EN BANC

[G.R. No. 127685. July 23, 1998]

BLAS F. OPLE, petitioner, vs. RUBEN D. TORRES, ALEXANDER AGUIRRE, HECTOR VILLANUEVA, CIELITO HABITO, ROBERT BARBERS, CARMENCITA REODICA, CESAR SARINO, RENATO VALENCIA, TOMAS P. AFRICA, HEAD OF THE NATIONAL COMPUTER CENTER and CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMISSION ON AUDIT, respondents.

D E C I S I O N

PUNO, J.:

The petition at bar is a commendable effort on the part of Senator Blas F. Ople to prevent the shrinking of the right to privacy, which the revered Mr. Justice Brandeis considered as "the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men."[1] Petitioner Ople prays that we invalidate Administrative Order No. 308 entitled "Adoption of a National Computerized Identification Reference System" on two important constitutional grounds, viz: one, it is a usurpation of the power of Congress to legislate, and two, it impermissibly intrudes on our citizenry's protected zone of privacy. We grant the petition for the rights sought to be vindicated by the petitioner need stronger barriers against further erosion.

A.O. No. 308 was issued by President Fidel V. Ramos on December 12, 1996 and reads as follows:

"ADOPTION OF A NATIONAL COMPUTERIZED IDENTIFICATION REFERENCE SYSTEM

WHEREAS, there is a need to provide Filipino citizens and foreign residents with the facility to conveniently transact business with basic service and social security providers and other government instrumentalities;

WHEREAS, this will require a computerized system to properly and efficiently identify persons seeking basic services on social security and reduce, if not totally eradicate, fraudulent transactions and misrepresentations;

WHEREAS, a concerted and collaborative effort among the various basic services and social security providing agencies and other government instrumentalities is required to achieve such a system;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, FIDEL V. RAMOS, President of the Republic of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by law, do hereby direct the following:

SECTION 1. Establishment of a National Computerized Identification Reference System. A decentralized Identification Reference System among the key basic services and social security providers is hereby established.

SEC. 2 Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee. An Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee (IACC) to draw-up the implementing guidelines and oversee the implementation of the System is hereby created, chaired by the Executive Secretary, with the following as members:

Head, Presidential Management Staff

Secretary, National Economic Development Authority

Secretary, Department of the Interior and

Local Government

Secretary, Department of Health

Administrator, Government Service Insurance

System,

Administrator, Social Security System, Administrator, National Statistics Office Managing Director, National Computer Center.

SEC. 3. Secretariat. The National Computer Center (NCC) is hereby designated as secretariat to the IACC and as such shall provide administrative and technical support to the IACC.

SEC. 4. Linkage Among Agencies. The Population Reference Number (PRN) generated by the NSO shall serve as the common reference number to establish a linkage among concerned agencies. The IACC Secretariat shall coordinate with the different Social Security and Services Agencies to establish the standards in the use of Biometrics Technology and in computer application designs of their respective systems.

SEC. 5. Conduct of Information Dissemination Campaign. The Office of the Press Secretary, in coordination with the National Statistics Office, the GSIS and SSS as lead agencies and other concerned agencies shall undertake a massive tri-media information dissemination campaign to educate and raise public awareness on the importance and use of the PRN and the Social Security Identification Reference.

SEC. 6. Funding. The funds necessary for the implementation of the system shall be sourced from the respective budgets of the concerned agencies.

SEC. 7. Submission of Regular Reports. The NSO, GSIS and SSS shall submit regular reports to the Office of the President, through the IACC, on the status of implementation of this undertaking.

SEC. 8. Effectivity. This Administrative Order shall take effect immediately.

DONE in the City of Manila, this 12th day of December in the year of Our Lord, Nineteen Hundred and Ninety-Six.

(SGD.) FIDEL V. RAMOS"

A.O. No. 308 was published in four newspapers of general circulation on January 22, 1997 and January 23, 1997. On January 24, 1997, petitioner filed the instant petition against respondents, then Executive Secretary Ruben Torres and the heads of the government agencies, who as members of the Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee, are charged with the implementation of A.O. No. 308. On April 8, 1997, we issued a temporary restraining order enjoining its implementation.

Petitioner contends:

"A. THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A NATIONAL COMPUTERIZED IDENTIFICATION REFERENCE SYSTEM REQUIRES A LEGISLATIVE ACT. THE ISSUANCE OF A.O. NO. 308 BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES IS, THEREFORE, AN UNCONSTITUTIONAL USURPATION OF THE LEGISLATIVE POWERS OF THE CONGRESS OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES.

B. THE APPROPRIATION OF PUBLIC FUNDS BY THE PRESIDENT FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF A.O. NO. 308 IS AN UNCONSTITUTIONAL USURPATION OF THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT OF CONGRESS TO APPROPRIATE PUBLIC FUNDS FOR EXPENDITURE.

