Constitutional Law, Political Law

Soriano vs. La Guardia G.R. No. 164785 April 29, 2009 Freedom of Speech



On August 10, 2004, at around 10:00 p.m., petitioner, as host of the program Ang Dating Daan, aired on UNTV 37, made obscene remarks against INC. Two days after, before the MTRCB, separate but almost identical affidavit-complaints were lodged by Jessie L. Galapon and seven other private respondents, all members of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), against petitioner in connection with the above broadcast. Respondent Michael M. Sandoval, who felt directly alluded to in petitioner’s remark, was then a minister of INC and a regular host of the TV program Ang Tamang Daan.



Are Soriano’s statements during the televised “Ang Dating Daan” part of the religious discourse and within the protection of Section 5, Art.III?



No. Under the circumstances obtaining in this case, therefore, and considering the adverse effect of petitioner’s utterances on the viewers’ fundamental rights as well as petitioner’s clear violation of his duty as a public trustee, the MTRCB properly suspended him from appearing in Ang Dating Daan for three months.

Furthermore, it cannot be properly asserted that petitioner’s suspension was an undue curtailment of his right to free speech either as a prior restraint or as a subsequent punishment. Aside from the reasons given above (re the paramountcy of viewers rights, the public trusteeship character of a broadcaster’s role and the power of the State to regulate broadcast media), a requirement that indecent language be avoided has its primary effect on the form, rather than the content, of serious communication. There are few, if any, thoughts that cannot be expressed by the use of less offensive language.

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