THE MATTER OF THE A.M.
IN THE COLUMNS OF MR. Present:
AMADO P. MACASAET
PUBLISHED IN MALAYA PUNO, C.J.,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, and
August 8, 2008
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D E C I S I O N
REYES, R.T., J.:
FREEDOM of the press and judicial independence (kalayaan ng pamamahayag at kalayaang panghukuman) two constitutional values which unfortunately clash in this case for indirect contempt of court have to be weighed and balanced against each other.
The case stemmed from certain
articles that appeared in the Business Circuit column of Amado P. Macasaet in
Bribery in the Court
A lady justice (I have not been told whether she is from the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals) did not report for a day last week.
Her secretary received a gift-wrapped box about the size of two dozen milk cans.
Believing that the gift might be
something perishable, she opened the box.
Indeed, it was a gift estimated at
P10 million. Posthaste, the secretary informed the
magistrate about the gift. She thought
she was doing her job. The lady justice
fired her instead.
She would not have anybody catch her accepting a bribe. But she practically did.
The stupidity here is that the bribe-giver what else would we call him or her did not check whether the lady justice was in the office or not. Better still he or she could have the box full of money delivered to her home. But then her family would get to know about and ask who was the kind soul that was so liberal with money a boxful of it.
The Supreme Court cannot let this pass. A full investigation should be conducted. The magistrate who was sent the bribe should be impeached.
The gift gives proof to the pernicious rumor that the courts are dirty. This time, the lady justice is with a higher court.
The court is like a basket of apples. There a few which are rotten that makes the whole basket rotten.
The names and reputation of highly-respected jurists must be saved from suspicions they are thieves.
Heres the clue
The Court employee who was fired by the lady jurist is a niece of another lady justice who earlier retired. The worker was inherited by the incumbent lady justice.
My problem with this report is that
while my source is definite about the employee opening a gift-wrapped box that
contained at least
P10 million, he wont confide to me the identity of
Unless the employee who was fired talks against her boss and she should as a matter of duty we will never know who this justice really is. The members of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan are all called justices.
The head of the Office of Government Corporate Counsel is also honored by being addressed as such. So is the head of the Court of Tax Appeals.
Since the employee was fired for
opening the box which she thought contained perishable goods but turned out
there was an estimated
P10 million in it, she should be loyal to her
duty of telling the truth.
That way, she would have rendered a great service to the justice system. Without her talking, every lady with the title of Justice is suspect. There are more than a dozen of them in different courts but only one was caught red-handed taking a bribe. Her name should be known so that the Supreme Court can act swiftly on a clear case of bribery.
Otherwise, this case becomes one where the pot calls the kettle black. Or is that the reason the employee would not talk, that her former boss could spill the beans on her peers?
The Bribe Giver
I learned from some lawyers that the bribe money given to a lady justice came from a Chinese-Filipino businessman who has been criminally charged.
It is funny that the delivery of five boxes of money (I said only one earlier) coincided on the day the lady justice, obviously acting as ponente, acquitted the prospect.
The secretary of the lady justice who took the bribe made five trips to the guardhouse to pick up the boxes.
Incidentally, this secretary is a namesake of her aunt, a deceased associate justice of the Supreme Court.
I dare say that if her name is Cecilia, it is entirely possible that the lady justice is a member of the Supreme Court. The late justice Cecilia Muoz-Palma is the only lady justice I know who retired and died at a ripe old age and left behind a reputation of decency and integrity.
We are coming closer and closer to the truth. The lady justice shamed her court. She should resign or be impeached.
That is the only way the soiled
reputation of the
Cecilia, please save the court
I have established the lady justices secretary who opened one of the five milk boxes containing bribe money is a niece of the late, respected and honorable Associate Justice Cecilia Muoz Palma from Batangas.
The secretary is a niece of the late justice and a namesake.
Cecilia, you have a duty to honor the memory of your aunt, who, during her stay in the court, was known for having balls.
More important than that, you have a duty to save the sagging reputation of the Supreme Court.
Cecilia, you must tell the Court en banc everything you know about the money that was sent in five boxes to your boss.
Not in retaliation for your dismissal, but for no other reason than as a duty to your country and, I must again say, to honor the memory of your late illustrious aunt, a legal luminary and staunch defender of the Constitution.
The other reason you must spill the beans is that if you do not, other lady justices are suspects. That is not fair to them.
Wrong date, same facts
On verification, I discovered that the secretary of a lady justice of the Supreme Court who was said to have accepted five milk boxes of money, was fired as early as March. Not last week as I mistakenly reported.
It turns out that Cecilia Muoz-Delis from Bicol picked up the last five boxes several times in March.
She never opened the first four boxes which she picked up from the guardhouse of the Court.
She opened the last and saw the money because the lady justice was absent on that day. Forthwith, she was fired. Cecilia, who is from Bicol, never opened any of the first four boxes delivered on various dates (I have not been told when). She picked up all of them from the Supreme Court guardhouse and left them with the lady justice. She wouldnt dare open the first four because the lady justice was in her office. She opened the fifth one because the lady justice did not report for work on that day.
Cecilia thought that the gift-wrapped box contained some perishables like food. What she found was money instead. She was fired.
Whenever a gift for lady justice comes, she would order Cecilia to pick it up from the guardhouse. So the fifth she picked up was one of those errands.
Where is Cecilia?
I cannot get any information on the present whereabouts of Cecilia. However, if the Supreme Court has intentions to investigate what I have been saying, maybe the Chief Justice himself should find out where she could be sent an invitation to appear before an investigation group in the Court.
Better still, as I said, yesterday, Cecilia should disclose everything she knows regarding the box before the Court en banc.
Farthest thing from my mind is to embarrass the lady justice whose identity I do not know up to now.
It is my conviction that the Court should investigate reports of wrongdoing by any of its peers. Justice is served that way.
The Chief Justice and the rest of the justices should not have a problem finding out who she is.
It is a simple job of asking a clerk to go to personnel department of the Court and find out who Cecilia worked for.
The succeeding two articles, however,
gave an indication that the supposed bribery happened in the Supreme
Court. Respondent Macasaet, in his
Similarly, in his
1. In (sic)
2. We have gathered
from three sources that you received a cash gift of
P10 million after
you issued the decision early September.
3. Were checking if this is accurate. Your secretary, who opened the gift-wrapped box thinking that it contained perishable items, found cash instead. It was after this incident that you removed her.
Upon receipt of the faxed letter, Mme. Justice Ynares-Santiago called for ACA Marquez, showed him the letter of Daguilan-Vitug, and requested him to tell Daguilan-Vitug that she (Mme. Justice Ynares-Santiago) had been consistent on her position in the Go case, that she never reversed herself, that she never received a cash gift, and that no secretary was terminated for opening a gift-wrapped box containing money. Accordingly, ACA Marquez went back to his office, called up Daguilan-Vitug and told her what Mme. Justice Ynares-Santiago told him.
That same evening, at around seven, Daguilan-Vitug faxed the corrected version of the earlier letter
2. We have gathered
from three sources that you received a cash gift of
P10 million in March
2007 in the midst of deliberations on the case.
3. Were checking if this is accurate. Your secretary, who opened the gift-wrapped box thinking that it contained perishable items, found cash instead. It was after this incident that you removed her in March 2007.
The following day,
From the foregoing series of
articles, respondent Macasaet has painted
a clear picture: a Chinese-Filipino businessman who was acquitted of a
crime supposedly left
P10 million in five different boxes with the
security guard at the Supreme Court guardhouse, which was picked up by Cecilia
Muoz Delis who was forthwith fired for opening one of the boxes.
Upon the request of Mme. Justice
Ynares-Santiago, the Chief Justice instructed ACA Marquez to have the 18th,
19th, 20th, and
My family and I have been suffering ever since your article came out last Tuesday, because I was being alluded to. This suffering has increased because the name of my beloved aunt x x x has been drawn into a controversy that should not have involved me or any member of my family in the first place.
