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Consti 2 Privacy of 2-14-2016 Gab


Communication and
Correspondence
CASE NAME: Lagunzad vs Soto vda de Gonzales
PONENTE: J. Melencio-Herrera,J. Case Date: August 6, 1979
Case Summary:
An agreement whereby a film producer would pay the heirs and relatives of Moises
Padilla a sum of money in order to depict them in the movie which he included a love
interest angle depicting the mother and a sweetheart, is not a violation of freedom of
expression. While it is true that the film producer purchased the rights to the book
entitled "The Moises Padilla Story," it did not dispense with the need for prior consent
and authority from the deceased's heirs to portray publicly episodes in said deceased's
life and in that of his mother and the members of his family. SC held that the right to
invade a person's privacy to disseminate public information does not extend to fictional
or novelized representation of a person, no matter how public a figure he or she may be.
In the case at bar, while it is true that petitioner exerted efforts to present a true-to-life
story of Moises Padilla, petitioner admits that he included a little romance in the film
because without it, it would be a drab story of torture and brutality. The right of freedom
of expression occupies a preferred position in the hierarchy of civil liberties. However, it
is limited by the clear and present danger rule and the balancing of interest test. The
latter requires the court to take conscious and detailed consideration of the interplay of
interest observable in a given situation. The interests observable in this case are the
right to privacy and freedom of expression. Taking into account the interplay of those
interest, SC held that under the particular circumstances presented, and considering the
obligations in the contract, the validity of such contract must be upheld because the
limits of freedom of expression are reached when expression touches upon matters of
essentially private concern.
Rule of Law:
Article III Sec. 3 1987 Constitution: (1) The privacy of communication and
correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court, or when public
safety or order requires otherwise, as prescribed by law.
(2) Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be
inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.

Detailed Facts:
Sometime in August, 1961, petitioner Manuel Lagunzad, began the production of a
movie entitled "The Moises Padilla Story". It was based mainly on the copyrighted but
unpublished book of Atty. Ernesto Rodriguez, Jr., entitled "The Long Dark Night in Negros"
subtitled "The Moises Padilla Story".
The book narrates the events which culminated in the murder of Moises Padilla
who was then a mayoralty candidate of the Nacionalista Party for the Municipality of
Magallon, Negros Occidental, during the November, 1951 elections. Governor Rafael
Lacson, a member of the Liberal Party then in power and his men were tried and
convicted for that murder. In the book, Moises Padilla is portrayed as "a martyr in
contemporary political history."
Although the emphasis of the movie was on the public life of Moises Padilla, there
were portions which dealt with his private and family life including the portrayal in some

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scenes, of his mother, Maria Soto Vda. de Gonzales, private respondent herein, and of
one "Auring" as his girlfriend.
On October 5, 1961, Mrs. Nelly Amante, half-sister of Moises Padilla, for and in
behalf of her mother, private respondent, demanded in writing for certain changes,
corrections and deletions in the movie.
On the same date, October 5, 1961, after some bargaining, the petitioner and
private respondent executed a Licensing Agreement where the petitioner agreed to
pay the private respondent the sum of P20,000.00 payable without need of further
demand, as follows: P5,000.00 on or before Oct. 10, 1961; P10,000.00 on or before Oct.
31, 1961; and P5,000.00 on or before November 30, 1961. Also the Licensor (private
respondent) grants authority and permission to Licensee (Petitioner) to exploit, use, and
develop the life story of Moises Padilla for purposes of producing the PICTURE, and in
connection with matters incidental to said production, such as advertising and the like,
as well as authority and permission for the use of LICENSOR's name in the PICTURE and
have herself portrayed therein, the authority and permission hereby granted, to retroact
to the date when LICENSEE first committed any of the acts herein authorized.
After its premier showing on October 16, 1961, the movie was shown in different
theaters all over the country.
Because petitioner refused to pay any additional amounts pursuant to the
Agreement, on December 22, 1961, private respondent instituted the present suit
against him praying for judgment in her favor ordering petitioner 1) to pay her the
amount of P15,000.00, with legal interest from the filing of the Complaint; 2) to render
an accounting of the proceeds from the picture and to pay the corresponding 2-1/2%
royalty therefrom; 3) to pay attorney's fees equivalent to 20% of the amounts claimed;
and 4) to pay the costs.
Petitioner contended in his Answer that the episodes in the life of Moises Padilla
depicted in the movie were matters of public knowledge and was a public figure; that
private respondent has no property right over those incidents; that the Licensing
Agreement was without valid cause or consideration and that he signed the same only
because of the coercion and threat employed upon him. As a counterclaim, petitioner
sought for the nullification of the Licensing Agreement as it constitutes an infringement
on the constitutional right of freedom of speech and of the press.
Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the private
respondent.

Issue:
(1) Whether or not private respondent have any property right over the life of Moises
Padilla since the latter was a public figure.
(2) Whether or not the Licensing Agreement infringes on the constitutional right of
freedom of speech and of the press.

Holding:
(1) Yes. While it is true that petitioner had purchased the rights to the book entitled "The
Moises Padilla Story," that did not dispense with the need for prior consent and authority
from the deceased heirs to portray publicly episodes in said deceased's life and in that of
his mother and the members of his family. As held in Schuyler v. Curtis, a privilege may

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be given the surviving relatives of a deceased person to protect his memory, but the
privilege exists for the benefit of the living, to protect their feelings and to prevent a
violation of their own rights in the character and memory of the deceased."
Being a public figure ipso facto does not automatically destroy in toto a person's
right to privacy. The right to invade a person's privacy to disseminate public information
does not extend to a fictional or novelized representation of a person, no matter how
public a figure he or she may be. In the case at bar, while it is true that petitioner
exerted efforts to present a true-to-life story of Moises Padilla, petitioner admits that he
included a little romance in the film because without it, it would be a drab story of
torture and brutality.
2. No. From the language of the specific constitutional provision, it would appear
that the right is not susceptible of any limitation. No law may be passed abridging the
freedom of speech and of the press. It would be too much to insist that at all times and
under all circumstances it should remain unfettered and unrestrained. There are other
societal values that press for recognition.
The prevailing doctrine is that the clear and present danger rule is such a
limitation. Another criterion for permissible limitation on freedom of speech and of the
press, which includes such vehicles of the mass media as radio, television and the
movies, is the "balancing-of-interests test." The principle requires a court to take
conscious and detailed consideration of the interplay of interests observable in a given
situation or type of situation."
In the case at bar, the interests observable are the right to privacy asserted by
respondent and the right of -freedom of expression invoked by petitioner. Taking into
account the interplay of those interests, we hold that under the particular circumstances
presented, and considering the obligations assumed in the Licensing Agreement entered
into by petitioner, the validity of such agreement will have to be upheld particularly
because the limits of freedom of expression are reached when expression touches upon
matters of essentially private concern.

Ruling:
WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review is denied and the judgment appealed from hereby
affirmed. Costs against petitioner.
Other Opinions:
J. Blank Blank | Dissent
J. Blank Blank | Concurring

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