C. THE IMPLEMENTATION OF A.O. NO. 308 INSIDIOUSLY LAYS THE GROUNDWORK FOR A SYSTEM WHICH WILL VIOLATE THE BILL OF RIGHTS ENSHRINED IN THE CONSTITUTION."[2]

Respondents counter-argue:

A. THE INSTANT PETITION IS NOT A JUSTICIABLE CASE AS WOULD WARRANT A JUDICIAL REVIEW;

B. A.O. NO. 308 [1996] WAS ISSUED WITHIN THE EXECUTIVE AND ADMINISTRATIVE POWERS OF THE PRESIDENT WITHOUT ENCROACHING ON THE LEGISLATIVE POWERS OF CONGRESS;

C. THE FUNDS NECESSARY FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE IDENTIFICATION REFERENCE SYSTEM MAY BE SOURCED FROM THE BUDGETS OF THE CONCERNED AGENCIES;

D. A.O. NO. 308 [1996] PROTECTS AN INDIVIDUAL'S INTEREST IN PRIVACY.[3]

We now resolve.

I

As is usual in constitutional litigation, respondents raise the threshold issues relating to the standing to sue of the petitioner and the justiciability of the case at bar. More specifically, respondents aver that petitioner has no legal interest to uphold and that the implementing rules of A.O. No. 308 have yet to be promulgated.

These submissions do not deserve our sympathetic ear. Petitioner Ople is a distinguished member of our Senate. As a Senator, petitioner is possessed of the requisite standing to bring suit raising the issue that the issuance of A.O. No. 308 is a usurpation of legislative power.[4] As taxpayer and member of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), petitioner can also impugn the legality of the misalignment of public funds and the misuse of GSIS funds to implement A.O. No. 308.[5]

The ripeness for adjudication of the petition at bar is not affected by the fact that the implementing rules of A.O. No. 308 have yet to be promulgated. Petitioner Ople assails A.O. No. 308 as invalid per se and as infirmed on its face. His action is not premature for the rules yet to be promulgated cannot cure its fatal defects. Moreover, the respondents themselves have started the implementation of A.O. No. 308 without waiting for the rules. As early as January 19, 1997, respondent Social Security System (SSS) caused the publication of a notice to bid for the manufacture of the National Identification (ID) card.[6] Respondent Executive Secretary Torres has publicly announced that representatives from the GSIS and the SSS have completed the guidelines for the national identification system.[7] All signals from the respondents show their unswerving will to implement A.O. No. 308 and we need not wait for the formality of the rules to pass judgment on its constitutionality. In this light, the dissenters insistence that we tighten the rule on standing is not a commendable stance as its result would be to throttle an important constitutional principle and a fundamental right.

II

We now come to the core issues. Petitioner claims that A.O. No. 308 is not a mere administrative order but a law and hence, beyond the power of the President to issue. He alleges that A.O. No. 308 establishes a system of identification that is all-encompassing in scope, affects the life and liberty of every Filipino citizen and foreign resident, and more particularly, violates their right to privacy.

Petitioner's sedulous concern for the Executive not to trespass on the lawmaking domain of Congress is understandable. The blurring of the demarcation line between the power of the Legislature to make laws and the power of the Executive to execute laws will disturb their delicate balance of power and cannot be allowed. Hence, the exercise by one branch of government of power belonging to another will be given a stricter scrutiny by this Court.

The line that delineates Legislative and Executive power is not indistinct. Legislative power is "the authority, under the Constitution, to make laws, and to alter and repeal them."[8] The Constitution, as the will of the people in their original, sovereign and unlimited capacity, has vested this power in the Congress of the Philippines.[9] The grant of legislative power to Congress is broad, general and comprehensive.[10] The legislative body possesses plenary power for all purposes of civil government.[11] Any power, deemed to be legislative by usage and tradition, is necessarily possessed by Congress, unless the Constitution has lodged it elsewhere.[12] In fine, except as limited by the Constitution, either expressly or impliedly, legislative power embraces all subjects and extends to matters of general concern or common interest.[13]

While Congress is vested with the power to enact laws, the President executes the laws.[14] The executive power is vested in the President.[15] It is generally defined as the power to enforce and administer the laws.[16] It is the power of carrying the laws into practical operation and enforcing their due observance.[17]

As head of the Executive Department, the President is the Chief Executive. He represents the government as a whole and sees to it that all laws are enforced by the officials and employees of his department.[18] He has control over the executive department, bureaus and offices. This means that he has the authority to assume directly the functions of the executive department, bureau and office, or interfere with the discretion of its officials.[19] Corollary to the power of control, the President also has the duty of supervising the enforcement of laws for the maintenance of general peace and public order. Thus, he is granted administrative power over bureaus and offices under his control to enable him to discharge his duties effectively.[20]

Administrative power is concerned with the work of applying policies and enforcing orders as determined by proper governmental organs.[21] It enables the President to fix a uniform standard of administrative efficiency and check the official conduct of his agents.[22] To this end, he can issue administrative orders, rules and regulations.

Prescinding from these precepts, we hold that A.O. No. 308 involves a subject that is not appropriate to be covered by an administrative order. An administrative order is:

"Sec. 3. Administrative Orders.-- Acts of the President which relate to particular aspects of governmental operation in pursuance of his duties as administrative head shall be promulgated in administrative orders."[23]