And so, I ask you, Sir, to please cease from mentioning my name or any of my relatives, living or deceased, in order to promote your tabloid journalism. If your source is as reliable as you believe, I suggest you practice better judgment and journalistic responsibility by verifying your data before printing anything and affecting the lives of innocent people. If this is some kind of war you are waging against the lady justice, we do not want to be collateral damage.
In her affidavit, Delis stated that she had nothing to do with, nor did x x x have any knowledge of such alleged attempted bribery, and that she executed her affidavit to allow Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago to defend her honor, and for the purpose of correcting the erroneous information of Mr. Macasaet.
That same morning, too, despite the prior telephone conversation between ACA Marquez and Daguilan-Vitug, Newsbreak posted an on-line article written by Danguilan-Vitug herself and Aries Rufo, which was regularly updated, entitled Supreme Court Justice Suspected of Accepting Payoff (update) with the picture of Mme. Justice Ynares-Santiago
We pieced the story of the alleged bribery from accounts of various sources within and outside the Supreme Court who have requested not to be named because of their sensitive disclosures.
March this year, Ynares-Santiago fired her staff member, Cecilia Delis, supposedly
after the latter opened a gift-wrapped box delivered to their office, thinking
that it contained perishable items.
Delis, however, found wads of peso bills instead. The amount, two sources say, is estimated at
Later that morning, Mme. Justice Ynares-Santiago called ACA Marquez to her office and gave him copies of her written statement categorically deny(ing) the accusations and insinuations, all malicious and unfounded, published in Malaya and in Newsbreak; and underscoring that these are blatant lies clearly aimed at smearing and maligning my character and person, and the integrity of the Judiciary which (she has) been faithfully serving for 34 years now. Mme. Justice Ynares-Santiago also gave ACA Marquez copies of Delis letter to respondent Macasaet and her affidavit, which Delis herself had brought to Mme. Justice Ynares-Santiago earlier that morning.
In the afternoon of
evaluation of the columns Business Circuit of Amado P. Macasaet in the
WHEREFORE, Amado P. Macasaet is ORDERED to EXPLAIN why no sanction should be imposed on him for indirect contempt of court in accordance with Section 3(d), (Rule 71) of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, within five (5) days from receipt hereof. Ynares-Santiago, J., no part.
The following day,
The Committee invited respondent
Macasaet, Daguilan-Vitug, Delis, and ACA Marquez to
a preliminary meeting, in which they were requested to submit their respective
affidavits which served as their testimonies on direct examination. They were then later cross-examined on
various dates: respondent Macasaet on
According to the Committee
AMADO P. MACASAET testified on
pay-off was allegedly discovered when Cecilia Muoz-Delis (not the Lady
Justices secretary but a judicial staff officer V of the PET or Presidential
Electoral Tribunal) who is a niece and namesake of retired Supreme Court Justice
Cecilia Muoz Palma, allegedly opened the last
box (according to his column of
his own conclusion, the boxes of
money were delivered on different dates
because I dont think a bribe giver will deliver five boxes at the same time
testified that his source is not a relative of his, nor a government
employee, certainly not an employee of the judiciary, and, that he (Macasaet)
has known him for some 10 to 15 years (12-20, tsn,
in his column of
emphatically declared on the witness chair that he trusts his source with my
heart and soul and believes his word as coming straight out of the Bible
(94, 113, tsn,
the lack of confirmation and the paucity of details as to the identity of the
Lady Justice and of the High Court where she sits, Macasaet believes that the
bribery had actually taken place because I trust my source with my heart and
soul (93-94, 113, tsn,
decided to go ahead and publish the story because he thought that eventually
my effort at consistently x x x exposing the alleged bribery, one day sooner or
later somebody will come up and admit or deny (it). And I think that (was) what really happened
found out that the Lady Justice involved is Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago of
the Supreme Court, after he received a letter dated
when did the bribery happen? The date
was never made certain, for in his first column of
the next day,
when he returned to the witness chair on
The following statements in Macasaets columns appear to the Supreme Court to be innuendoes (that) tend, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice, within the purview of Section 3(d), Rule 71 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
1) From the column of
The gift gives proof to the pernicious rumor that the courts are dirty. This time, the lady justice is with a higher court.
The court is like a basket of apples. There (are) a few which are rotten. That makes the whole basket rotten.
The names and reputation of highly-respected jurists must be saved from suspicion that they are thieves.
Her name should be known so that the Supreme Court can act swiftly on a clear case of bribery. Otherwise, this case becomes one where the pot calls the kettle black. Or, is that the reason the employee would not talk, that her former boss could spill the beans on her peers?
2) From the column of
The lady justice shamed her court. She should resign or be impeached. That is the only way the soiled reputation of
3) From the column of
Cecilia x x x you have a duty to save the sagging reputation of the Supreme Court.
Inasmuch as Macasaets snide remarks about the courts, particularly the Highest Court, and about the justices being suspected as thieves, appear to have [been] provoked by the rumored bribery in the Court, the Investigating Committee was constrained to find out how true the accusations were and whether the columnist had exercised due care and diligence in checking out the credibility of his informant and the veracity of the derogatory information fed to him before he published it in his columns in the Malaya.
Additional observations and conclusion were submitted, like the following
Committee finds that neither Macasaets
columns in Malaya, nor Ms. Vitugs
story in Newsbreak, about the
pay-off of Php 10 million to Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago for rendering a
Resolution favorable to Henry T. Go in his petition against the Sandiganbayan
(according to Macasaet), or, a decision favoring Barque against Manotok in a
big land case (according to Ms. Vitug), have
a leg to stand on. As Justice Vitug
has observed during the last hearing before the Committee, everything that has been heard thus far would appear to be hearsay. Ms. Vitug admitted there is no paper trail
to support the charge of bribery against Justice Santiago, for although her sources
had pointed to Cecilia Muoz Delis as the root source of the story, the
information she received was second-hand or may be third-hand because none of
her sources had talked with Delis herself (70, 72 tsn
Macasaets sources likewise fed him double hearsay information from a source that refused to reveal the identity of the Lady Justice nor a high court but alleged that the Php 10 million bribe was discovered by her secretary named Cecilia, a niece and namesake of the late Justice Cecilia Muoz Palma, who was fired from her job on account of it.
Committee observed that Macasaets story
about the bribery and of Cecilias role in supposedly discovering it, is full of holes, inconsistencies, and
contradictions, indicating that he did not exercise due diligence, patience, and
care in checking the veracity of the information fed to him, before giving it
publicity in his columns. Nor was he
bothered by the damage that his columns would inflict on the reputation of a
member of the
The Committee likewise noted the inconsistencies and assumptions of Macasaet, betraying lack of veracity of the alleged bribery
1. For instance, he said that he could not get
confirmation of the bribery story given to him by his source. Later, he said that his sources told me they
had personal knowledge but would not reveal the name of the Lady Justice (65,
2. His allegation that the Lady Justice (later
identified as Justice Santiago) did not report for work last week, i.e., the
week before his first column came out on
3. The date when the gift-wrapped box of money
was allegedly opened by Cecilia is also uncertain because of Macasaets
conflicting allegations about it.
