete and unaltered, apart from the addition of any endorsement and any change which arises in the normal course of communication, storage and display; and
(b) the standard of reliability required shall be assessed in the light of the purpose for which the information was generated and in the light of all relevant circumstances.
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