Está en la página 1de 11

Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
September 28, 1948
En el asunto de ABELARDO SUBIDO, Director de "The Manila Post," recurrido. D. Abelardo Subido
en su propia representacion.
BRIONES, J.:
Este es un incidente del celebre caso de Krivenko, decidido recientemante y en donde hemos declarado que bajo
la Constitucion y excepto la salvedad provista en la misma respecto a sucesion hereditaria, los extranjeros no
pueden adquirir terrenos en Filipinas, aunque estos sean de indole residencial, comercial e industrial. Antes de
la promulgacion y publicacion de la sentencia en dicho transcendental asunto, el periodico diario "The Manila
Post," que editaba entonces el recurrido, publico un articulo informativo en el que se decia que el referido
asunto y habia sido votado y decidido por esta Corte Suprema, siendo la votacion 8-3, es decir, 8 Magistrados
en favor de la prohibicion constitucional y 3 en contra. Tambien se decia en el articulo que la serie de
editoriales publicados por el mencionado periodico en una polemica con el Secretario de J usticia sobre el
precepto constitutional en controversia, habia ayudado grandemente a inclinar a los Magistrados en contra de la
mocion de retirada de la apellacion, retirada que naturalmente hubiese liquidado abruptamente el litigo judicial
pero sin ningun pronunciamiento de parte de este Supremo Tribinal acerac de la importantisima cuestion
constitucional envuelta. (Con esto articulista queria decir que la aceptacion de la retirada de la apelacion de
Krivenko hubiese equivalido a un triunfo de este sin lucha, y que, por tanto, el fracaso de la retirada implicaba
inversamente una victoria de parte de los sostenedores de la prohibicion constitucional — victoria en cuyo
logro y credito el articulista reclamaba cierta participacion en virtud de sus editoriales.).
Con motivo de dicha publicacion esta Corte ordeno que el director del periodico, Abelardo Subido, fuese
emplazado y explicase por que no debia ser condenado por desacato. El director, en su contestacion, se exculpa
con las siguientes alegaciones: (a) que publico la informacion en obediencia a la tradicion periodistica de decir
al publico la verdad, pero sin ningun proposito de obstruir, embarazar o entorpecer la administracion de
justicia; (b) que al publicar la informacion "el recurrido estaba implusado por la idea de que cuanto mas pronto
se enterase el publico de la decision de esta Honorable Corte tanto mejor, pues de esta manera se impediria y
evitaria el traspaso de propiedades valiosas a favor de extranjeros"; (c) que el recibio la informacion de un
Magistrado de esta Corte, el cual le alento pra que la publicara, pues parecia que el Magistrado se sentia
inquieto e impaciente por la demora en la promulgacion de la sentencia; (d) que cuando el recurrido publico la
informacion de que se trata no tenia conocimiento de ninguna ley, regla o sentencia en esta jurisdiccion que
definiese y castigase como un acto de desacato a esta Corte Suprema el publicar el resultado de la votacion en
un caso dado antes de la promulgacion de la sentencia, cuando el informe acerca de dicha votacion se ha
obtenido no de los records y archivo de la Corte sino de otra fuente, ni el recurrido sabia que era la politica o
norma de conducta de esta Corte el guardar absoluta reserva sobre el resultado de la votacion hasta la
promulgacion de la sentencia; (e) que, a juicio del recurrido, la votacion de un asunto o causa implica la
decision del mismo para todos los efectos, incluso el de la publicidad para informacion del publico, siendo la
redaccion y promulgacion de la sentencia un tramite meramente adjetivo para cumplir el mandato de la
Constitucion de que se expongan las razones del fallo, pero que lo importante, lo fundamental es el resultado o
parte dispositiva de la sentencia, y ello queda establecido y consumado una vez efectuada la votacion cuando se
ha logrado la mayoria legal o constitucional necesaria para que exista decision; (f) que, aun suponiendo que no
existe sentencia accesible al publico hasta que la misma se promulgue debidamente en la escribania de la Corte,
el recurrido tampoco es culpable de desacato, pues "si un miembro de la Corte puede soltar libremente una
informacion sobre un caso que es el deseo de la Corte guardar bajo sigilo, sin cometer por ello desacato, el
infrascrito cree que tampoco comete desacato al transmitir semejante informacion a otro"; (g) que si la
publicacion en cuestion ha causado algun embarazo a la Corte o a cualquiera de sus miembros, o finalmente se
declare que la misma ha sido ilegal, impropia e indebida, el recurrido aprovecha esta ocasion para ofrecer sus
excusas y deplorar el incidente, yda seguridades de que de hoy en adelante el veredicto le servira como guia y
precedente en su conducta profesional como editor de una publicacion o periodico.