Macasaets first column of
The next day,
But again, because his story about
Cecilias role in the discovery of the bribery in September 2007, was
contradicted by the record of Cecilias resignation from the Court on
That allegation is,
however, refuted by the logbooks of the Security Services for the period of
November 2006 to March 2007 which contain no record of the alleged deliveries
of boxes of money to the office of Justice Santiago. Danilo Pablo, head of the Courts Security
Services affirmed that in his ten (10) years of service in the Court, he has
not received any report of boxes of money being delivered to any of the
Justices (45-46, tsn,
The Committee further wondered which of the five (5) boxes was opened and yielded money. It found
1. x x x In his column of
But when he testified before the
2. Contradicting his published story that five
(5) boxes of money were delivered on the day the Lady Justice acquitted Henry
Go, Macasaet testified at the investigation that they were delivered on different occasions according to my
source (70, tsn,
But no sooner had he attributed that
information to my source than he admitted that it was only my own conclusion x x x I assumed that
the giver of the money is not so stupid as to have them delivered all in one
trip. As a matter of fact, I even
wondered why said boxes were not delivered in the home of the Lady Justice
3. The amount of the bribe is also
questionable. For while in his own
He also merely assumed that the money
was in one thousand pesos bills (78, tsn,
He said he was told that the size of the
box where the money was placed was this milk called carnation in carton (79, tsn,
4. Since only one gift-wrapped box of money was
opened, Macasaet admitted that he has no knowledge of whether the four (4)
other boxes were also opened, when and where they were opened, and by whom they
were opened (90, tsn,
That the five (5) boxes contained a total
of ten million pesos, is just another assumption
of Macasaets. It is a calculation
based on estimates obtained from friends and how much five boxes can hold in
one thousand peso bills, more or less ten million, he explained (91, tsn,
The sin of assumption which is a cardinal sin in Newsbreaks Guide to Ethical Journalistic Conduct was repeatedly committed by Macasaet in writing his story about the bribery of a Lady Justice of the Supreme Court. (Annex E, page 1, Newsbreak Guide to Ethical Journalistic Conduct).
Consequently, the Committee concluded
view of its tenuous underpinnings, we find the bribery story in Macasaets
x x x x
The Committee considers this case not just another event that should pass unnoticed for it has implications far beyond the allocated ramparts of free speech. Needless to say, that while we espouse the enjoyment of freedom of expression by media, particularly, it behooves it to observe great circumspection so as not to destroy reputations, integrity and character so dear to every individual, more so to a revered institution like the Supreme Court. Everyone deserves respect and dignity.
Finding sufficient basis to hold respondent Macasaet in indirect contempt of court, the Committee recommended
Committee finds that the statements of
respondent Amado P. Macasaet about the Supreme Court in his Business
Circuit columns in the
WHEREFORE, the Committee believes there exist valid grounds for this Honorable Court, if it is so minded, to cite Amado P. Macasaet for indirect contempt within the purview of Section 3(d), Rule 71 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. (Emphasis supplied)
IN view of respondents invocation of his right to press freedom as a defense, it is essential to first examine the nature and evolution of this preferred liberty, together with the countervailing interest of judicial independence, which includes the right to due process of law, the right to a fair trial, and the preservation of public confidence in the courts for the proper administration of justice.
Nature and History of Press Freedom
Freedom of expression, which includes freedom of speech and of the press, is one of the hallmarks of a democratic society. It has been recognized as such for centuries.
The history of press freedom dates back to the English Magna Carta, promulgated in 1215, which established the principle that not even the lawmaker should be above the law. Through the years, many treatises on press freedom arose in reaction to various measures taken to curtail it.
In the 17th Century, John Milton
wrote Areopagitica, a philosophical
defense of the right to free speech. It
was a reaction to the Licensing Order of
Sir William Blackstone, 19th Century English jurist, in his still widely cited historical and analytical treatise on English common law, aptly described the twin aspects of press freedom:
x x x Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public: to forbid this is to destroy the freedom of the press: but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous, or illegal, he must take the consequences of his own temerity. To subject the press to the restrictive power of a licenser, as was formerly done, both before and since the Revolution, is to subject all freedom of sentiment to the prejudices of one man, and make him the arbitrary and infallible judge of all controverted points in learning, religion and government. But to punish as the law does at present any dangerous or offensive writings, which, when published, shall on a fair and impartial trial be adjudged of a pernicious tendency, is necessary for the preservation of peace and good order, of government and religion, the only solid foundations of civil liberty. Thus, the will of individuals is still left free: the abuse only of that free will is the object of legal punishment. Neither is any restraint hereby laid upon freedom of thought or inquiry: liberty of private sentiment is still left; the disseminating, or making public, of bad sentiments destructive to the ends of society, is the crime which society corrects. (Emphasis supplied)
Our Constitutions and jurisprudence are
no different. Section 4, Article
Media and Its Multiplying Roles in Democracy
to their preferred position in the hierarchy of civil liberties, the freedoms
of speech, of expression, and of the press have progressed dramatically. As early as 1942, even before the advent of
television, the distinguished
One of the notable features of recent years is the accelerated development of the media. They have grown from strength to strength, and have substantially influenced people, either favorably or unfavorably, towards those in government. The use of information technology has firmed up the media networks hold on power. Traditional media for mass communication newspapers, magazines, radio, and standard television have been joined by satellite and cable television, electronic mail, short messaging and multi-media service, and the internet, giving rise to new opportunities for electronic news and information companies to even intensify their influence over the general public.
Studies show that people rely heavily on the media for their knowledge of events in the world and for impressions that form the basis for their own judgments. The media exert a strong influence on what people think and feel. Certainly, the power of Philippine media is of no small measure
power of the press to influence politics is proven. Policy issues and the implementation of
government programs requiring greater public discussion are sometimes displaced
in the government agenda by matters that have been given more importance in the
news. Public officials are obliged to
attend to media queries even if these are not necessarily the most important
questions of the day. Nowhere in
Furthermore, television news programs have spawned media celebrities whose popularity with the masses has catapulted their entry into politics. Medias focus on celebrity has infected the political culture with exaggerated concern for personality and color, and the kind of impact associated with sports and entertainment. Political parties have tended to recruit popular figures from these fields to assure they have winners in the race for seats in Congress.
The reach of Philippine media is quite extensive
The mass media in a free society
uphold the democratic way of life. They
provide citizens with relevant information to help them make informed decisions
about public issues affecting their lives.
Affirming the right of the public to know, they serve as vehicles for
the necessary exchange of ideas through fair and open debate. As the Fourth Estate in our democracy, they vigorously
exercise their independence and vigilantly guard against infringements. Over the years, the Philippine media have
earned the reputation of being the freest and liveliest in
Members of Philippine media have assumed the role of a watchdog and have been protective and assertive of this role. They demand accountability of government officials and agencies. They have been adversarial when they relate with any of the three branches of government. They uphold the citizens right to know, and make public officials, including judges and justices, responsible for their deeds or misdeeds. Through their watchdog function, the media motivate the public to be vigilant in exercising the citizens right to an effective, efficient and corrupt-free government.
Open Justice and Judicial
Closely linked with the right to freedom of speech and of the press is the public right to scrutinize and criticize government. The freedom to question the government has been a protected right of long-standing tradition throughout American history. There is no doubt that the fundamental freedom to criticize government necessarily includes the right to criticize the courts, their proceedings and decisions. Since the drafting of their Constitution over 200 years ago, American judges have anticipated and sometimes even encouraged public scrutiny of themselves, if not of the judiciary as a whole.
This open justice principle, which is as fundamental to a democratic society as freedom of speech, has been an accepted doctrine in several jurisdictions. It is justified on the ground that if the determination of justice cannot be hidden from the public, this will provide: (1) a safeguard against judicial arbitrariness or idiosyncrasy, and (2) the maintenance of the publics confidence in the administration of justice.
While most agree that the right to criticize the judiciary is critical to maintaining a free and democratic society, there is also a general consensus that healthy criticism only goes so far. Many types of criticism leveled at the judiciary cross the line to become harmful and irresponsible attacks. These potentially devastating attacks and unjust criticism can threaten the independence of the judiciary.
