Hanging wash on cyberspace


Juan MercadoBy Juan Mercado 



A less-than transparent Judicial and Bar Council emerged  from  the 1987 Constitution. Impeachment of the 23rd Supreme Court chief justice, however, pried open once hush-hush  discussions. JBC has  belatedly   tapped the ongoing cyberspace revolution..

 TV cameras panned on faces of  aspirants — some deluded —  for the  short list to considered by the President   for appointment as  the  24th  “Chief”  Twittered questions  were read out. . As a result,. citizens  saw a parade of  talent, nobility, experience — plus  gall  and warts.


 Across  town,  the uproar continues over  President  Benigno Aquino’s scalping of  TV Patrol, Anchor  Noli de Castro. At  ABS-CBN’s 25th anniversary celebration, PNoy  flayed  de Castro for  snide partisanship in baritone. A  former vice-president, in the discredited Macapagal administration, De Castro  voiced “raw opinion and speculation” in  his newscasts,  P-Noy groused.

P-Noy shouldn’t have slammed the newscaster on home grounds, tut-tutted some. An informal  ABS-CBN  survey found  32 percent   circled wagons around De Castro.  The President  had  a point,”  63 percent  said. ”. The commanding  two-to-one  lead indicates that   substance  counts more than form

"( It ) was a situation waiting to happen.”, wrote Rappler’s redoubtable Chay Hofilena. This  ethical sore  stems  from  the notorious   “revolving door”  Journalists bolt  into  politics, then   bail out  to their old roles, without qualms,  The  “anchor’s new clothes” didn’t  blot out  the fact that he  “was too high up in the political hierarchy of the Arroyo administration.

 These clashes show  “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” as the January 2012 tourism   slogan claims.  But  these   high profile  clashes obscure equally significant  issues. One is the almost blanket intrusion into  privacy  within  a digital world.

 Cebu  Judge Rapahel Yrastorza  dismissed  a petition for habeas data by parents of  St. Theresa's College students, all under 18.  School  authorities found the  kids, uploaded on Facebook, pictures of themselves in skimpy bras, smoking  and drinking at a bar.. `Under  RA 7610 and a Cebu City ordinance, minors are not permitted inside a bar

 In  a private conference, the parents signed  sanction slips  that  the school issued.  Recommended remedial measures, including undergoing religious  retreat, were mutually agreed upon.   The minors  were allowed to graduate. But  the school said no to their  marching  and receive their diplomas. `

 The parents  sued.  They  “ brought the  issue outside of the four walls of the school” into the open.   STC  repeatedly turned down media request for  copies of  controversial photos. The decision agreed that STC was right in asking   that  a Family Court, where records are kept confidential to protect minors, hear the case.

 Two later withdrew their lawsuits. .The remaining  complainants left asked the court issue a writ of habeas to compel  the school to reveal it’s  downloaded Facebook  photos. A writ of habeas data is a judicial remedy for  those  whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated. It  grants a chance to question the data or withdrawal.

 The “ libertarian writ” of habeas data  was  meant  to address political killings, along with habeas corpus and  amparo writsw, the  Court noted. .The complainants did not  show any threat to life, liberty or security. Sourcing of photos from  Facebook  accounts of the students, by the school,l was not illegal. It was  done as part of enforcement of its policies and disciplinary actions.

The Court  is convinced …the minors  were aware of the warning, by Facebook itself, that the people they share with can always share with others who are not “friends” to the original account. In short, information uploaded to Facebook somehow loses it privacy along the way.”

 Like other social network sites, Facebook is wild west.  There are 83 million illegitimate accounts on the net, FB revealed Friday. Almost 9 percent fractured rules.

The  Yrastorza  decision sealed  demise of the  students claim  of privacy violation, STC  counsel  Joan Largo wrote: More important, it “presents an opportunity to dwell on the all-important issue of cyber responsibility.”

 Courts here and  in other jurisdictions caution:  “No reasonable expectation of privacy” can be expected in  social networking sites.” That is the nature of the beast.  It is also what  complainants meant   that their photos “found their way into the cyber space for everybody to see.” 

 The measure of protection,  granted by the reasonable expectation, diminishes as relevant technology becomes more widely accepted, “ the Supreme Court  here ruled back in 1998.  In  Ople vs. Torres ( G.R. No. 127685 ). The measure of protection, hinges on a two-part test: (1) whether by his conduct, the individual exhibited an expectation of privacy; and (2) whether society recognizes this expectation as reasonable.

 MySpace, Facebook and  similar  sites : “are public spaces”, New York City Supreme Court  found There  can be  no legitimate reasonable expectation of privacy.  “There  are  millions of  Internet  users, .the Court noted in Kathleen Romano’s case against Steelcase Inc. “"[I]n this environment, privacy is no longer grounded in reasonable expectations, but rather in some theoretical protocol better known as wishful thinking." 

"Our youth is exposed to new realities of the cyber age,” Largo says.. Parents may benefit  from a debate on cyber citizenship. #

( Email: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com )


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