La elaborada explicacion dada por al recurrido puede atenuar su responsabilidad, pero es evidente que no le
exculpa. el recurrido que, ademas de periodista es tambien abogado, no podia ignorar — y si lo ignoraba, "la
ignorancia de la ley no excusa de su cumplimiento" — que un asunto o causa pendiente en esta Corte Suprema
solo se consideradecidido una vez registrada, promulgad y publicada la sentencia en la escribania, y que hasta
entonces el resultado de la votacion se estima como una materia absolutamente reservada y confidencial,
perteneciente exclusivamente a las camaras interiores de la Corte. Un precedente tipico en nuestra
jurisprudencia es el asunto por desacato de Ramon Torres, director del periodico diario "El Debate" (1931). Al
igual que en el presente caso, Torres publico el resultado de la votacion en una causa criminal pendiente en esta
Corte Suprema, y hasta parece que trato de nombrar al autor de la decision, que resulto ser absolutoria. La
unica deferencia es que mientras en el presente caso el director alega haber recibido su informacion de un
miembreo de esta Corte, en aquel no se revelo el origen de la noticia. Substancialmente la defensa de Torres
venia as ser la misma que la de Subido. La Corte hallo insatisfactoria la explicacion de Torres y
consiguientemente le condeno por desacato a pagar una multa de P30, estableciendo la regla sobre el caso en
los siguentes terminos inequivocos.
La contestacion presentada por el Director de el Debate concluye con esta manifestacion: 'Si es un hecho,
por tanto, que la decision favorable a la acusada en la causa arriba titulada ya ya sido discutida y votada
por este Honorable Tribunal, la informacion de "El Debate" de ningun modo puede obstruir, embarazar o
influir en la aministracion de justicia, por tratarse de un hecho consurmado. Es un simple 'scoop' del
periodico y nada mas." Por lo que les consta a los miembros del Tribunal, la informacion que precede no
es cierta, puesto que, al tiempo en que se publico en el Debate, la causa en cuestion no habia sido
discutida ni votada, y, aun cuandolo hubiera sido, y aun cuando lo dicho por el periodico fuera cierto,
careceria de importancia. Las actuaciones de este Tribunal deben mantenerse en secreto mientras no se
hayan promulgado las decisiones u ordenes del mismo. La razon de esto es tan obvia que a duras penas
es necesaria una explicacion. En una causa civil, por ejemplo,el conocimiento previo del fallo les
permitiria a las partes beneficiarse financieramente o transigir asuntos en perjuicio de las partes que no
estuvieran tan bien informadas. En causas criminales, por ejemplo, el informe previo relativo al fallo le
permitiria al acusado huir fuera de la jurisdiccion del Tribunal. Por tanto, el Tribunal debe insistir en que
se le permita proceder a fallar sus asuntos de una manera ordenada, libre de intromisiones externas que
obstruyan sus funciones y que tiendan a entorpecer la administracion de justicia." (Asunto de Torres, 55
J ur. Fil., p. 859.).
No existe ningun motivo para desviarnos de la regla y desde luego no vacilamos en reafirmarla. La
circunstancia de que el recurrido haya obtenido su informacion no de los records y archivo de esta Corte, sino
de un Magistrado, no solo no altera la regla sino que, en realidad, caracteriza la infraccion. El desacato consiste
precisamente en eso: en haber divulgado una actuacion que debia mantenerse en secreto, en virtud de un
informe obtenido a espaldas de la Corte. No hay en esta Corte mas que una forma oficial de publicidad y es la
promulgacion de la sentencia, resolucion u orden correspondiente. Cualquier otra informacion extraña a esa
forma oficial, aunque venga de un Magistrado, no es autorizada y constituye desacato por entorpecer, obstruir o
embarazar la administracion de justicia.
