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1/24/2017 G.R. No.

L-72119

TodayisTuesday,January24,2017

RepublicofthePhilippines
SUPREMECOURT
Manila

ENBANC

G.R.No.L72119May29,1987

VALENTINL.LEGASPI,petitioner,
vs.
CIVILSERVICECOMMISSION,respondent.

CORTES,J.:

Thefundamentalrightofthepeopletoinformationonmattersofpublicconcernisinvokedinthisspecialcivilaction
formandamusinstitutedbypetitionerValentinL.LegaspiagainsttheCivilServiceCommission.Therespondenthad
earlier denied Legaspi's request for information on the civil service eligibilities of certain persons employed as
sanitariansintheHealthDepartmentofCebuCity.Thesegovernmentemployees,JulianSibonghanoyandMariano
Agas,hadallegedlyrepresentedthemselvesascivilserviceeligibleswhopassedthecivilserviceexaminationsfor
sanitarians.

ClaimingthathisrighttobeinformedoftheeligibilitiesofJulianSibonghanoyandMarianoAgas,isguaranteedby
theConstitution,andthathehasnootherplain,speedyandadequateremedytoacquiretheinformation,petitioner
praysfortheissuanceoftheextraordinarywritofmandamustocompeltherespondentCommissiontodisclosesaid
information.

Thisis not the first tunethatthewritofmandamusissoughttoenforcethefundamental right to information. The


sameremedywasresortedtointhecaseofTanadaet.al.vs.Tuveraet.al.,(G.R.No.L63915,April24,1985,136
SCRA27)whereinthepeople'srighttobeinformedunderthe1973Constitution(ArticleIV,Section6)wasinvoked
inordertocompelthepublicationintheOfficialGazetteofvariouspresidentialdecrees,lettersofinstructionsand
otherpresidentialissuances.PriortotherecognitionoftherightinsaidConstitutionthestatutoryrighttoinformation
providedforintheLandRegistrationAct(Section56,Act496,asamended)wasclaimedbyanewspapereditorin
anothermandamusproceeding,thistimetodemandaccesstotherecordsoftheRegisterofDeedsforthepurpose
ofgatheringdataonrealestatetransactionsinvolvingaliens(Subidovs.Ozaeta,80Phil.383[1948]).

The constitutional right to information on matters of public concern first gained recognition in the Bill of Rights,
ArticleIV,ofthe1973Constitution,whichstates:

Sec.6.Therightofthepeopletoinformationonmattersofpublicconcernshallberecognized.Access
toofficialrecords,andtodocumentsandpaperspertainingtoofficialacts,transactions,ordecisions,
shallbeaffordedthecitizensubjecttosuchlimitationsasmaybeprovidedbylaw.

TheforegoingprovisionhasbeenretainedandtherightthereinprovidedamplifiedinArticleIII,Sec.7ofthe1987
Constitution with the addition of the phrase, "as well as to government research data used as basis for policy
development."Thenewprovisionreads:

The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to
officialrecords,andtodocuments,andpaperspertainingtoofficialacts,transactions,ordecisions,as
well as to government research data used as basis. for policy development, shall be afforded the
citizen,subjecttosuchstationsasmaybeprovidedbylaw.

Theseconstitutionalprovisionsareselfexecuting.Theysupplytherulesbymeansofwhichtherighttoinformation
may be enjoyed (Cooley, A Treatise on the Constitutional Limitations 167 [1927]) by guaranteeing the right and
mandatingthedutytoaffordaccesstosourcesofinformation.Hence,thefundamentalrightthereinrecognizedmay
be asserted by the people upon the ratification of the constitution without need for any ancillary act of the
Legislature.(Id.at,p.165)WhatmaybeprovidedforbytheLegislaturearereasonableconditionsandlimitations
upontheaccesstobeaffordedwhichmust,ofnecessity,beconsistentwiththedeclaredStatepolicyoffullpublic

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disclosure of all transactions involving public interest (Constitution, Art. 11, Sec. 28). However, it cannot be
overemphasizedthatwhateverlimitationmaybeprescribedbytheLegislature,therightandthedutyunderArt.III
Sec.7havebecomeoperativeandenforceablebyvirtueoftheadoptionoftheNewCharter.Therefore,theright
maybeproperlyinvokedinamandamusproceedingsuchasthisone.