An administrative order is an ordinance issued by the President which relates to specific aspects in the administrative operation of government. It must be in harmony with the law and should be for the sole purpose of implementing the law and carrying out the legislative policy.[24] We reject the argument that A.O. No. 308 implements the legislative policy of the Administrative Code of 1987. The Code is a general law and "incorporates in a unified document the major structural, functional and procedural principles of governance"[25] and "embodies changes in administrative structures and procedures designed to serve the people."[26] The Code is divided into seven (7) Books: Book I deals with Sovereignty and General Administration, Book II with the Distribution of Powers of the three branches of Government, Book III on the Office of the President, Book IV on the Executive Branch, Book V on the Constitutional Commissions, Book VI on National Government Budgeting, and Book VII on Administrative Procedure. These Books contain provisions on the organization, powers and general administration of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, the organization and administration of departments, bureaus and offices under the executive branch, the organization and functions of the Constitutional Commissions and other constitutional bodies, the rules on the national government budget, as well as guidelines for the exercise by administrative agencies of quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial powers. The Code covers both the internal administration of government, i.e, internal organization, personnel and recruitment, supervision and discipline, and the effects of the functions performed by administrative officials on private individuals or parties outside government.[27]

It cannot be simplistically argued that A.O. No. 308 merely implements the Administrative Code of 1987. It establishes for the first time a National Computerized Identification Reference System. Such a System requires a delicate adjustment of various contending state policies-- the primacy of national security, the extent of privacy interest against dossier-gathering by government, the choice of policies, etc. Indeed, the dissent of Mr. Justice Mendoza states that the A.O. No. 308 involves the all-important freedom of thought. As said administrative order redefines the parameters of some basic rights of our citizenry vis-a-vis the State as well as the line that separates the administrative power of the President to make rules and the legislative power of Congress, it ought to be evident that it deals with a subject that should be covered by law.

Nor is it correct to argue as the dissenters do that A.O. No. 308 is not a law because it confers no right, imposes no duty, affords no protection, and creates no office. Under A.O. No. 308, a citizen cannot transact business with government agencies delivering basic services to the people without the contemplated identification card. No citizen will refuse to get this identification card for no one can avoid dealing with government. It is thus clear as daylight that without the ID, a citizen will have difficulty exercising his rights and enjoying his privileges. Given this reality, the contention that A.O. No. 308 gives no right and imposes no duty cannot stand.

Again, with due respect, the dissenting opinions unduly expand the limits of administrative legislation and consequently erodes the plenary power of Congress to make laws. This is contrary to the established approach defining the traditional limits of administrative legislation. As well stated by Fisher: "x x x Many regulations however, bear directly on the public. It is here that administrative legislation must be restricted in its scope and application. Regulations are not supposed to be a substitute for the general policy-making that Congress enacts in the form of a public law. Although administrative regulations are entitled to respect, the authority to prescribe rules and regulations is not an independent source of power to make laws."[28]

III

Assuming, arguendo, that A.O. No. 308 need not be the subject of a law, still it cannot pass constitutional muster as an administrative legislation because facially it violates the right to privacy. The essence of privacy is the "right to be let alone."[29] In the 1965 case of Griswold v. Connecticut,[30] the United States Supreme Court gave more substance to the right of privacy when it ruled that the right has a constitutional foundation. It held that there is a right of privacy which can be found within the penumbras of the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth Amendments,[31] viz:

"Specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras formed by emanations from these guarantees that help give them life and substance x x x. Various guarantees create zones of privacy. The right of association contained in the penumbra of the First Amendment is one, as we have seen. The Third Amendment in its prohibition against the quartering of soldiers `in any house' in time of peace without the consent of the owner is another facet of that privacy. The Fourth Amendment explicitly affirms the `right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.' The Fifth Amendment in its Self-Incrimination Clause enables the citizen to create a zone of privacy which government may not force him to surrender to his detriment. The Ninth Amendment provides: `The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.'"

In the 1968 case of Morfe v. Mutuc,[32] we adopted the Griswold ruling that there is a constitutional right to privacy. Speaking thru Mr. Justice, later Chief Justice, Enrique Fernando, we held:

"xxx

The Griswold case invalidated a Connecticut statute which made the use of contraceptives a criminal offense on the ground of its amounting to an unconstitutional invasion of the right of privacy of married persons; rightfully it stressed "a relationship lying within the zone of privacy created by several fundamental constitutional guarantees." It has wider implications though. The constitutional right to privacy has come into its own.

So it is likewise in our jurisdiction. The right to privacy as such is accorded recognition independently of its identification with liberty; in itself, it is fully deserving of constitutional protection. The language of Prof. Emerson is particularly apt: 'The concept of limited government has always included the idea that governmental powers stop short of certain intrusions into the personal life of the citizen. This is indeed one of the basic distinctions between absolute and limited government. Ultimate and pervasive control of the individual, in all aspects of his life, is the hallmark of the absolute state. In contrast, a system of limited government safeguards a private sector, which belongs to the individual, firmly distinguishing it from the public sector, which the state can control. Protection of this private sector-- protection, in other words, of the dignity and integrity of the individual--has become increasingly important as modern society has developed. All the forces of a technological age --industrialization, urbanization, and organization-- operate to narrow the area of privacy and facilitate intrusion into it. In modern terms, the capacity to maintain and support this enclave of private life marks the difference between a democratic and a totalitarian society.'"

Indeed, if we extend our judicial gaze we will find that the right of privacy is recognized and enshrined in several provisions of our Constitution.[33] It is expressly recognized in Section 3(1) of the Bill of Rights:

"Sec. 3. (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."

Other facets of the right to privacy are protected in various provisions of the Bill of Rights, viz:[34]

"Sec. 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.

Sec. 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

x x x.

Sec. 6. The liberty of abode and of changing the same within the limits prescribed by law shall not be impaired except upon lawful order of the court. Neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law.

x x x.