No es dificial imaginarse la desastrosa confusion que resultaria si se abrogase o siquiera relajase la regla,
permitiendo la publicacion prematura de las votaciones en esta Corte, es decir, antes de la promulgacion de las
sentencias, ordenes y resoluciones. La primera consecuencia que se sequiria, seria el abrir las puertas de esta
Corte a las intrigas y especulaciones de la informacion periodistica. Los reporteros, muchas veces avidos de
sensacionalismo, y de eso que en su jerga profesional llaman 'scoop', ya fantaseando, ya tratando de adivinar, o
ya acertando a veces, harian toda suerte de conjeturas, cabalas y comentarios sobre la manera como se ha
votado un asunto o una causa.Se tendria un idea aproximada de lo que entonces ocurriria leyendo lo que a
menudo la prensa publica sobre las actividades parlamentarias, sobre el gabinete, y aun sobre las interioridades
del mismo palacio de Malacañan, residencia y oficina del J efe Ejecutivo de la nacion. Desde el punto de vista
de la publicidad periodistica ?que diferencia habria entonces entre esta Corte y, vgr., un caucus parlamentario,
o una convercion politica?
Otra consecuencia seria que un miembro de esta Corte que creyera en la teoria de una publicidad implacable de
las actuaciones de este Tribunal podrina entonces sentirse libre para entregar a la prensa los resultados de
nuestras votaciones aun antes de la promulgacion del fallo, y acaso con la mejor intencion del mundo. Los
resultados funestos de una publicacion prematura ya se han señalado con suficiente enfasis en la sentencia del
asunto de Ramon Torres que se ha transcrito mas arriba, asi que no parece necesario elaborar mas sobre ellos.
Nos basta añadir que cualesquier ventajas y beneficios pudieran derivarse de una prematura publicacion
resultan nulos si se los contrasta con los tremendos perjuicios y males que se seguirian del sistema.
Se arguye que, por lo menos, en el presente caso la publicacion hecha por el recurrido produjo un bien, pues
tenia por objeto acelear la promulgacion de una sentencia que diz se estaba demorando, y asi evitar el traspaso
de propiedades raices vliosas a favor de extranjeros en contra de la prohibicion expresa de la Constitucion. Aun
suponiendo Cierto — cosa que desde luego no se admite — que la publicacion de marras precipito la
promulgacion de la sentencia, ello tampoco borra el desacato dejando en suspenso la regla. Aqui hay una
cuestion de principio, con toda la rigidez de los principios. La ley es ley, la regla es regla y debe cumplirse sin
consideracion a las consecuencias. Es evidente que la observancia de la ley no puede ni debe subordinarse al
empirismo de la consecuencias, execusandose la infraccion cuando ha dado buenos resultados. Dura lex sed
lex. La filosofia de la ley es necesariamente transcendental y, por tanto, tiene que considerar no solo los
resultados inmediatos sino los remotos cuyo daño y perjuicio puede pesar mas en la balanza de la justicia que
cualquier bien cercano y contingente.
Llegamos ahora a la parte mas penosa de este incidente, al aspecto moral, la consideracion etica. Esta preocupa
cion la ha expresado un miembro de esta Corte en su disidencia cuando aprobamos la resolucion ordenando el
emplazamiento del recurrido para que expusiera las razones por que no debia ser castigadopor desacato, a
saber: "Mi razon (para disentir) es que no es propio ni justo el que esta Corte llame a la barra de la justicia a un
hombre por cometer un acto que ha sido inducido, alentado y ayudado por un miembro de este mismo Tribunal.
La preocupacion no carece de peso, moral por lo menos, pero debe tranquilizarnos el convencimeinto de que
aqui hay dos responsabilidades completamente separadas e independientes una de otra: la respondsabilidad del
Magistrado y la responsabilidad del periodista. No nos compete enjuiciar en este incidente la responsabilidad
del Magistrado, para cuya conducta y cuyos actos existen ciertas normas, unas escritas, otras; unas
constitucionales y estatutorias, otras, embebidas solo en la tradicion judicial de centurias. Lo unico que nos toca
juzgar es la responsabilidad del periodista.
