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Constitutional Law: Right to

Privacy
September 21, 2014 by The Lawyer's Post

G.R. No. 179736, June 26, 2013, SPOUSES BILL AND VICTORIA HING,
PETITIONERS, VS. ALEXANDER CHOACHUY, SR. AND ALLAN CHOACHUY,
RESPONDENTS.
In this day and age, video surveillance cameras are installed practically
everywhere for the protection and safety of everyone. The installation of these
cameras, however, should not cover places where there is reasonable
expectation of privacy, unless the consent of the individual, whose right to
privacy would be affected, was obtained
Bill and Victoria, spouses, filed a Complaint for Injunction and Damages with
prayer for issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction against Alexander and
Allan. According to them, they own the lot adjacent to the lots owned by Aldo
Development and Resources, where Alex and Allan are stockholders. The
corporation built an auto-shop building on Lot 1900-C adjacent to the lot owned
by Bill and Victoria. In April, 2005, Aldo filed a case for injunction and damages
against Bill and Victoria claiming that they were constructing a fence without a
valid permit and the construction would destroy its building. The court denied
the application by Aldo for preliminary injunction for failure to substantiate its
allegations. To gather evidence against the spouses, Aldo illegally set-up on the
building of Aldo two video surveillance camera facing petitioners party and
through their employees and without the consent of spouses took pictures of
their on-going construction; thus it violates their right to privacy. The spouses
prayed that Alexander and Allan be ordered to remove their video-cameras and
stopped from conducting illegal surveillance.
Answering, Alexander and Allan claimed that they did not install the cameras,
nor ordered their employees to take pictures of the spouses construction; they
also averred that they are mere stockholders of Aldo;
The Regional Trial Court granted the prayer for temporary restraining order and
directed Alexander and Allan to remove their video cameras and install them
elsewhere where the spouses property will no longer be viewed.
Alexander and Allan filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals,
which granted their petition.
Bill and Victoria therefore elevated the case to the Supreme Court:

The right to privacy is enshrined in our Constitution and in our laws. It is


defined as the right to be free from unwarranted exploitation of ones person or
from intrusion into ones private activities in such a way as to cause humiliation
to a persons ordinary sensibilities. It is the right of an individual to be free
from unwarranted publicity, or to live without unwarranted interference by the
public in matters in which the public is not necessarily concerned. Simply put,
the right to privacy is the right to be let alone.
The Bill of Rights guarantees the peoples right to privacy and protects them
against the States abuse of power. In this regard, the State recognizes the right
of the people to be secure in their houses. No one, not even the State, except
in case of overriding social need and then only under the stringent procedural
safeguards, can disturb them in the privacy of their homes.
xxx
Our Code specifically mentions prying into the privacy of anothers
residence. This does not mean, however, that only the residence is entitled to
privacy, because the law covers also similar acts. A business office is entitled
to the same privacy when the public is excluded therefrom and only such
individuals as are allowed to enter may come in. x x x[ (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, an individuals right to privacy under Article 26(1) of the Civil Code should
not be confined to his house or residence as it may extend to places where he
has the right to exclude the public or deny them access. The phrase prying
into the privacy of anothers residence, therefore, covers places, locations, or
even situations which an individual considers as private. And as long as his
right is recognized by society, other individuals may not infringe on his right to
privacy. The CA, therefore, erred in limiting the application of Article 26(1) of
the Civil Code only to residences.
xxx
In ascertaining whether there is a violation of the right to privacy, courts use the
reasonable expectation of privacy test. This test determines whether a person
has a reasonable expectation of privacy and whether the expectation has been
violated. In Ople v. Torres, we enunciated that the reasonableness of a
persons expectation of privacy depends on a two-part test: (1) whether, by his
conduct, the individual has exhibited an expectation of privacy; and (2) this
expectation is one that society recognizes as reasonable. Customs, community
norms, and practices may, therefore, limit or extend an individuals reasonable
expectation of privacy. Hence, the reasonableness of a persons expectation of
privacy must be determined on a case-to-case basis since it depends on the
factual circumstances surrounding the case.

In this day and age, video surveillance cameras are installed practically
everywhere for the protection and safety of everyone. The installation of these
cameras, however, should not cover places where there is reasonable
expectation of privacy, unless the consent of the individual, whose right to
privacy would be affected, was obtained. Nor should these cameras be used to
pry into the privacy of anothers residence or business office as it would be no
different from eavesdropping, which is a crime under Republic Act No. 4200 or
the Anti-Wiretapping Law.
The concept of liberty would be emasculated if it does not likewise compel
respect for [ones] personality as a unique individual whose claim to privacy and
[non]-interference demands respect.