In 1998, SC declared UNCONSTITUTIONAL the national ID system for violating people’s privacy rights


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CASE CITATION: BLAS F. OPLE, petitioner, vs. RUBEN D. TORRES, et al., respondents. (G.R. No. 127685; July 23, 1998)

PUNO, J., majority opinion; The right to privacy is one of the most threatened rights of man living in a mass society. The threats emanate from various sources — governments, journalists, employers, social scientists, etc. In the case at bar, the threat comes from the executive branch of government which by issuing A.O. No. 308 pressures the people to surrender their privacy by giving information about themselves on the pretext that it will facilitate delivery of basic services.

Given the record-keeping power of the computer, only the indifferent fail to perceive the danger that A.O. No. 308 gives the government the power to compile a devastating dossier against unsuspecting citizens. It is timely to take note of the well-worded warning of Kalvin, Jr., "the disturbing result could be that everyone will live burdened by an unerasable record of his past and his limitations. In a way, the threat is that because of its record-keeping, the society will have lost its benign capacity to forget." Oblivious to this counsel, the dissents still say we should not be too quick in labelling the right to privacy as a fundamental right. We close with the statement that the right to privacy was not engraved in our Constitution for flattery.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is granted and Adminisrative Order No. 308 entitled "Adoption of a National Computerized Identification Reference System" declared null and void for being unconstitutional.
PANGANIBAN, J., separate opinion; I concur only in the result and only on the ground that an executive issuance is not legally sufficient to establish an all-encompassing computerized system of identification in the country. The subject matter contained in AO 308 is beyond the powers of the President to regulate without a legislative enactment.

I reserve judgmeht on the issue of wherher a national ID system is an infringement of the constitutional right to privacy or the freedom of thought until after Congress passes, if ever, a law to this effect. Only then, and upon the filing of a proper petition, may the provisions of the statute be scrutinized by the judiciary to determine their constitutional foundation. Until such time, the issue is premature; and any decision thereon, speculative and academic. 1

Be that as it may, the scholarly discussions of Justices Romero, Puno, Kapunan and Mendoza on the constitutional right to privacy and freedom of thought may stil become useful guides to our lawmakers, when and if Congress should deliberate on a bill establishing a national identification system.

Let it be noted that this Court, as shown by the voting of the justices, has not definitively ruled on these points. The voting is decisive only on the need for the appropriate legislation, and it is only on this ground that the petition is granted by this Court.

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