(Article published in the Sep 15,2003 issue of TODAY, Business Section)
wish Fr. Jose A. Cruz, S.J., were alive today. He was my Philosophy
professor four decades ago when I was a senior at the Ateneo
University’s College of Arts and Sciences and, since then up to his
death, was my mentor, counsellor, and, simply, source of strength and
We need him now, among other reasons, to make philosophical sense of the Jose Pidal investigations going on at the Senate, a reflection, I suspect, of the singular insight of existential thought,-- that man, as body and soul, is in the world but not of the world.
worldly Senate considering the Arroyo brothers as their own thing; Iggy
and Mike claiming, “we are none of your business”.
The tension, of course, appears beyond resolve and as enduring as
the “angst” inherent in an embodied spirit.
since unlike Arthur of the Round Table, we cannot conjure up our Merlin,
we have to be content with the teachings of those sitting at the High
Bench. They too have grappled
with the issue and, though not as wise as Camelot’s sage, they speak of
what is the law, which, in some cases, may be
what is correct. Two of their decisions, I submit, are:
first is Bengzon, Jr. v. the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee (203 SCRA 767).
This ruling enforced the Constitutional rule that inquiries of the
Senate and House of Representatives or any of their respective committees
must be “in aid of legislation” (Sec. 21, Art. VI, Constitution).
Supreme Court quoted, with approval, the US case of
Watkins v. US (354 US 178): “But broad as this power inquiry is,
it is not unlimited. There is no general authority to expose the private
affairs of individuals without justification in terms of the functions of
Congress. Nor is the Congress a law enforcement or trial agency. These are functions of the executive and judicial departments
of government. Investigations conducted solely for personal aggrandizement
of the investigators or to ‘punish’ those investigated are
indefensible.” Hence, no
investigations in aid of election, please.
other is the case of Ople v. Torres
(293 SCRA 141) decided seven years later, striking down Administrative
Order No. 308 issued by then President Fidel V. Ramos.
A.O. No. 308 sought to establish a national ID system, called the
National Computerized Identification Reference System.
the Supreme Court said that A.O. No. 308 violates the right to privacy.
“There is”, said the court in Ople
invoking the old case of Morfe v.
Mutuc (22 SCRA 424), “a constitutional right to privacy.” It is not, however, articulated in any particular section or
article, but rather, “recognized and enshrined in several provisions of
our Constitution.” It was
thus a cheap shot for a supposedly honorable senator to challenge Iggy and
his counsel to point to a specific provision in the constitution granting
the right to privacy.
he done his homework, as he should have, he would have known that, in Ople,
the Supreme Court saw the right to privacy underneath several provisions
in the Bill of Rights, such as, Sec. 1, on due process; Sec. 2, on the
right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and
seizures, affirmed in the later case of People
v. Chua Ho San (306 SCRA 432) ; Sec. 3(1) on the privacy of
communication; Sec. 6, on the liberty of abode; Sec. 8, on the freedom of
association; and Sec. 17, on the right against self-incrimination.
Not only is the right recognized, it is staunchly protected by the
rule making inadmissible any evidence obtained in its violation (Art. III,
Sec. 3, par. 2).
addition, the honorable senator would have also seen that Ople
recognizes what it calls “zones of privacy” protected in general laws,
like the Civil Code and the Revised Penal Code, as well as in special
laws, including the Secrecy of Bank Deposits Act, the very law invoked by
the banks at the hearings to justify their keeping mum about the Jose
after Ople leave no doubt that the right to privacy does exist, albeit
with varying consequences. In
one, it served as a protection against an unwanted intrusion by another
private person, including one’s spouse.
In Ilusorio v. Bildner,
(332 SCRA 169), the Supreme Court refused to grant a lawful wife the right
to visit her lawful husband. The
husband, ruled the Court, “cannot be subject of visitation rights
against his free choice. Otherwise,
we will deprive him of his right to privacy.”
In another, it did not serve as a bar to the audio-visual recording
of the trial of the former President Estrada before the Sandiganbayan (Re:
Request for Live Radio-TV Coverage of the Trial in the Sandiganbayan of
the Plunder Cases against Former President Joseph E. Estrada, A.D. No.
01-4-03 SC, Sept. 12, 2001).
where do we look in this clash of Congress’ right to investigate,
assuming compliance with Bengzon, against the individual’s right to privacy when correctly
invoked as in Ople?
Luckily the situation is not as insoluble as the old riddle of what
happens when an irresistible force strikes an immovable object.
Sooner or later, at the instance of either the Blue Ribbon
Committee or of the Arroyos, the issue will fall at the doorstep of
judiciary and will therein be properly resolved.
for now, as I responded when so asked by that sharp TV newscaster and host
Katrina Constantino last Thursday morning, my sentiments lie with right of
privacy. Not only because
that right is one protected by the Bill of Rights, which is precisely a
limitation on all governmental action, such as the Congressional right to
inquire (Hutcheson v. US, 369 US