Sec. 8. The right of the people, including those employed in the public and private sectors, to form unions, associations, or societies for purposes not contrary to law shall not be abridged.

Sec. 17. No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself."

Zones of privacy are likewise recognized and protected in our laws. The Civil Code provides that "[e]very person shall respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons" and punishes as actionable torts several acts by a person of meddling and prying into the privacy of another.[35] It also holds a public officer or employee or any private individual liable for damages for any violation of the rights and liberties of another person,[36] and recognizes the privacy of letters and other private communications.[37] The Revised Penal Code makes a crime the violation of secrets by an officer,[38] the revelation of trade and industrial secrets,[39] and trespass to dwelling.[40] Invasion of privacy is an offense in special laws like the Anti-Wiretapping Law,[41] the Secrecy of Bank Deposit Act[42] and the Intellectual Property Code.[43] The Rules of Court on privileged communication likewise recognize the privacy of certain information.[44]

Unlike the dissenters, we prescind from the premise that the right to privacy is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution, hence, it is the burden of government to show that A.O. No. 308 is justified by some compelling state interest and that it is narrowly drawn. A.O. No. 308 is predicated on two considerations: (1) the need to provide our citizens and foreigners with the facility to conveniently transact business with basic service and social security providers and other government instrumentalities and (2) the need to reduce, if not totally eradicate, fraudulent transactions and misrepresentations by persons seeking basic services. It is debatable whether these interests are compelling enough to warrant the issuance of A.O. No. 308. But what is not arguable is the broadness, the vagueness, the overbreadth of A.O. No. 308 which if implemented will put our people's right to privacy in clear and present danger.

The heart of A.O. No. 308 lies in its Section 4 which provides for a Population Reference Number (PRN) as a "common reference number to establish a linkage among concerned agencies" through the use of "Biometrics Technology" and "computer application designs."

Biometry or biometrics is "the science of the application of statistical methods to biological facts; a mathematical analysis of biological data."[45] The term "biometrics" has now evolved into a broad category of technologies which provide precise confirmation of an individual's identity through the use of the individual's own physiological and behavioral characteristics.[46] A physiological characteristic is a relatively stable physical characteristic such as a fingerprint, retinal scan, hand geometry or facial features. A behavioral characteristic is influenced by the individual's personality and includes voice print, signature and keystroke.[47] Most biometric identification systems use a card or personal identification number (PIN) for initial identification. The biometric measurement is used to verify that the individual holding the card or entering the PIN is the legitimate owner of the card or PIN.[48]

A most common form of biological encoding is finger-scanning where technology scans a fingertip and turns the unique pattern therein into an individual number which is called a biocrypt. The biocrypt is stored in computer data banks[49] and becomes a means of identifying an individual using a service. This technology requires one's fingertip to be scanned every time service or access is provided.[50] Another method is the retinal scan. Retinal scan technology employs optical technology to map the capillary pattern of the retina of the eye. This technology produces a unique print similar to a finger print.[51] Another biometric method is known as the "artificial nose." This device chemically analyzes the unique combination of substances excreted from the skin of people.[52] The latest on the list of biometric achievements is the thermogram. Scientists have found that by taking pictures of a face using infra-red cameras, a unique heat distribution pattern is seen. The different densities of bone, skin, fat and blood vessels all contribute to the individual's personal "heat signature."[53]

In the last few decades, technology has progressed at a galloping rate. Some science fictions are now science facts. Today, biometrics is no longer limited to the use of fingerprint to identify an individual. It is a new science that uses various technologies in encoding any and all biological characteristics of an individual for identification. It is noteworthy that A.O. No. 308 does not state what specific biological characteristics and what particular biometrics technology shall be used to identify people who will seek its coverage. Considering the banquet of options available to the implementors of A.O. No. 308, the fear that it threatens the right to privacy of our people is not groundless.

A.O. No. 308 should also raise our antennas for a further look will show that it does not state whether encoding of data is limited to biological information alone for identification purposes. In fact, the Solicitor General claims that the adoption of the Identification Reference System will contribute to the "generation of population data for development planning."[54] This is an admission that the PRN will not be used solely for identification but for the generation of other data with remote relation to the avowed purposes of A.O. No. 308. Clearly, the indefiniteness of A.O. No. 308 can give the government the roving authority to store and retrieve information for a purpose other than the identification of the individual through his PRN.

The potential for misuse of the data to be gathered under A.O. No. 308 cannot be underplayed as the dissenters do. Pursuant to said administrative order, an individual must present his PRN everytime he deals with a government agency to avail of basic services and security. His transactions with the government agency will necessarily be recorded-- whether it be in the computer or in the documentary file of the agency. The individual's file may include his transactions for loan availments, income tax returns, statement of assets and liabilities, reimbursements for medication, hospitalization, etc. The more frequent the use of the PRN, the better the chance of building a huge and formidable information base through the electronic linkage of the files.[55] The data may be gathered for gainful and useful government purposes; but the existence of this vast reservoir of personal information constitutes a covert invitation to misuse, a temptation that may be too great for some of our authorities to resist.[56]