TheSolicitorGeneralinterposesproceduralobjectionstoOurgivingduecoursetothisPetition.Hechallengesthe
petitioner'sstandingtosueuponthegroundthatthelatterdoesnotpossessanyclearlegalrighttobeinformedof
thecivilserviceeligibilitiesofthegovernmentemployeesconcerned.Hecallsattentiontotheallegedfailureofthe
petitioner to show his actual interest in securing this particular information. He further argues that there is no
ministerialdutyonthepartoftheCommissiontofurnishthepetitionerwiththeinformationheseeks.

1.Tobegivenduecourse,aPetitionformandamusmusthavebeeninstitutedbyapartyaggrievedbythealleged
inactionofanytribunal,corporation,boardorpersonwhichunlawfullyexcludessaidpartyfromtheenjoymentofa
legal right. (AntChinese League of the Philippines vs. Felix, 77 Phil. 1012 [1947]). The petitioner in every case
mustthereforebean"aggrievedparty"inthesensethathepossessesaclearlegalrighttobeenforcedandadirect
interestinthedutyoracttobeperformed.

InthecasebeforeUs,therespondenttakesissueonthepersonalityofthepetitionertobringthissuit.Itisasserted
that,theinstantPetitionisbereftofanyallegationofLegaspi'sactualinterestinthecivilserviceeligibilitiesofJulian
SibonghanoyandMarianoAgas,Atmostthereisavaguereferencetoanunnamedclientinwhosebehalfhehad
allegedlyactedwhenhemadeinquiriesonthesubject(Petition,Rollo,p.3).

ButwhatisclearuponthefaceofthePetitionisthatthepetitionerhasfirmlyanchoredhiscaseupontherightofthe
peopletoinformationonmattersofpublicconcern,which,byitsverynature,isapublicright.Ithasbeenheldthat:

* * * when the question is one of public right and the object of the mandamus is to procure the
enforcement of a public duty, the people are regarded as the real party in interest and the relator at
whoseinstigationtheproceedingsareinstitutedneednotshowthathehasanylegalorspecialinterest
intheresult,itbeingsufficienttoshowthatheisacitizenandassuchinterestedintheexecutionofthe
laws***(Tanadaet.al.vs.Tuvera,et.al.,G.R.No.L63915,April24,1985,136SCRA27,36).

Fromtheforegoing,itbecomesapparentthatwhenamandamusproceedinginvolvestheassertionofapublicright,
therequirementofpersonalinterestissatisfiedbythemerefactthatthepetitionerisacitizen,andtherefore,partof
thegeneral"public"whichpossessestheright.

TheCourthadopportunitytodefinetheword"public"intheSubidocase,supra,whenitheldthateventhosewho
have no direct or tangible interest in any real estate transaction are part of the "public" to whom "(a)ll records
relating to registered lands in the Office of the Register of Deeds shall be open * * *" (Sec. 56, Act No. 496, as
amended).InthewordsoftheCourt:

***"Public"isacomprehensive,allinclusiveterm.Properlyconstrued,itembraceseveryperson.To
saythatonlythosewhohaveapresentandexistinginterestofapecuniarycharacterintheparticular
informationsoughtaregiventherightofinspectionistomakeanunwarranteddistinction.***(Subido
vs.Ozaeta,supraatp.387).

Thepetitioner,beingacitizenwho,assuchisclothedwithpersonalitytoseekredressfortheallegedobstructionof
theexerciseofthepublicright.Wefindnocogentreasontodenyhisstandingtobringthepresentsuit.

2.Foreveryrightofthepeoplerecognizedasfundamental,thereliesacorrespondingdutyonthepartofthosewho
govern,torespectandprotectthatright.ThatistheveryessenceoftheBillofRightsinaconstitutionalregime.Only
governments operating under fundamental rules defining the limits of their power so as to shield individual rights
againstitsarbitraryexercisecanproperlyclaimtobeconstitutional(Cooley,supra,atp.5).Withoutagovernment's
acceptanceofthelimitationsimposeduponitbytheConstitutioninordertoupholdindividualliberties,withoutan
acknowledgment on its part of those duties exacted by the rights pertaining to the citizens, the Bill of Rights
becomesasophistry,andliberty,theultimateillusion.