The debate over the independence of the judiciary is nothing new. More than 200 years ago, the Founding Fathers of the American Constitution engaged in heated arguments, both before and after the Constitutional Convention, focusing on the extent and nature of the judiciarys role in the newly-formed government. The signers of the Declaration of Independence, well aware of the oppressive results of the unchecked political power of the King of England who established absolute tyranny over American colonies, recognized the importance of creating a stable system of justice to protect the people.
Cognizant of the need to create a system of checks and balances to ensure that the rule of law shall rule, the resulting Constitution provided for a three-tiered system of government, so structured that no branch holds limitless power.
The judicial branch is described as the least dangerous branch of government. But it holds a special place in the tripartite system, as it is primarily responsible for protecting basic human liberties from government encroachment. It completes the nations system of checks and balances. It serves as an arbiter of disputes between factions and instruments of government.
In our constitutional scheme and democracy, our courts of justice are vested with judicial power, which includes the duty x x x to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government. The present judicial system allows the people to rely upon our courts with substantial certainty; it encourages the resolution of disputes in courtrooms rather than on the streets.
To accomplish these tasks, an independent judiciary is very vital. Judicial independence is the backbone of democracy. It is essential not only to the preservation of our justice system, but of government as well. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson of the Wisconsin Supreme Court has observed that judicial independence encompasses two distinct but related concepts of independence.
One concept is individual judicial independence, which focuses on each particular judge and seeks to insure his or her ability to decide cases with autonomy within the constraints of the law. A judge has this kind of independence when he can do his job without having to hear or at least without having to take it seriously if he does hear criticisms of his personal morality and fitness for judicial office. The second concept is institutional judicial independence. It focuses on the independence of the judiciary as a branch of government and protects judges as a class.
A truly independent judiciary is possible only when both concepts of independence are preserved - wherein public confidence in the competence and integrity of the judiciary is maintained, and the public accepts the legitimacy of judicial authority. An erosion of this confidence threatens the maintenance of an independent Third Estate.
For sure, judicial criticism can be constructive, uncovering and addressing a problem that merits public attention. Public awareness, debate, and criticism of the courts ensure that people are informed of what they are doing that have broad implications for all citizens. Informed discussion, comment, debate and disagreement from lawyers, academics, and public officials have been hallmarks of a great legal tradition and have played a vital role in shaping the law.
But there is an important line between legitimate criticism and illegitimate attack upon the courts or their judges. Attacks upon the court or a judge not only risk the inhibition of all judges as they conscientiously endeavor to discharge their constitutional responsibilities; they also undermine the peoples confidence in the courts.
Personal attacks, criticisms laden with political threats, those that misrepresent and distort the nature and context of judicial decisions, those that are misleading or without factual or legal basis, and those that blame the judges for the ills of society, damage the integrity of the judiciary and threaten the doctrine of judicial independence. These attacks do a grave disservice to the principle of an independent judiciary and mislead the public as to the role of judges in a constitutional democracy, shaking the very foundation of our democratic government.
Such attacks on the judiciary can result in two distinct yet related undesirable consequences. First, the criticism will prevent judges from remaining insulated from the personal and political consequences of making an unpopular decision, thus placing judicial independence at risk. Second, unjust criticism of the judiciary will erode the publics trust and confidence in the judiciary as an institution. Both judicial independence and the publics trust and confidence in the judiciary as an institution are vital components in maintaining a healthy democracy.
Accordingly, it has been consistently held that, while freedom of speech, of expression, and of the press are at the core of civil liberties and have to be protected at all costs for the sake of democracy, these freedoms are not absolute. For, if left unbridled, they have the tendency to be abused and can translate to licenses, which could lead to disorder and anarchy.
Thus, in Gonzales v. Commission on Elections, this Court ruled that [f]rom the language of the specific constitutional provision, it would appear that the right (to free expression) is not susceptible of any limitation. No law may be passed abridging the freedom of speech and of the press. The realities of life in a complex society preclude, however, a literal interpretation. Freedom of expression is not absolute. 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.
In Lagunzad v. Vda. De Gonzales, it was held that while the right of freedom of expression occupies a preferred position in the hierarchy of civil liberties, it is not without limitations. As the revered Holmes once said, the limitation on ones right to extend ones fist is when it hits the nose of another.
Indeed, freedom of speech cannot be absolute and unconditional. In legal, political, and philosophical contexts, it is always regarded as liable to be overridden by important countervailing interests, such as state security, public order, safety of individual citizens, protection of reputation, and due process of law, which encompasses not only the right to a fair trial, but also the preservation of public confidence in the proper administration of justice.
As early as 1930, this Court, speaking through Mr. Justice George Malcolm, declared that [a]s important as is the maintenance of an unmuzzled press and the free exercise of the rights of the citizen is the maintenance of the independence of the judiciary.
In Zaldivar v. Gonzalez, the Court said that freedom of speech and expression, like all constitutional freedoms, is not absolute and that freedom of expression needs on occasion to be adjusted to and accommodated with requirements of equally important public interests. One of these fundamental public interests is the maintenance of the integrity and orderly functioning of the administration of justice. There is no antinomy between free expression and the integrity of the system of administering justice. For the protection and maintenance of freedom of expression itself can be secured only within the context of a functioning and orderly system of dispensing justice, within the context, in other words, of viable independent institutions for delivery of justice which are accepted by the general community.
As Mr. Justice Felix Frankfurter put it:
x x x A free press is not to be preferred to an independent judiciary, nor an independent judiciary to a free press. Neither has primacy over the other; both are indispensable to a free society.
The freedom of the press in itself presupposes an independent judiciary through which that freedom may, if necessary, be vindicated. And one of the potent means for assuring judges their independence is a free press.
Even the major international and regional human rights instruments of civil and political rights the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR), and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) protect both freedom of expression and the administration of justice. Freedom of expression is protected under Article 19 of the ICCPR
(1) Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
(2) Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
However, Article 19 of the ICCPR is made subject to Article 14(1), which guarantees the right of individuals to be equal before the courts and tribunals and be entitled to a fair x x x hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal, where [t]he press and the public may be excluded from all or part of a trial for reasons of morals, public order (order public) or national security in a democratic society, or when the interest of the private lives of the Parties so requires, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice x x x.
Article 10(2) of the ECHR goes further by explicitly mentioning the maintenance of the authority and impartiality of the judiciary
The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary. (Emphasis supplied)
Judges have an affirmative duty to defend and uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary. The courts need to be able to sanction those who obstruct their processes. The judiciary itself must continue to be a voice that explains and preserves its own independence. The respect accorded to judges is an adjunct of the social-contract necessity for impartial judges in the creation of a civil society. In the words of the great political philosopher John Locke
The great and chief end, therefore, for mens uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property, to which in the state of nature there are many things wanting x x x there wants an established, settled, known law x x x there wants a known and indifferent judge, with authority to determine all differences according to the established law x x x there often wants power to back and support the sentence when right, and to give it due execution. (Emphasis supplied)
A Survey of Philippine Jurisprudence
The very first case decided by the Supreme Court, In the matter of the proceedings against Marcelino Aguas for contempt of the Court of First Instance of Pampanga, was a contempt proceeding. Before, as it is now, this Court had to use this power to impress upon contemnors the legal theory and constitutional premises of judicial legitimacy complementing popular sovereignty and public interest. Writing for the Court, Mr. Justice James Smith stated that contempt proceedings against a contemnor were against someone who had done an act or was about to do such act which was disrespectful to the court or offensive to its dignity.
Through the years, the Court has punished contemnors for a variety of offenses that have attempted to degrade its dignity and impeded the administration of justice.
In 1916, Amzi B. Kelly was fined
P1,000 and sentenced to six months in prison for contempt of
court after he published a letter to the editor of The Independent criticizing the Court for its decision to hold him
in contempt for having published a book stating that various government
officials, including the members of the Supreme Court, were guilty of
politically assassinating General Mariano Noriel, who was executed for the
killing of a political rival in 1915.