We can even grant, arguendo, that the computer data file will be limited to the name, address and other basic personal information about the individual.[57] Even that hospitable assumption will not save A.O. No. 308 from constitutional infirmity for again said order does not tell us in clear and categorical terms how these information gathered shall be handled. It does not provide who shall control and access the data, under what circumstances and for what purpose. These factors are essential to safeguard the privacy and guaranty the integrity of the information.[58] Well to note, the computer linkage gives other government agencies access to the information. Yet, there are no controls to guard against leakage of information. When the access code of the control programs of the particular computer system is broken, an intruder, without fear of sanction or penalty, can make use of the data for whatever purpose, or worse, manipulate the data stored within the system.[59]

It is plain and we hold that A.O. No. 308 falls short of assuring that personal information which will be gathered about our people will only be processed for unequivocally specified purposes.[60] The lack of proper safeguards in this regard of A.O. No. 308 may interfere with the individual's liberty of abode and travel by enabling authorities to track down his movement; it may also enable unscrupulous persons to access confidential information and circumvent the right against self-incrimination; it may pave the way for "fishing expeditions" by government authorities and evade the right against unreasonable searches and seizures.[61] The possibilities of abuse and misuse of the PRN, biometrics and computer technology are accentuated when we consider that the individual lacks control over what can be read or placed on his ID, much less verify the correctness of the data encoded.[62] They threaten the very abuses that the Bill of Rights seeks to prevent.[63]

The ability of a sophisticated data center to generate a comprehensive cradle-to-grave dossier on an individual and transmit it over a national network is one of the most graphic threats of the computer revolution.[64] The computer is capable of producing a comprehensive dossier on individuals out of information given at different times and for varied purposes.[65] It can continue adding to the stored data and keeping the information up to date. Retrieval of stored data is simple. When information of a privileged character finds its way into the computer, it can be extracted together with other data on the subject.[66] Once extracted, the information is putty in the hands of any person. The end of privacy begins.

Though A.O. No. 308 is undoubtedly not narrowly drawn, the dissenting opinions would dismiss its danger to the right to privacy as speculative and hypothetical. Again, we cannot countenance such a laidback posture. The Court will not be true to its role as the ultimate guardian of the people's liberty if it would not immediately smother the sparks that endanger their rights but would rather wait for the fire that could consume them.

We reject the argument of the Solicitor General that an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to the National ID and the use of biometrics technology as it stands on quicksand. The reasonableness of a person's expectation of privacy depends on a two-part test: (1) whether by his conduct, the individual has exhibited an expectation of privacy; and (2) whether this expectation is one that society recognizes as reasonable.[67] The factual circumstances of the case determines the reasonableness of the expectation.[68] However, other factors, such as customs, physical surroundings and practices of a particular activity, may serve to create or diminish this expectation.[69] The use of biometrics and computer technology in A.O. No. 308 does not assure the individual of a reasonable expectation of privacy.[70] As technology advances, the level of reasonably expected privacy decreases.[71] The measure of protection granted by the reasonable expectation diminishes as relevant technology becomes more widely accepted.[72] The security of the computer data file depends not only on the physical inaccessibility of the file but also on the advances in hardware and software computer technology. A.O. No. 308 is so widely drawn that a minimum standard for a reasonable expectation of privacy, regardless of technology used, cannot be inferred from its provisions.

The rules and regulations to be drawn by the IACC cannot remedy this fatal defect. Rules and regulations merely implement the policy of the law or order. On its face, A.O. No. 308 gives the IACC virtually unfettered discretion to determine the metes and bounds of the ID System.

Nor do our present laws provide adequate safeguards for a reasonable expectation of privacy. Commonwealth Act No. 591 penalizes the disclosure by any person of data furnished by the individual to the NSO with imprisonment and fine.[73] Republic Act No. 1161 prohibits public disclosure of SSS employment records and reports.[74] These laws, however, apply to records and data with the NSO and the SSS. It is not clear whether they may be applied to data with the other government agencies forming part of the National ID System. The need to clarify the penal aspect of A.O. No. 308 is another reason why its enactment should be given to Congress.

Next, the Solicitor General urges us to validate A.O. No. 308's abridgment of the right of privacy by using the rational relationship test.[75] He stressed that the purposes of A.O. No. 308 are: (1) to streamline and speed up the implementation of basic government services, (2) eradicate fraud by avoiding duplication of services, and (3) generate population data for development planning. He concludes that these purposes justify the incursions into the right to privacy for the means are rationally related to the end.[76]

We are not impressed by the argument. In Morfe v. Mutuc,[77] we upheld the constitutionality of R.A. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, as a valid police power measure. We declared that the law, in compelling a public officer to make an annual report disclosing his assets and liabilities, his sources of income and expenses, did not infringe on the individual's right to privacy. The law was enacted to promote morality in public administration by curtailing and minimizing the opportunities for official corruption and maintaining a standard of honesty in the public service.[78]

The same circumstances do not obtain in the case at bar. For one, R.A. 3019 is a statute, not an administrative order. Secondly, R.A. 3019 itself is sufficiently detailed. The law is clear on what practices were prohibited and penalized, and it was narrowly drawn to avoid abuses. In the case at bar, A.O. No. 308 may have been impelled by a worthy purpose, but, it cannot pass constitutional scrutiny for it is not narrowly drawn. And we now hold that when the integrity of a fundamental right is at stake, this court will give the challenged law, administrative order, rule or regulation a stricter scrutiny. It will not do for the authorities to invoke the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties. Nor is it enough for the authorities to prove that their act is not irrational for a basic right can be diminished, if not defeated, even when the government does not act irrationally. They must satisfactorily show the presence of compelling state interests and that the law, rule, or regulation is narrowly drawn to preclude abuses. This approach is demanded by the 1987 Constitution whose entire matrix is designed to protect human rights and to prevent authoritarianism. In case of doubt, the least we can do is to lean towards the stance that will not put in danger the rights protected by the Constitution.

