Photos, messages on social media admissible as evidence – SC
MANILA, Philippines — Photos and messages posted by private individuals on social media accounts are allowed to be presented as evidence in court, according to a recent Supreme Court ruling.
This means a respondent of a case cannot invoke his constitutional right to privacy if the photographs and messages from his social media are presented as evidence obtained by private individuals — not by government law enforcers.
This was stated by the high court in a 31-page decision penned by Justice Jhosep Lopez, affirming the conviction of a petitioner, Christian Cadajas, for violation of the Anti-Child Pornography Act.
In the decision, the SC rejected the petition that the chat thread presented as evidence against him “should be excluded since the same was obtained in violation of his right to privacy.”
The chat thread that Cadajas, a 24-year-old, was referring to was the one between him and 14-year-old girl he had a relationship with through Facebook Messenger.
“In 2016, petitioner, then 24 years old, started a romantic relationship with AAA, a 14-year-old girl. AAA, using her mother’s cellphone, BBB, would converse with petitioner on Facebook Messenger. In one of their conversations, petitioner coaxed AAA to send photos of her private parts, to which AAA relented. BBB later discovered this conversation when AAA forgot to log out of her Facebook account on her mother’s phone, prompting AAA to delete the messages on her account,” the decision narrated.
“However, BBB forced AAA to open the petitioner’s Facebook messenger account to get a copy of their conversation.”
According to the court, however, the Bill of Rights, “which includes the right to privacy, was intended to protect citizens from government intrusions, the right to privacy and its consequent effects on the rules on admissibility of evidence cannot be invoked against private individuals.”
“In the case of petitioner, the Facebook Messenger chat thread was not obtained through the efforts of police officers or any State agent but by AAA, a private individual who had access to the photos and conversations in the chat thread,” the decision further explained.
The court further explained that Cadajas cannot argue that the girl violated the petitioner’s privacy “since by giving AAA the password to his Facebook Messenger account, the petitioner lost a reasonable expectation of privacy over the contents of his account.”
The same goes for her mother “since by allowing another person access to his account, the petitioner made its contents available not only to AAA but to other persons AAA might show the account to, whether she be forced or not to do so.”
The court then further explained that restrictions under the Data Privacy Act were not applicable to the Cadajas “since the DPA allows the processing of personal information where it relates to the determination of criminal liability of a data subject.”
“The Court also ruled that the crime of child pornography, while defined and penalized under a special law, should be classified as mala in se, or acts which are inherently immoral and thus require proof of criminal intent by the accused, as opposed to mala prohibita, or those acts which are prohibited only because the law says so, making the intent of the accused irrelevant,” the ruling said.
“The Court held that consistent with legislative deliberations on the Anti-Child Pornography Act, it is clear that the illegal acts under the law are not mere prohibitions but serious, depraved acts,” it added.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.