Inrecognizingthepeople'srighttobeinformed,boththe1973ConstitutionandtheNewCharterexpresslymandate
the duty of the State and its agents to afford access to official records, documents, papers and in addition,
governmentresearchdatausedasbasisforpolicydevelopment,subjecttosuchlimitationsasmaybeprovidedby
law. The guarantee has been further enhanced in the New Constitution with the adoption of a policy of full public
disclosure,thistime"subjecttoreasonableconditionsprescribedbylaw,"inArticle11,Section28thereof,towit:

Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full
publicdisclosureofallitstransactionsinvolvingpublicinterest.(Art.11,Sec.28).

IntheTanadacase,supra,theconstitutionalguaranteewasbolsteredbywhatthisCourtdeclaredasanimperative
dutyofthegovernmentofficialsconcernedtopublishallimportantlegislativeactsandresolutionsofapublicnature

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aswellasallexecutiveordersandproclamationsofgeneralapplicability.Wegrantedmandamusinsaidcase,and
intheprocess,Wefoundoccasiontoexpoundbrieflyonthenatureofsaidduty:

***ThatdutymustbeenforcediftheConstitutionalrightofthepeopletobeinformedonmattersof
public concern is to be given substance and reality. The law itself makes a list of what should be
published in the Official Gazette. Such listing, to our mind, leaves respondents with no discretion
whatsoever as to what must be in included or excluded from such publication. (Tanada v. Tuvera,
supra,at39).(Emphasissupplied).

The absence of discretion on the part of government agencia es in allowing the examination of public records,
specifically,therecordsintheOfficeoftheRegisterofDeeds,isemphasizedinSubidovs.Ozaeta,supra:

Except,perhapswhenitisclearthatthepurposeoftheexaminationisunlawful,orsheer,idlecuriosity,
we do not believe it is the duty under the law of registration officers to concern themselves with the
motives,reasons,andobjectsofthepersonseekingaccesstotherecords.Itisnottheirprerogativeto
seethattheinformationwhichtherecordscontainisnotflauntedbeforepublicgaze,orthatscandalis
not made of it. If it be wrong to publish the contents of the records, it is the legislature and not the
officialshavingcustodythereofwhichiscalledupontodevisearemedy.***(Subidov.Ozaeta,supraat
388).(Emphasissupplied).

It is clear from the foregoing pronouncements of this Court that government agencies are without discretion in
refusing disclosure of, or access to, information of public concern. This is not to lose sight of the reasonable
regulationswhichmaybeimposedbysaidagenciesincustodyofpublicrecordsonthemannerinwhichtherightto
information may be exercised by the public. In the Subido case, We recognized the authority of the Register of
Deedstoregulatethemannerinwhichpersonsdesiringtodoso,mayinspect,examineorcopyrecordsrelatingto
registeredlands.However,theregulationswhichtheRegisterofDeedsmaypromulgateareconfinedto:

***prescribingthemannerandhoursofexaminationtotheendthatdamagetoorlossof,therecords
maybeavoided,thatundueinterferencewiththedutiesofthecustodianofthebooksanddocuments
andotheremployeesmaybeprevented,thattherightofotherpersonsentitledtomakeinspectionmay
beinsured***(Subidovs.Ozaeta,80Phil.383,387)

Applying the Subido ruling by analogy, We recognized a similar authority in a municipal judge, to regulate the
mannerofinspectionbythepublicofcriminaldocketrecordsinthecaseofBaldozavs.Dimaano(Adm.MatterNo.
1120MJ, May 5, 1976, 71 SCRA 14). Said administrative case was filed against the respondent judge for his
allegedrefusaltoallowexaminationofthecriminaldocketrecordsinhissala.UponafindingbytheInvestigating
Judge that the respondent had allowed the complainant to open and view the subject records, We absolved the
respondent. In effect, We have also held that the rules and conditions imposed by him upon the manner of
examiningthepublicrecordswerereasonable.