The case of Whalen v. Roe[79] cited by the Solicitor General is also off-line. In Whalen, the United States Supreme Court was presented with the question of whether the State of New York could keep a centralized computer record of the names and addresses of all persons who obtained certain drugs pursuant to a doctor's prescription. The New York State Controlled Substances Act of 1972 required physicians to identify patients obtaining prescription drugs enumerated in the statute, i.e., drugs with a recognized medical use but with a potential for abuse, so that the names and addresses of the patients can be recorded in a centralized computer file of the State Department of Health. The plaintiffs, who were patients and doctors, claimed that some people might decline necessary medication because of their fear that the computerized data may be readily available and open to public disclosure; and that once disclosed, it may stigmatize them as drug addicts.[80] The plaintiffs alleged that the statute invaded a constitutionally protected zone of privacy, i.e, the individual interest in avoiding disclosure of personal matters, and the interest in independence in making certain kinds of important decisions. The U.S. Supreme Court held that while an individual's interest in avoiding disclosure of personal matters is an aspect of the right to privacy, the statute did not pose a grievous threat to establish a constitutional violation. The Court found that the statute was necessary to aid in the enforcement of laws designed to minimize the misuse of dangerous drugs. The patient-identification requirement was a product of an orderly and rational legislative decision made upon recommendation by a specially appointed commission which held extensive hearings on the matter. Moreover, the statute was narrowly drawn and contained numerous safeguards against indiscriminate disclosure. The statute laid down the procedure and requirements for the gathering, storage and retrieval of the information. It enumerated who were authorized to access the data. It also prohibited public disclosure of the data by imposing penalties for its violation. In view of these safeguards, the infringement of the patients' right to privacy was justified by a valid exercise of police power. As we discussed above, A.O. No. 308 lacks these vital safeguards.

Even while we strike down A.O. No. 308, we spell out in neon that the Court is not per se against the use of computers to accumulate, store, process, retrieve and transmit data to improve our bureaucracy. Computers work wonders to achieve the efficiency which both government and private industry seek. Many information systems in different countries make use of the computer to facilitate important social objectives, such as better law enforcement, faster delivery of public services, more efficient management of credit and insurance programs, improvement of telecommunications and streamlining of financial activities.[81] Used wisely, data stored in the computer could help good administration by making accurate and comprehensive information for those who have to frame policy and make key decisions.[82] The benefits of the computer has revolutionized information technology. It developed the internet,[83] introduced the concept of cyberspace[84] and the information superhighway where the individual, armed only with his personal computer, may surf and search all kinds and classes of information from libraries and databases connected to the net.

In no uncertain terms, we also underscore that the right to privacy does not bar all incursions into individual privacy. The right is not intended to stifle scientific and technological advancements that enhance public service and the common good. It merely requires that the law be narrowly focused[85] and a compelling interest justify such intrusions.[86] Intrusions into the right must be accompanied by proper safeguards and well-defined standards to prevent unconstitutional invasions. We reiterate that any law or order that invades individual privacy will be subjected by this Court to strict scrutiny. The reason for this stance was laid down in Morfe v. Mutuc, to wit:

"The concept of limited government has always included the idea that governmental powers stop short of certain intrusions into the personal life of the citizen. This is indeed one of the basic distinctions between absolute and limited government. Ultimate and pervasive control of the individual, in all aspects of his life, is the hallmark of the absolute state. In contrast, a system of limited government safeguards a private sector, which belongs to the individual, firmly distinguishing it from the public sector, which the state can control. Protection of this private sector-- protection, in other words, of the dignity and integrity of the individual-- has become increasingly important as modern society has developed. All the forces of a technological age-- industrialization, urbanization, and organization-- operate to narrow the area of privacy and facilitate intrusion into it. In modern terms, the capacity to maintain and support this enclave of private life marks the difference between a democratic and a totalitarian society."[87]

IV

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.[88] 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 will 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."[89] 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 Administrative Order No. 308 entitled "Adoption of a National Computerized Identification Reference System" declared null and void for being unconstitutional.

SO ORDERED.

 

Narvasa, C.J., Melo, and Quisumbing, JJ., joins J. Kapunan and J. Mendoza in their dissents.

Regalado, J., in the result.

Davide, Jr., in the result; joins J. Panganiban in his separate opinion.

Romero, Vitug and Panganiban, JJ., see separate opinion.

Kapunan, and Mendoza, JJ., see dissenting opinion.

Bellosillo, and Martinez, JJ., concur.

Purisima, J., joins J. Mendozas dissent.



[1] Dissenting Opinion of Justice Brandeis in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 478 [1928].

[2] Petition, p. 9, Rollo, p. 11.

[3] Comment, pp. 6, 9, 14, 15, Rollo, pp. 65, 68, 73-74.

[4] Philconsa v. Enriquez, 235 SCRA 506 [1994]; Guingona v. PCGG, 207 SCRA 659 [1992]; Tolentino v. Commission on Elections, 41 SCRA 702 [1971].

[5] Sanidad v. Commission on Elections, 73 SCRA 333 [1976]; Pascual v. Secretary of Public Works, 110 Phil. 331 [1960].