In 1949, Atty. Vicente Sotto was
P1,000.00 for publishing a statement in
the Manila Times objecting to one of
the High Courts decisions, citing that such decision by the majority was but
another evidence of the incompetency or narrow-mindedness of the majority of
its members and called for the resignation of the Courts entire membership
in the wake of so many mindedness of the majority deliberately committed
during these last years.
1987, Eva Maravilla-Ilustre,
in almost identical letters dated
It is important to call your attention to the dismissal of (case cited) by an untenable minute-resolution x x x which we consider as an unjust resolution deliberately and knowingly promulgated by the First Division of the Supreme Court of which you are a member.
We consider the three minute-resolutions x x x railroaded with such hurry/promptitude unequalled in the entire history of the SC under circumstances that have gone beyond the limits of legal and judicial ethics.
There is nothing final in this world. We assure you that this case is far from finished by a long shot. For at the proper time, we shall so act and bring this case before another forum where the members of the Court can no longer deny action with minute resolutions that are not only unjust but are knowingly and deliberately promulgated x x x.
Please understand that we are pursuing further remedies in our quest for justice under the law. We intend to hold responsible members of the First Division who participated in the promulgation of these three minute-resolutions in question x x x.
In our quest for justice, we wish to avoid having injustice to anyone, particularly the members of the First Division, providing that they had no hand in the promulgation of the resolution in question. x x x If, however, we do not hear from you after a week, then we will consider your silence that you supported the dismissal of our petition. We will then be guided accordingly.
The letter to one of the Justices further stated
We leave the next move to you by informing us your participation x x x. Please do not take this matter lightly. x x x The moment we take action in the plans we are completing, we will then call a press conference with TV and radio coverage. Arrangements in this regard are being done. The people should or ought to know why we were thwarted in our quest for plain justice.
These letters were referred by the First Division en consulta to the Court en banc.
to her threats, after having lost her case before the Supreme Court, Ilustre
In her answer, Ilustre contended, inter alia, that she had no intention to affront the honor and dignity of the Court; that the letters to the individual justices were private in character; that the Court was estopped, having failed to immediately take disciplinary proceedings against her; and that the citation for contempt was a vindictive reprisal against her.
The Supreme Court found her explanation unsatisfactory. The claim of lack of evil intention was disbelieved in the face of attendant circumstances. Reliance on the privacy of communication was likewise held as misplaced. Letters addressed to individual Justices in connection with the performance of their judicial functions become part of the judicial records and are a matter of public concern for the entire Court. (Underscoring supplied)
The Court likewise stated that it was only in the exercise of forbearance that it refrained from immediately issuing a show-cause order, expecting that she and her lawyer would realize the unjustness and unfairness of their accusations. Neither was there any vindictive reprisal involved. The Courts authority and duty under the premises is unmistakable. It must act to preserve its honor and dignity from the scurrilous attacks of an irate lawyer, mouthed by his client, and to safeguard the morals and ethics of the legal profession.
In resum, the Court found that Ilustre had transcended the permissible bounds of fair comment and criticism to the detriment of the orderly administration of justice: (a) in her letters addressed to the individual Justices, quoted in the show-cause Resolution, particularly the underlined portions thereof; (b) in the language of the charges she filed before the Tanodbayan quoted in the same Resolution; (c) in her statement, conduct, acts, and charges against the Supreme Court and/or official actions of the Justices concerned and her description of improper motives; and (d) in her unjustified outburst that she could no longer expect justice from the Court.
The fact that said letter was not technically considered pleadings nor the fact that they were submitted after the main petition had been finally resolved does not detract from the gravity of the contempt committed. The constitutional right of freedom of speech or right to privacy cannot be used as a shield for contemptuous acts against the Court.
Ilustre was fined
P1,000.00 for contempt,
evidently considered as indirect,
taking into account the penalty imposed and the fact that the proceedings taken
were not summary in nature.
In Perkins v. Director of Prisons, the Court had an occasion to examine the fundamental foundations of the power to punish for contempt: The power to punish for contempt is inherent in all courts; its existence is essential to the preservation of order in judicial proceedings and to the enforcement of judgments, orders, and mandates of the courts, and, consequently, to the due administration of justice.
The Court there held that the
exercise of this power is as old as the English history itself, and has always
been regarded as a necessary incident and attribute of courts. Being a common-law power, inherent in all
courts, the moment the courts of the
After World War II, this Court reiterated it had an inherent power to punish for contempt, to control in the furtherance of justice the conduct of ministerial officers of the Court including lawyers and all other persons connected in any manner with a case before the Court. This power to punish for contempt is necessary for its own protection against improper interference with the due administration of justice x x x. It is not dependent upon the complaint of any of the parties-litigant. These twin principles were to be succinctly cited in the later case of Zaldivar v. Gonzales.
Of course, the power to
punish for contempt is exercised on the preservative
principle. There must be caution and
hesitancy on the part of the judge whenever the possible exercise of his
awesome prerogative presents itself.
The power to punish for contempt, as was pointed out by Mr. Justice
Malcolm in Villavicencio v. Lukban,
should be exercised on the preservative and not on the vindictive
principle. Only occasionally should the
court invoke its inherent power to retain that respect without which the
administration of justice must falter or fail.
But when called for, most especially when needed to preserve the very
existence and integrity of no less than the
In the 1995 case People v. Godoy, the Court, citing In Re: Vicente Sotto, had the opportunity to define the relations of the courts and of the press. Quoting the statements made by Judge Holmes in U.S. v. Sullen, the Court said:
The administration of justice and the freedom of the press, though separate and distinct, are equally sacred, and neither should be violated by the other. The press and the courts have correlative rights and duties and should cooperate to uphold the principles of the Constitution and laws, from which the former receives its prerogative and the latter its jurisdiction. x x x In a clear case where it is necessary in order to dispose of judicial business unhampered by publications which reasonably tend to impair the impartiality of verdicts, or otherwise obstruct the administration of justice, the Court will not hesitate to exercise undoubted power to punish for contempt. This Court must be permitted to proceed with the disposition of its business in an orderly manner free from outside interference obstructive of its constitutional functions. This right will be insisted upon as vital to an impartial court, and, as a last resort, as an individual exercises the right of self-defense, it will act to preserve its existence as an unprejudiced tribunal. (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, while the Court in Godoy agreed that our Constitution and our laws recognize the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and of the press, these two constitutional guaranties must not be confused with an abuse of such liberties. Quoting Godoy further
Obstructing, by means of the spoken or written word, the administration of justice by the courts has been described as an abuse of the liberty of the speech or the press such as will subject the abuser to punishment for contempt of court.
in the more recent 2007 case Roxas v. Zuzuarregui,
the Court en banc in a unanimous per curiam
resolution imposed a
P30,000 fine on Atty.
Romeo Roxas for making unfair and unfounded
accusations against a member of this Court, and mocking the Court for allegedly
being part of the wrongdoing and being a dispenser of injustice. We found the letter of Atty. Roxas full of contemptuous remarks that tended to degrade
the dignity of the Court and erode public confidence that should be accorded to
it. We also said that his invocation of
free speech and privacy of communication will not, however, free him from
liability. As already stated, his letter
contained defamatory statements that impaired public confidence in the
integrity of the judiciary. The making
of contemptuous statements directed against the Court is not an exercise of
free speech; rather, it is an abuse of such right. Unwarranted attacks on the dignity of the
courts cannot be disguised as free speech, for the exercise of said right
cannot be used to impair the independence and efficiency of courts or public
respect therefore and confidence therein.
Free expression must not be used as a vehicle to satisfy ones irrational
obsession to demean, ridicule, degrade and even destroy this Court and its
magistrates. Accordingly, Atty. Roxas was found guilty of indirect contempt of court and
fined P30,000.00, with a warning that a repetition of
a similar act would warrant a more severe penalty.
