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What we should know about the Supreme Court ruling on privacy violation


We cannot afford protection to persons if they themselves did nothing to place the matter within the confines of their private zone,” the SC declared in the decision written by Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr.



Because of GR 202666, it somehow give immediate Supervisors (or HR)  and the schools disciplinary officers a legal protection to use posts in social networks for administrative cases, even though said posts were published on “private groups” or set to “friends only”. As long as these were given to concerned authorities by those who are “authorized to see the posts”.

The Supreme Court, likewise,  strengthened the prerogative of institutions (schools specially) to exercise its discipline powers and extend its scope to behaviors and activities even on cyberspace.

Recently, the Supreme Court of the Philippines made a ruling about the case of high school students who were barred from attending their graduation ceremony for posting pics (on Facebook) of them in brassieres, drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking inside a bar.

To refresh our memory, five students were barred from attending their graduation ceremony by St. Theresa’s College of Cebu in 2012 for the offending pictures. The school justified their action as penalty for violating provisions in their Student Handbook, which was permitted by Department of Education (DepEd) thru Order No. 88 series of 2010—also known as the Revised Manual of Regulations for Private Schools in Basic Education.


Of the five students, the parents of the four took up the case in court. The school, however, filed a counter charge of child abuse against the parents for neglecting their children and tolerating their vices. Under RA 7610, in relation to Art. 59 of PD 603, the school said the parents who cause or encourage their children to lead immoral or dissolute lives are criminally liable for child abuse.  The school also cited Libi vs Intermediate Appellate Court, GR No. 70890, September 18, 1992, wherein the Supreme Court highlighted the parents’ responsibility and argued that parents are and should be held primarily liable for the liability arising from criminal offenses committed by their minor children under their legal authority or control.


The parents of  two of the four students, eventually entered a settlement with the school.


The parents of the students also filed a petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas data before Branch 14 of the Regional Trial Court for illegally obtaining these photos. Habeas data is a remedy provided to “any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened” through the “gathering, collecting or storing of data or information regarding the person family, home and correspondence of the aggrieved party.”


The RTC dismissed the petition on July 27, 2012.


The petition was then brought to the Supreme Court (SC), but the SC affirmed the RTC decision last September 29, 2014.





The parents failed to prove that the kids kept the photos in the ambit of their private zone.

The parents claimed that the pictures were private, password protected and only accessible to friends. Thus, by obtaining copies of said pictures, the school or its agents could have only done this by illegal means.

The court, however, gave more weight to the testimony of the school- that said pictures were only shown to them by another student of the school, using their own Facebook account, who happen to be “friends” (on Facebook) with the girls who were subject to disciplinary action.




  1. The burden of proof is upon us, the netizens, to prove that we have used the privacy tools to invoke our right to informational privacy
  2. The recipient of the photos in question (the school) is not the culprit, but the Facebook friends who have legitimate access to the photos in question
  3. Privacy is not guaranteed  in social networking sites
  4. “Friends only” setting is not under the confines of privacy
  5. You lost your privacy when you voluntarily share (uploaded or posted) private informations who can be accessed and copied by third parties.
  6. Self regulation is the best defense on privacy violations
  7. Schools and Parents are expected to participate in disciplining and educating children to be good digital citizens
  8. The school cannot be faulted for being steadfast in its duty in teaching and disciplining its students.


You can view/download GR 202666 or the SC ruling of this case here:



What is your take on the issue since this ruling will serve as the barometer for future cases of privacy intrusion?



In pursuit of his award winning advocacy,  the author is providing cyber wellness workshops for various groups like employees, guidance counselors, teachers, parents and students since 2010. Cyber wellness for the academe is designed to help both the school and parents, to adopt and raise kids in a digital environment, and keep them safe online. Its program for students is meant to guide kids to be good digital citizens, to help them protect themselves from privacy violations and teach them basic steps in dealing with cyber bullies. Cyber wellness on the workplace, on the other hand is focused on brand management, protecting propriety rights, responsible use and cybercrime protection.
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