[6] "Invitation to Bid," Annex "E" to the Petition, Rollo, p. 50.

[7] Annex "B" to Petitioner's Reply, Rollo, p. 144.

[8] Government of the Philippine Islands v. Springer, 50 Phil. 259, 276 [1927].

[9] Section 1, Article VI, 1987 Constitution

[10] Fernando, The Philippine Constitution, pp. 175-176 [1974].

[11] Id., at 177; citing the concurring opinion of Justice Laurel in Schneckenburger v. Moran, 63 Phil. 249, 266 [1936].

[12] Vera v. Avelino, 77 Phil. 192, 212 [1936].

[13] See concurring opinion of Justice Laurel in Schneckenburger v. Moran, supra, at 266-267.

[14] Government of the Philippine Islands v. Springer, 50 Phil. 259, 305 [1927].

[15] Section 1, Article VII, 1987 Constitution.

[16] Cruz, Philippine Political Law, p. 173 [1996].

[17] Tanada and Carreon, Political Law of the Philippines, vol. 1, p. 275 [1961].

[18] Section 17, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution provides:

"Sec. 17. The President shall have control of all the executive departments, bureaus and offices. He shall ensure that the laws be faithfully executed."

[19] Pelaez v. Auditor General, 15 SCRA 569, 583 [1965].

[20] Sinco, Philippine Political Law, pp. 234-235 [1962].

[21] Id., at 234.

[22] Id., at 235.

[23] Section 3, Chapter 2, Title I, Book III, Administrative Code of 1987.

[24] Cruz, Philippine Administrative Law, p.18 (1991).

[25] Third Whereas Clause, Administrative Code of 1987.

[26] Fourth Whereas Clause, Administrative Code of 1987.

[27] See Cortes, Philippine Administrative Law, pp. 2-5 [1984].

[28] Fisher, Constitutional Conflicts Between Congress and the President, 4th ed., pp. 106-107.

[29] Cooley on Torts, Sec. 135, vol. 1, 4th ed., [1932]; see also Warren and Brandeis, "The Right to Privacy," 4 Harvard Law Review 193-220 [1890] - this article greatly influenced the enactment of privacy statutes in the United States (Cortes, I., The Constitutional Foundations of Privacy, p. 15 [1970]).

[30] 381 U.S. 479, 14 L. ed. 2d 510 [1965].

[31] AMENDMENT I [1791]

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

AMENDMENT III [1791]

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

AMENDMENT IV [1791]

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

AMENDMENT V [1791]

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

x x x

AMENDMENT IX [1791]

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

[32] 22 SCRA 424, 444-445.

[33] Morfe v. Mutuc, 22 SCRA 424, 444 [1968]; Cortes, The Constitutional Foundations of Privacy, p. 18 [1970].

[34] Cortes, The Constitutional Foundations of Privacy, p. 18 [1970].

[35] Article 26 of the Civil Code provides:

"Art. 26. Every person shall respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons. The following and similar acts, though they may not constitute a criminal offense, shall produce a cause of action for damages, prevention and other relief:

(1) Prying into the privacy of another's residence;

(2) Meddling with or disturbing the private life or family relations of another;

(3) Intriguing to cause another to be alienated from his friends;

(4) Vexing or humiliating another on account of his religious beliefs, lowly station in life, place of birth, physical defect, or other personal condition."

[36] Article 32, Civil Code.

[37] Article 723, Civil Code.

[38] Article 229, Revised Penal Code.

[39] Articles 290-292, Revised Penal Code.

[40] Article 280, Revised Penal Code.

[41] R.A. 4200.

[42] R.A. 1405.

[43] R.A. 8293.

[44] Section 24, Rule 130 [C], Revised Rules on Evidence.

[45] "Biometry," Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 24th ed. [1965]. "Biometry" or "biometrics" is literally, the measurement of living things; but it is generally used to mean the application of mathematics to biology. The term is now largely obsolete as a biological science since mathematical or statistical work is an integral part of most biological disciplines (The Dictionary of Science [1993]).

[46]"Biometric Identification," http://www.afmc.wpafb.af. mil/=organizations/HQ-AFMC/LG/LSO/LOA/bio.html; see also "Biometrics Explained- Section-1," http://www.ncsa.com/services/consortia/cbdc/sec1.html.

[47] Id.

[48] Id.

[49] Or in microchips of smart cards and magnetic strips of bank cards.

[50] "Privacy at Risk, Finger-scanning for Ideology and Profit" [1998], file:///DI/commentary.html

[51] "Biometric Identification," http://www.afmc.wpafb.af.mil/organizations/HQ-AFMC/LG/LSO/LOA/bio.html

[52] "The Libertarian Library: Facing Up to Biometrics," The Mouse Monitor, The International Journal of Bureau-Rat Control [1998], http://www.cyberhaven.com/libertarian/biomet.html.

[53] Id. The thermogram is so accurate that it can tell identical twins apart and cannot be fooled by cosmetic surgery or disguises, including facial hair.

[54] "An updated national population register will provide a suitable base for all types of planning and programming of government facilities and services" (Memorandum of the Solicitor General, p. 20, Rollo, p. 210).

[55] Simitis, "Reviewing Privacy in an Information Society," University of Pennsylvania Law Review, vol. 135: 707, 717 [March 1985].