Application of Existing Jurisprudence to the Case at Bar
In determining the liability of the respondent in this contempt proceeding, we weigh the conflicting constitutional considerations respondents claim of his right to press freedom, on one hand; and, on the other hand, ensuring judicial independence by upholding public interest in maintaining the dignity of the judiciary and the orderly administration of justice both indispensable to the preservation of democracy and the maintenance of a just society.
The apparently conflicting constitutional considerations summed up by a distinguished former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice H.R. Khanna, bears a hand in resolving the issue
There are one or two matters to which I would like to make pointed reference in the context of the freedom of the press. One of them relates to the danger of trial by the press. Certain aspects of a case are so much highlighted by the press that the publicity gives rise to strong public emotions. The inevitable effect of that is to prejudice the case of one party or the other for a fair trial. We must consider the question as to what extent are restraints necessary and have to be exercised by the press with a view to preserving the purity of judicial process. At the same time, we have to guard against another danger. A person cannot x x x by starting some kind of judicial proceedings in respect of matter of vital public importance stifle all public discussions of that matter on pain of contempt of court. A line to balance the whole thing has to be drawn at some point. It also seems necessary in exercising the power of contempt of court x x x vis--vis the press that no hyper-sensitivity is shown and due account is taken of the proper functioning of a free press in a democratic society. This is vital for ensuring the health of democracy. At the same time, the press must also keep in view its responsibility and see that nothing is done as may bring the courts x x x into disrepute and make people lose faith in these institution(s). One other matter which must not be lost sight of is that while comment is free, facts are sacred.
We have no problems with legitimate criticisms pointing out flaws in our decisions, judicial reasoning, or even how we run our public offices or public affairs. They should even be constructive and should pave the way for a more responsive, effective and efficient judiciary.
Unfortunately, the published articles of respondent Macasaet are not of this genre. On the contrary, he has crossed the line, as his are baseless scurrilous attacks which demonstrate nothing but an abuse of press freedom. They leave no redeeming value in furtherance of freedom of the press. They do nothing but damage the integrity of the High Court, undermine the faith and confidence of the people in the judiciary, and threaten the doctrine of judicial independence.
A veteran journalist of many years and a president of a group of respectable media practitioners, respondent Macasaet has brilliantly sewn an incredible tale, adorned it with some facts to make it lifelike, but impregnated it as well with insinuations and innuendoes, which, when digested entirely by an unsuspecting soul, may make him throw up with seethe. Thus, he published his highly speculative articles that bribery occurred in the High Court, based on specious information, without any regard for the injury such would cause to the reputation of the judiciary and the effective administration of justice. Nor did he give any thought to the undue, irreparable damage such false accusations and thinly veiled allusions would have on a member of the Court.
The Investigating Committee could not have put it any better when it found respondent feigning his highest respect for this Court
diatribes against the Court generate public distrust in the administration of
Justice by the Supreme Court, instead of promoting respect for its integrity
and honor. They derogate his avowal of
highest respect for this Court (10, tsn,
These tongue-in cheek protestations do not repair or erase the damage and injury that his contemptuous remarks about the Court and the Justices have wrought upon the institutional integrity, dignity, and honor of the Supreme Court. As a matter of fact, nowhere in his columns do we find a single word of respect for the Court or the integrity and honor of the Court. On the contrary, what we find are allegations of pernicious rumor that the courts are dirty, suspicions that the jurists are thieves, that the Highest Court has a soiled reputation, and that the Supreme Court has a sagging reputation.
admitted that the rumor about the courts being dirty referred specifically
(to) the Supreme Court (100, tsn,
unburdened his heretofore hidden anger, if not disgust, with the Court when he
clarified that the word dirty x x x is
not necessarily related to money (101, tsn,
To reiterate the words of the Committee, this case is not just another event that should pass unnoticed for it has implications far beyond the allocated ramparts of free speech. To allow respondent to use press freedom as an excuse to capriciously disparage the reputation of the Court and that of innocent private individuals would be to make a mockery of this liberty.
Respondent has absolutely no basis to call the Supreme Court a court of thieves and a basket of rotten apples. These publications directly undermine the integrity of the justices and render suspect the Supreme Court as an institution. Without bases for his publications, purely resorting to speculation and fishing expeditions in the hope of striking or creating a story, with utter disregard for the institutional integrity of the Supreme Court, he has committed acts that degrade and impede the orderly administration of justice.
We cannot close our eyes to the comprehensive Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Committee. It enumerated the inconsistencies and assumptions of respondent which lacked veracity and showed the reckless disregard of whether the alleged bribery was false or not.
Indeed, the confidential information allegedly received by respondent by which he swears with his heart and soul was found by the Investigating Committee unbelievable. It was a story that reeked of urban legend, as it generated more questions than answers.
wanton disregard for the truth was exhibited by his apathetic manner of
verifying the veracity of the information he had gathered for his
Justice Aquino: You did not endeavor to verify the information given by your source before publishing the story about the bribery?
Mr. Macasaet: I tried, I could not get confirmation, I thought that eventually my effort at consistently trying or exposing the alleged bribery one day sooner or later somebody will come up and admit or deny.
x x x x
Vitug: Do you confirm the fact of
authorship of the columns of
Mr. Macasaet: On a stack of Bible, I confirm it.
Justice Vitug: Does that mean that you also confirm the accuracy of those information that were said?
Mr. Macasaet: I am not confirming the accuracy of the information and I think that is precisely the reason for this hearing, I must repeat that the purpose is to fish [the Lady Justice] out so that the rest of the Lady Justices in all the Courts suspicion can be removed from them. I failed in the sense that one denied, she felt alluded to and said she is not involved.
Respondent thus admits to having written his articles as means to fish out the Lady Justice involved in an alleged bribery fed to him by his source, with reckless disregard of whether or not such bribery indeed took place. It defies reason why any responsible journalist would go on to publish any material in a newspaper of general circulation without having ascertained even the five Ws and one H of the story.
That he could not, through his extensive network of informants, confirm the approximate date when the alleged bribery took place, the identities of the persons involved, or any other important detail, before he began his series of articles only leads to the rational conclusion that he did not care whether or not the story he published was true. His aim, as he admits, was to go on a fishing expedition to see if someone would confirm or deny his now clearly baseless accusations. This practice of fishing for information by publishing unverified information in a manner that leads the reading public to believe such is true cannot be tolerated.
Aggravating respondents affront to the dignity of the Court is his unwillingness to show any remorse or repentance for his contemptuous acts. In fact, as he made clear in his testimony before the Investigating Committee when asked what his thoughts were about his having published the instant articles, he replied that he was happy in the sense that [he] did a job in [his] best lights and the effort ended up in the creation of [the investigating panel].
However, such assertions of having acted in the best interest of the Judiciary are belied by the fact that he could have caused the creation of an investigating panel to look into such allegations in a more rational and prudent manner. In the words of the Investigating Committee
If he had no malice toward the Court, if, as he professes, the purpose of his columns was to save the integrity and honor of the Court, Macasaet should, and could, have reported the rumored bribery directly to the Chief Justice and asked for its investigation. He should have refrained from calling the Court names, before giving it a chance to act on his report and on his suggestion to investigate the matter. Since he knew the name of the Court employee who allegedly discovered the bribe money, the Court could have begun its investigation with her to ascertain the identity of the nameless Lady Justice and the veracity of the rumored bribery. His disparaging remarks about the Court and jurists in conjunction with his unverified report on the alleged bribery were totally uncalled for and unjustified.
It is precisely because of his failure to abide by the tenets of responsible journalism that we accept the findings of the Investigating Committee in holding respondent Macasaet guilty of indirect contempt of court. He must be made accountable for his complete failure to exercise even a single vestige of responsible journalism in publishing his unfounded and ill-thought diatribes against the Judiciary and the honorable people who serve it.