InboththeSubidoandtheBaldozacases, We were emphatic in Our statement that the authority to regulate the
manner of examining public records does not carry with it the power to prohibit. A distinction has to be made
betweenthediscretiontorefuseoutrightthedisclosureoforaccesstoaparticularinformationandtheauthorityto
regulatethemannerinwhichtheaccessistobeafforded.Thefirstisalimitationupontheavailabilityofaccessto
the information sought, which only the Legislature may impose (Art. III, Sec. 6, 1987 Constitution). The second
pertainstothegovernmentagencychargedwiththecustodyofpublicrecords.Itsauthoritytoregulateaccessisto
beexercisedsolelytotheendthatdamageto,orlossof,publicrecordsmaybeavoided,undueinterferencewith
the duties of said agencies may be prevented, and more importantly, that the exercise of the same constitutional
rightbyotherpersonsshallbeassured(Subidovs.Ozaetalsupra).

Thus, while the manner of examining public records may be subject to reasonable regulation by the government
agency in custody thereof, the duty to disclose the information of public concern, and to afford access to public
recordscannotbediscretionaryonthepartofsaidagencies.Certainly,itsperformancecannotbemadecontingent
uponthediscretionofsuchagencies.Otherwise,theenjoymentoftheconstitutionalrightmayberenderednugatory
byanywhimsicalexerciseofagencydiscretion.Theconstitutionalduty,notbeingdiscretionary,itsperformancemay
becompelledbyawritofmandamusinapropercase.

ButwhatisapropercaseforMandamustoissue?InthecasebeforeUs,thepublicrighttobeenforcedandthe
concomitantdutyoftheStateareunequivocablysetforthintheConstitution.Thedecisivequestiononthepropriety
oftheissuanceofthewritofmandamusinthiscaseis,whethertheinformationsoughtbythepetitioneriswithinthe
ambitoftheconstitutionalguarantee.

3.TheincorporationintheConstitutionofaguaranteeofaccesstoinformationofpublicconcernisarecognitionof
the essentiality of the free flow of ideas and information in a democracy (Baldoza v. Dimaano, Adm. Matter No.
1120MJ,May5,1976,17SCRA14).Inthesamewaythatfreediscussionenablesmembersofsocietytocopewith
the exigencies of their time (Thornhill vs. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88,102 [1939]), access to information of general

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interest aids the people in democratic decisionmaking (87 Harvard Law Review 1505 [1974]) by giving them a
betterperspectiveofthevitalissuesconfrontingthenation.

Buttheconstitutionalguaranteetoinformationonmattersofpublicconcernisnotabsolute.Itdoesnotopenevery
door to any and all information. Under the Constitution, access to official records, papers, etc., are "subject to
limitations as may be provided by law" (Art. III, Sec. 7, second sentence). The law may therefore exempt certain
typesofinformationfrompublicscrutiny,suchasthoseaffectingnationalsecurity(JournalNo.90,September23,
1986, p. 10 and Journal No. 91, September 24, 1986, p. 32, 1986 Constitutional Commission). It follows that, in
every case, the availability of access to a particular public record must be circumscribed by the nature of the
informationsought,i.e.,(a)beingofpublicconcernoronethatinvolvespublicinterest,and,(b)notbeingexempted
bylawfromtheoperationoftheconstitutionalguarantee.Thethresholdquestionis,therefore,whetherornotthe
informationsoughtisofpublicinterestorpublicconcern.

a.Thisquestionisfirstaddressedtothegovernmentagencyhavingcustodyofthedesiredinformation.However,as
alreadydiscussed,thisdoesnotgivetheagencyconcernedanydiscretiontograntordenyaccess.Incaseofdenial
of access, the government agency has the burden of showing that the information requested is not of public
concern,or,ifitisofpublicconcern,thatthesamehasbeenexemptedbylawfromtheoperationoftheguarantee.
To hold otherwise will serve to dilute the constitutional right. As aptly observed, ". . . the government is in an
advantageous position to marshall and interpret arguments against release . . ." (87 Harvard Law Review 1511
[1974]).Tosafeguardtheconstitutionalright,everydenialofaccessbythegovernmentagencyconcernedissubject
toreviewbythecourts,andinthepropercase,accessmaybecompelledbyawritofMandamus.

