Remedial Law

LEE v. P/SUPT. NERI A. ILAGAN G.R. No. 203254, October 08, 2014 J. PERLAS-BERNABE Writ of Habeas Data Rule

FACTS:

In his Petition for Issuance of the Writ of Habeas Data, Ilagan alleged that he and petitioner Dr. Joy Margate Lee were former common law partners. Sometime in July 2011, he visited Lee at the latter’s condominium, Ilagan noticed that his digital camera was missing. Lee confronted Ilagan at the latter’s office regarding a purported sex video she discovered from the aforesaid camera involving Ilagan and another woman.  

Ilagan denied the video and demanded Lee to return the camera, but to no avail.  During the confrontation, Ilagan allegedly slammed Lee’s head against a wall inside his office and walked away.

Subsequently, Lee utilized the said video as evidence in filing various complaints against Ilagan, namely: (a) a criminal complaint for violation of R.A. 9262; and (b) an administrative complaint for grave misconduct before the NAPOLCOM.  

Ilagan claimed that Lee’s acts of reproducing the subject video and threatening to distribute the same to the upper echelons of the NAPOLCOM and uploading it to the internet violated not only his right to life, liberty, security, and privacy but also that of the other woman, and thus, the issuance of a writ of habeas data in his favor is warranted.

The RTC granted the privilege of the writ of habeas data in Ilagan’s favor, and ordered the implementing officer to turn-over copies of the subject video to him, and enjoined Lee from further reproducing the same.

Dissatisfied, Lee filed this petition.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the RTC correctly extended the privilege of the writ of habeas data in favor of Ilagan.

RULING:

The petition is meritorious.

The Rule on the Writ of Habeas Data was conceived as a response, given the lack of effective and available remedies, to address the extraordinary rise in the number of killings and enforced disappearances. It was conceptualized as a judicial remedy enforcing the right to privacy, most especially the right to informational privacy of individuals, which is defined as “the right to control the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of data about oneself.”

As defined in Section 1 of the Habeas Data Rule, the writ of habeas data now stands as “a remedy available to any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data or information regarding the person, family, home, and correspondence of the aggrieved party.”  

Thus, in order to support a petition for the issuance of such writ, Section 6 of the Habeas Data Rule essentially requires that the petition sufficiently alleges, among others, “[t]he manner the right to privacy is violated or threatened and how it affects the right to life, liberty or security of the aggrieved party.” Corollarily, the allegations in the petition must be supported by substantial evidence showing an actual or threatened violation of the right to privacy in life, liberty or security of the victim.

In this relation, it bears pointing out that the writ of habeas data will not issue to protect purely property or commercial concerns nor when the grounds invoked in support of the petitions therefor are vague and doubtful.

In this case, the Court finds that Ilagan was not able to sufficiently allege that his right to privacy in life, liberty or security was or would be violated through the supposed reproduction and threatened dissemination of the subject sex video.

As the rules and existing jurisprudence on the matter evoke, alleging and eventually proving the nexus between one’s privacy right to the cogent rights to life, liberty or security are crucial in habeas data cases, so much so that a failure on either account certainly renders a habeas data petition dismissible, as in this case.

Hence, due to the insufficiency of the allegations as well as the glaring absence of substantial evidence, the Court finds it proper to reverse the RTC Decision and dismiss the habeas data petition.

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