Respondent also asserts that the subject matter of his articles is within the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress. He cites Section 2, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution which partly states that x x x members of the Supreme Court x x x may be removed from office, on impeachment for, and conviction of x x x bribery x x x and Section 3(1), Article XI, which provides that [t]he House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all case of impeachment.
We cannot agree. What Macasaet conveniently forgets is that no impeachment complaint has been filed against Mme. Justice Ynares-Santiago. Thus, his cited constitutional provisions do not come into play.
Respondent claims that there is a violation of his right to due process. From the time his articles were published, no formal charge has been filed against him as required under Section 3, Rule 71 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
Respondent fails to see, however,
that under Section 4 of the same Rule, proceedings for indirect contempt may be
initiated motu proprio
by the court against which the contempt was committed, by an order or any
other formal charge requiring respondent to show why he should not be punished
for contempt. Our Resolution dated
Rule 71 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure pertinently provides:
x x x x
(d) Any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice;
x x x x
We are not unaware of the vigorous dissent of then Associate Justice, now our Chief Justice, Reynato S. Puno, in an earlier case, in which he so lucidly argued for the right to journalistic shield, behind which the Dissenting Opinion of an esteemed colleague, Mr. Justice Carpio, and respondent Macasaet, take full refuge. While we hold his thesis in high regard, the case at bar does not fall within his erudite defense of press freedom. The critical issues then were the right of newsmen to refuse subpoenas, summons, or invitations to appear in administrative investigations, and not to reveal their confidential sources of information under R.A. No. 53, as amended. None of these are the issues at hand. Be that as it may, elementary decision-making teaches that we cite the majority opinion as precedent, not lonely dissenting opinions.
In his Dissenting Opinion, Mr. Justice Carpio assails the Committee proceedings as fatally defective for patent denial of due process because when the witnesses the Committee summoned testified, the Committee monopolized the right to propound questions to the witnesses, denying to Macasaet such right. He continues to say that [w]ith the procedure the Committee adopted, Macasaet was reduced to a passive participant, unable to subject the testimonies of adverse witnesses to rigorous probing under cross-examination. As matters stand, Macasaet will be subjected to punitive sanctions based on evidence he had no opportunity to scrutinize.
We disagree on triple grounds.
First, the proceedings of the Committee are presumed to be regular. Thus, the onus probandi to prove otherwise rests on Macasaet, not on the Committee. Suffice it to say that the Dissenting Opinion which cites People v. Godoy as to the criminal character of a contempt proceeding, fails to state what Godoy likewise instructs
Strictly speaking however, they are not criminal proceedings or prosecutions, even though the contemptuous act involved is also a crime. The proceeding has been characterized as sui generis, partaking of some of the elements of both a civil and criminal proceeding, but really constituting neither. In general, criminal contempt proceedings should be conducted in accordance with the principles and rules applicable to criminal cases, in so far as such procedure is consistent with the summary nature of contempt proceedings. So it has been held that the strict rules that govern criminal prosecutions apply to a prosecution for criminal contempt, that the accused is to be afforded many of the protections provided in regular criminal cases, and that proceedings under statutes governing them are to be strictly construed. However, criminal proceedings are not required to take any particular form so long as the substantial rights of the accused are preserved.
Second, assuming arguendo that Macasaet was not able to cross-examine his witnesses, this does not necessarily mean that his right to due process of law was violated.
The right of an accused to cross-examine the witnesses against him, although an adjunct of the Constitutional right to meet the witnesses face to face, can be waived when not timely asserted. In the case of Macasaet, never did he assert his right to cross-examine the witnesses against him despite the opportunity to do so. During the entire course of the proceedings in the Committee, respondent was vigorously represented by counsel de parte. Respondent or his counsel could have moved to cross-examine the adverse witnesses. Respondent had every opportunity to do so. Lamentably, he failed to exercise the said right.
Interestingly, during the last hearing date, counsel for respondent requested that respondent be allowed to say something, which the Committee granted. Respondent then proceeded with a lengthy discourse, all of 45 pages, on everything and anything, except his right to cross-examination. Verily, it cannot be validly claimed now that his right to cross-examine was violated.
Third, the Court is bereft of any power to invoke the right to cross-examine the witnesses against respondent, for and in his behalf. Otherwise, the Court will be acting as his counsel, which is absurd.
Just a Word More
A free press is regarded as a key pillar of democracy. Reporters must be free to report, expose, and hold government officials and agencies including an independent judiciary accountable. Press attention surrounding the judiciary ensures public accountability. Such publicity acts as a check on judicial competence and integrity, exposes inefficiencies and irregularities, keeps vigil over various public interest cases, and puts pressure on responsible judicial officials. This freedom has been used and has benefited the cause of justice. The press has become an important actor a judicial watchdog in the ongoing judicial transformation. When properly validated, its acts are protected speech from an accepted function.
Freedom, however, has not guaranteed quality journalism. The press has been vulnerable to a host of legitimate criticisms such as incompetence, commercialism, and even corruption. By disproportionately informing the public about specific court processes, or by spreading unsubstantiated allegations about corruption and other forms of judicial misconduct, the press dramatically undermines the publics faith in the courts and threatens the very foundation of our democratic government.
Oftentimes, journalists writing about the judiciary and court cases lack basic knowledge of the law and judicial procedures, on the basis of which they draw faulty conclusions which they pass on to their readers as gospel truths. Trial by publicity also influences the independence of judges as the public is fed with partial information and vocal opinions, and judges are pressured to decide in accordance with the public opinion. Faith in the judiciary is undermined when judges rule against the expectations of the public which has been brainwashed by dramatic reports and graphic comments. In some cases, unchecked rumors or allegations of irregularities are immediately published because journalists lack professional competence to verify the information, or are simply eager to break the news and attract a wider readership.
The role of the press in relation to the judiciary needs to be regulated. This can be done through voluntary codes of conduct on the part of the press and through judicial policies, such as the rule on sub judice and contempt of court rulings. The absence of clear voluntary codes developed by the press, as its self-regulator, strengthens the need for the Court to use its power in the meantime to cite critics for contempt. This is necessary in cases where such criticism is obviously malicious or in violation of the sub judice rule, or where there is an evident attempt to influence the outcome of a case. Judges have the duty to defend and uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary. They should sanction those who obstruct or impede the judicial processes. The effective administration of justice may only be realized with the strong faith and confidence of the public in the competence and integrity of the judiciary, free from political and popular pressure.
Criticism at every level of government is certainly welcome. After all, it is an essential part of the checks and balances in our republican system of government. However, criticisms should not impede or obstruct an integral component of our republican institutions from discharging its constitutionally-mandated duties.
As the Court said in In Re: Almacen:
Courts and judges are not sacrosanct. They should and expect critical evaluation of their performance. For like the executive and the legislative branches, the judiciary is rooted in the soil of democratic society, nourished by the periodic appraisal of the citizen whom it is expected to serve.
x x x x
But it is the cardinal condition of all such criticism that it shall be bona fide, and shall not spill over the walls of decency and propriety. A wide chasm exists between fair criticism, on the one hand, and abuse and slander of courts and the judges thereof, on the other. x x x
All told, illegitimate and uninformed criticisms against the courts and judges, those which cross the line and attempt to subvert the judicial process, must be avoided. They do a great disservice to the Constitution. They seriously mislead the public as to the proper functioning of the judiciary. While all citizens have a right to scrutinize and criticize the judiciary, they have an ethical and societal obligation not to cross that too important line.
Senator Ernesto Maceda, the seasoned politician who has graced both the executive and the legislative departments in various capacities, in a Privilege Speech, once appealed for voluntary self-restraint with respect to this Court
There are proper procedures for dealing with instances of official misdemeanor without setting an entire institution on fire. Arson is not the best means for pest-control.