Indeterminingwhetherornotaparticularinformationisofpublicconcernthereisnorigidtestwhichcanbeapplied.
"Publicconcern"like"publicinterest"isatermthateludesexactdefinition.Bothtermsembraceabroadspectrumof
subjectswhichthepublicmaywanttoknow,eitherbecausethesedirectlyaffecttheirlives,orsimplybecausesuch
mattersnaturallyarousetheinterestofanordinarycitizen.Inthefinalanalysis,itisforthecourtstodetermineina
casebycasebasiswhetherthematteratissueisofinterestorimportance,asitrelatestooraffectsthepublic.

ThepublicconcerninvokedinthecaseofTanadav.Tuvera,supra,wastheneedforadequatenoticetothepublic
ofthevariouslawswhicharetoregulatetheactionsandconductofcitizens.InSubidovs.Ozaeta,supra,thepublic
concern deemed covered by the statutory right was the knowledge of those real estate transactions which some
believedtohavebeenregisteredinviolationoftheConstitution.

Theinformationsoughtbythepetitionerinthiscaseisthetruthoftheclaimofcertaingovernmentemployeesthat
theyarecivilserviceeligiblesforthepositionstowhichtheywereappointed.TheConstitutionexpresslydeclaresas
aStatepolicythat:

Appointmentsinthecivilserviceshallbemadeonlyaccordingtomeritandfitnesstobedetermined,as
far as practicable, and except as to positions which are policy determining, primarily confidential or
highlytechnical,bycompetitiveexamination.(Art.IX,B,Sec.2.[2]).

Public office being a public trust, [Const. Art. XI, Sec. 1] it is the legitimate concern of citizens to ensure that
governmentpositionsrequiringcivilserviceeligibilityareoccupiedonlybypersonswhoareeligibles.Publicofficers
areatalltimesaccountabletothepeopleevenastotheireligibilitiesfortheirrespectivepositions.

b.Butthen,itisnotenoughthattheinformationsoughtisofpublicinterest.Formandamustolieinagivencase,the
informationmustnotbeamongthespeciesexemptedbylawfromtheoperationoftheconstitutionalguarantee.

Intheinstant,casewhilerefusingtoconfirmordenytheclaimsofeligibility,therespondenthasfailedtociteany
provision in the Civil Service Law which would limit the petitioner's right to know who are, and who are not, civil
serviceeligibles.Wetakejudicialnoticeofthefactthatthenamesofthosewhopassthecivilserviceexaminations,
asinbarexaminationsandlicensureexaminationsforvariousprofessions,arereleasedtothepublic.Hence,there
isnothingsecretaboutone'scivilserviceeligibility,ifactuallypossessed.Petitioner'srequestis,therefore,neither
unusual nor unreasonable. And when, as in this case, the government employees concerned claim to be civil
serviceeligibles,thepublic,throughanycitizen,hasarighttoverifytheirprofessedeligibilitiesfromtheCivilService
Commission.

Thecivilserviceeligibilityofasanitarianbeingofpublicconcern,andintheabsenceofexpresslimitationsunderthe
lawuponaccesstotheregisterofcivilserviceeligiblesforsaidposition,thedutyoftherespondentCommissionto
confirm or deny the civil service eligibility of any person occupying the position becomes imperative. Mandamus,
thereforelies.

WHEREFORE,theCivilServiceCommissionisorderedtoopenitsregisterofeligiblesforthepositionofsanitarian,
andtoconfirmordeny,thecivilserviceeligibilityofJulianSibonghanoyandMarianoAgas,forsaidpositioninthe
HealthDepartmentofCebuCity,asrequestedbythepetitionerValentinL.Legaspi.

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Teehankee,C.J.,Yap,Fernan,Narvasa,MelencioHerrera,Gutierrez,Jr.,Cruz,Paras,Gancayco,Padilla,Bidinand
Sarmiento,JJ.,concur.

Feliciano,J.,isonleave.

TheLawphilProjectArellanoLawFoundation

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