[56] Sloan, I. Law of Privacy Rights in a Technological Society, p. 6 [1986].

[57] Respondent GSIS, through counsel, claims that the basic information shall be limited to the individual's full name, place of birth, date of birth, photograph, signature and thumbmark (Comment of Respondent GSIS, p. 6, Rollo, p. 101).

[58] Otani, K. "Information Security in the Network Age," 70 Philippine Law Journal, 1, 9 [1995].

[59] Cortes, I., The Constitutional Foundations of Privacy, p. 12 (1970).

[60] Simitis, "Reviewing Privacy in an Information Society," University of Pennsylvania Law Review, vol. 135: 707, 740 [March 1987].

[61] Ibid., p. 718.

[62] The right to control the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of data about oneself is called "informational privacy" (Hancock, G., "California's Privacy Act: Controlling Government's Use of Information? 32 Stanford Law Review no. 5, p. 1001 [May 1980]. The right to make personal decisions or conduct personal activities without intrusion, observation or interference is called "autonomy privacy" (Hill v. NCAA, 865 P. 2d 633, 652-654 [Cal. 1994].

[63] Hosch, "The Interest in Limiting the Disclosure of Personal Information: A Constitutional Analysis," Vanderbilt Law Review vol. 36: 139, 142 [Jan. 1983].

[64] Miller, "Personal Privacy in the Computer Age, The Challenge of a New Technology in an Information-Oriented Society," 67 Michigan Law Review 1091, 1119 [1969]; see also Cortes, supra, at 13.

[65] Cortes, I. The Constitutional Foundation Foundation of Privacy, p.12 [1970].

[66] Id.

[67] Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 143-144 [1978]; see the decision and Justice Harlan's concurring opinion in Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 353, 361, 19 L. ed. 2d 576, 583, 587-589 [1967]; see also Southard, "Individual Privacy and Governmental Efficiency: Technology's Effect on the Government's Ability to Gather, Store, and Distribute Information" (Computer/Law Journal, vol. IX, pp. 359, 367, note 63 [1989]).

[68] Kennedy, "Note: Emasculating a State's Constitutional Right to Privacy: The California Supreme Court's Decision in Hill v. NCAA," Temple Law Review, vol. 68: 1497, 1517 [1995].

[69] Id.

[70] Southard, supra, at 369.

[71] Id; see also Laurence H. Tribe, "The Constitution in Cyberspace: Law and Liberty Beyond the Electronic Frontier," Keynote Address at the First Conference on Computers, Freedom and Privacy, at Jim Warren & Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility [1991].

[72] As one author has observed, previously, one could take steps to ensure an expectation of privacy in a private place, e.g., locking of doors and closing of curtains. Because advances in surveillance technology have made these precautions meaningless, the expectation of the privacy they offer is no longer justifiable and reasonable-- Southard, supra, at 369.

[73] Section 4, Commonwealth Act No. 591 [1940].

[74] Sections 24 [c] and 28 [e], R.A. 1161, as amended.

[75] Citing Morfe v. Mutuc, 22 SCRA 424, 445 [1968].

[76] Comment of the Solicitor General, p. 16, Rollo, p. 75.

[77] Op. cit., note 76.

[78] Id., at 435.

[79] 429 U.S. 589, 51 L ed. 2d 64 [1977].

[80] Some of the patients were children whose parents feared would be stigmatized by the State's central filing system.

[81] Sloan, Law of Privacy Rights in a Technological Society, p. 4 [1986].

[82] Southard, "Individual Privacy and Governmental Efficiency: Technology's Effect on the Government's Ability to Gather, Store, and Distribute Information," IX Computer/Law Journal 359, 360 [1989].

[83] The Internet is a decentralized network interconnected by the TCP/IP protocol. The Net was started as a military network ARPANET in 1969 by the US Department of Defense for the purpose of networking main frame computers to prepare against missile weapons. It opened to public research organizations and universities in 1983 and has been interconnected with commercial networks since 1990 (Kazuko Otani, "Information Security in the Network Age," Philippine Law Journal, vol. 70: 1, 2 [1995]).

[84] Cyberspace is a place located in no particular geographical location but available to anyone, anywhere in the world, with access to the internet (Darrel Menthe, "Jurisdiction in Cyberspace: A Theory of International Spaces 4 Mich. Tel. Tech. L. Rev. 3 (April 23, 1998), <http://www. law.umich.edu/ mttlr/volfour/menthe.html>.

[85] Southard, supra, at 361-362

[86] Id; White v. Davis, 533 P. 2d 222 [Cal. 1975]; City of Sta. Barbara v. Adamson, 610 P. 2d 436 [Cal. 1980]. In his concurring opinion in Whalen v. Roe, Justice Brennan stated that a statute that deprives an individual of his privacy is not unconstitutional only if it was necessary to promote a compelling state interest (429 U.S. 589, 606-607, 51 L. ed. 2d 64, 77- 78).

[87] Morfe v. Mutuc, supra, at 444-445 citing Emerson, "Nine Justices in Search of a Doctrine," 64 Michigan Law Review 219, 229 [1965].

[88] See Shils, "Privacy: Its Constitution and Vicissitudes," Law and Contemporary Problems, vol. 31, pp. 301-303 [1966].

[89] Harry Kalvin, Jr., "The Problems of Privacy in the Year 2000," Daedalus, vol. 96, pp. 876-879 [1967].