In case of possibility of corruption in the Supreme Court, one possible means is the initiation of impeachment proceedings against specifically identified justices. A move for impeachment, of course, requires much sobriety and solid evidence. Whatever charges are brought forward must be substantiated. Those who dare prosecute must come into the open and append their names to the accusations they make, with courage and conviction. This is the manner civil society conserves its civility x x x.
The ends of justice are not served by heckling nor by crude insinuation or by irresponsible reporting. The house of democracy is never strengthened by those who choose to throw rocks under the cover of darkness and anonymity. The institutions of our liberty are never enriched by the irresponsible accusations of the uninformed. The bedrocks of our Republic are not reinforced by those who evade responsibility under the veil of freedom.
During interpellation, he went on to say
x x x And in the context of what I have just said, I think that all newspapers, all media are welcome to do their worse, criticize the members of the Executive Department, Members of the Senate, and any other agency of the Government. But I am just suggesting that when it comes to the judiciary, and specifically to the Supreme Court, that a different policy, one of more caution, should be adopted precisely because x x x people may lose faith in the Executive or the President; they may lose faith in Congress, the Congressmen and the Senators, but as long as they have their faith unshaken and complete in the last bulwark of democracy x x x which is the Supreme Court, then our democracy will survive.
Each of us has important responsibilities in a constitutional democracy. We, judges, will continue to discharge our judicial functions with fairness. We urge all and sundry to abide by theirs. We need to respect each other. As the golden rule goes let us not do to others what we do not want others to do to us. Igalang natin ang isat-isa. Huwag nating gawin sa iba ang ayaw nating gawin nila sa atin.
Given the gravity of respondent Macasaets improper conduct, coupled with the recalcitrant
manner in which he responded when confronted with the reality of his
wrongdoing, a penalty of fine in the amount of
would be right and reasonable.
Court declares respondent Amado P. Macasaet GUILTY of indirect contempt of court and sentences him to pay a
P20,000.00, in accordance with Sections
3(d) and 7, Rule 71 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
RUBEN T. REYES
REYNATO S. PUNO
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice Associate Justice
ANTONIO T. CARPIO MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ
Associate Justice Associate Justice
RENATO C. CORONA CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
Associate Justice Associate Justice
ADOLFO S. AZCUNA DANTE O. TINGA
Associate Justice Associate Justice
MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice Associate Justice
ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice Associate Justice
ARTURO D. BRION
* No part.
 Rollo, pp. 2-6.
1. His statements were precisely a call for an investigation to preserve the integrity of the Supreme Court and the administration of justice pursuant to the Courts crusade in curbing perceived corruption in the judiciary;
2. In light of revelations not sourced from him, the subject of the statements is already demonstrably under the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress;
3. The proceedings for indirect contempt stifles freedom of the press;
4. There was no reckless disregard by the publication of the subject statements and he exerted bona fide efforts to ascertain the truth of such statements; and
5. Under the circumstances, continuation of the proceedings constitutes an unconditional denial of his right to due process of law and equal protection.
 No known relation to Ms. Marites Daguilan-Vitug.
 Rollo, pp. 223-229. Retired Supreme
Court Associate Justice Vicente V. Mendoza resigned from the Committee upon
finding out that the allegations of bribery involved an executive of PIATCO, a
party to an international arbitration case in which he is an expert witness for
the Philippine Government, and he did not wish to burden the legal panel of
the Philippine Government in the arbitration cases with the task of explaining
or justifying his participation in the Investigating Committee. Retired
Justice Romeo J. Callejo, Sr., on the other hand, requested to be relieved, as
he was the ponente
of Go v. Sandiganbayan promulgated on
 Rollo, pp. 326-347; Report and Recommendation
(Re: In the Matter of the Allegations
Contained in the Columns of Mr. A.P. Macasaet Published in
 Blackstone, W., Commentaries, 145 (1876).
 Record of the Constitutional Commission: Proceedings and Debates (1987), p. 758.
De Jesus, M.Q., Overview, Press Freedom in the
 Teodoro, L.V., Survey of Media, Press Freedom in the
 Guidebook for Journalists Covering the Courts: Strengthening Judiciary-Media Relations, Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (2004), p. 13.
Jacobson, M.K., Assault on the Judiciary: Judicial Response to Criticism Post-Schiavo, 61 U.
 Attorney-General v. Leveller Magazine, Ltd., AC 440 (1979); Scott v. Scott, AC 417 (1913).
 Coker, H.C., Responding to Judicial Criticism, 73
 Blatz, K., The State of the
Judiciary, 62 Bench & B.
 The Federalist No. 78.
 Constitution (1987), Art. VIII, Sec. 1.
Abrahamson, S.S., Remarks of the Hon. Shirley S. Abrahamson before the American
Bar Association Commission on the Separation of Powers and Judicial
Independence, Washington, D.C.,
 Kelson, S., Judicial
 G.R. No. L-27833,
 Gonzales v. Commission on Elections, id. at 858.
 In Re: Lozano, 54 Phil. 801 (1929).
 G.R. Nos. 79690-707 & L-80578,
 Zaldivar v. Gonzalez, id. at 354, citing
the concurring opinion of Mr. Justice Frankfurter in Pennekamp v. Florida, 328
Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by the UN General
Assembly Resolution 2200A (XXI),
E.T.S. No. 5, adopted
 Locke, J., Second Treatise of Government (1689), 124-126, reprinted in Locke, J., Political Writings 325 (1985 ed.).
 1 Phil. 1 (1901).
 In the matter of the proceedings against Marcelino Aguas for contempt of the Court of First Instance of Pampanga, id. at 2.
 In Re: Amzi B. Kelly, 35 Phil. 944 (1916).
 In Re: Vicente Sotto, 82 Phil. 595 (1949).
 In the Matter of Proceedings for
Disciplinary Action Against Atty. Wenceslao Laureta and of Contempt Proceedings Against Eva Maravilla-Illustre in G.R. No. 68635, entitled Eva Maravilla-Illustre vs. Hon. Intermediate Appellate Court,
et al., G.R. No. 68635,
 58 Phil. 271 (1933).
 Perkins v. Director of Prisons, id. at 274,
citing Ex parte Terry, 128 US 225, 32
L Ed., 405; In re Kelly, 35 Phil.
944; State v. Magee Publishing Company,
at 274-275, citing 4 Lewis Bl. Com., Sec. 286, p. 1675; Oswald, Contempt, Canadian
ed., pp. 1-3, 6
 In Re: Vicente Sotto, supra note 59.
 Halili v. Court of Industrial Relations,
G.R. No. L-24864,
 Supra note 49.
 39 Phil. 778 (1919).
 312 Phil. 977 (1995).
 Supra note 59.
 36 F. 2d 220.
 People v. Godoy, supra note 71, at 1003.
Nos. 152072 & 152104,
 Khanna, H.R., Freedom of Expression with Particular Reference to
Freedom of the Media, 2
 Rollo, pp. 344-345; Report and
Recommendation (Re: In the Matter of the
Allegations Contained in the Columns of Mr. A.P. Macasaet Published in
 See notes 26 and 27.
 See note 28.
 The five Ws and one H: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How are generally known as the basic information that all news stories should contain.
 Rollo, p. 103;
 In Re: Emil P. Jurado,
A.M. No. 93-2-037 SC,
 Then Associate Justice, now Chief Justice Puno was joined by Justice Padilla in his Dissenting Opinion in the Jurado case where the Court voted 10-3, with two justices taking no part.
 Dissenting Opinion, p. 8.
 Supra note 71, at 1001.
 Constitution (1987),
G.R. No. 27654,
 In Re: Almacen, id. at 578-580.
 Maceda, E.M., In Defense of the Supreme Court, Privilege
Speech delivered on the Senate Floor,