Es evidente que el recurrido no puede escudarse tras la responsabilidad del Magistrado que le facilito la
informacion cuestionada. El mismo recurrido admite en su informe escrito que ni la orden de un superior a un
subalterno para ejecutar un acto punible constituye una valida excusa. Pero ni siquiera se trata de esto, pues es
obvio que entre el Magistrado y el recurrido no existia ninguna relacion de superior a subalterno. Se trata
simplemente de que el recurrido escogio equivocadamente la fuente de donde debia obtener su informacion: de
este error nace su responsabilidad. El recurido confiesa que medito mucho sobre la informacion antes de
decidirse a publicarla, dejando transcurrir varios dias. Esto mismo demuestra que el recurrido no se sentia
seguro de la propiedad del paso que iba a dar. ¿Por que no apelo a la Corte, directamente o por medio de su
Presidente, demandando como ciudadano y como periodista que se promulgase la decision del caso de
Krivenko lo mas pronto posible, si a su juicio dicha decision se estaba retardando innecesariamente? Esto le
hubiera evitado el tener que embarazar, obstruir y entorpecer la administracion de justicial publicando
prematuramente el resultado de la votacion, fuese o no cierto dicho resultado.
Comprendemos que, como dijo un pensador, el publico parece un monstruo insaciable de mil cabezas que pide
siempre noticias y mas noticias, y sobre todo noticias sensacionales; que es exigir casi un heroismo de un
periodista el que no suelte a la publicidad-voraz como la arena de un circo romano de la decadencia — una
noticia exclusiva, un "scoop". Pero, con todo, la tentacion se puede resistir, y en el exito de esa resistencia,
cuando van de por medio la vida y seguridad de las instituciones, hay cierta medida de merito civico, y sobre
ello como base se puede edificar una prensa solida, responsable, valerosa, sana y eficiente.
Menoscaba la libertad de la prensa la regla que estamos reafirmando con la presente decision? De ninguna
manera. La judicatura es uno de los tres poderes del Estado, consagrados de la Constitucion. La prensa carece
de rango oficial, pero tal se su importancia y tan decisivo en su papel en la civilizacion y en la vida de los
pueblos y naciones que por antonomasia y tradicion se le ha bautizado universalmente con el apelativo de
cuarto poder del Estado. Con razon dijo Castelar, el gran orador español del siglo pasado, que sin prensa libre
la democracia es inconcebible.
Pues bien; el poder judicial y el poder-prensa pueden coexistir y deben coexistir armoniosamente, cada cual
cumpliendo su noble y alto cometido dentro del marco de sus atribuciones, sin que el uno trate de embarazar,
obstruir o destruir al otro. La judicatura cumple con la prensa permitiendola el mas amplio juego posible de
libertad, interpretando y aplicando las leyes sobre imprenta con sano y progresivo liberalismo, no tolerando ni
condonando, sin embargo, el abuso y el libertinaje, pues la libertad de la palabra y de la prensa tiene, como
todas las demas libertades, sus limites y fronteras que no se pueden transpasar impunemente. Con legitimo
orgullo se puede decir que en lo que va de siglo la judicatura filipina, por lo general, ha sido fiel a esta tradicion
de liberalismo.
Por su parte, la prensa tiene para con la judicatura un deber de reciprocidad, permitiendo que esta desempeñe
sus elevadas funciones con toda libertad y desembarazo, no entrometiendose en ellas con publicaciones y
comentarios inoportunos e intempestivos, observando, en una palabra, la regla universal y firmemente
establecida de que los tribunales tienen derecho a disponer de sus asuntos de una manera ordenada, libra de
ingerencias exteriores que obstruyan y entorpezcan sus funciones, constituyendo desacato la infraccion de la
regla. En realidad, esta restriccion se establece no para coartar la libertad de la prensa, sino para prevenir y
reprimir el libertinaje, en interes mismo del estado y de la sociedad para cuya seguridad y supervivencia el
poder judicial es absolutamente indispensable. Pocas veces se ha expresado con tanta elocuencia la substancia
de la regla como en las siguientes observaciones del Magistrado Holmes que al mismo tiempo que enlazan la
judicatura y la prensa en un fecundo consorcio, ponen a salvo la libertad y la administracion de justicia
mediante un saludable juego de frenos y cortapisas. Helas aqui:
"La administracion de justicia y la libertad de la prensa, aunque separadas y distintas, son igualmente sagradas,
y ninguna de ellas debe ser violada por la otra. La prensa y los tribunales tienen derechos y deberes
correlativos, y deben cooperar para mantener los principios de la Constitucion y de las leyes, de quienes aquella
recibe sus prerrogativas y estos su jurisdiccion. El derecho a la publicidad legitima debe ser reconocido
escrupulosamente, y se debe tener cuidado en todo tiempo de evitar el chocar con el. En un caso claro en que
sea necesario decidir los negocios judiciales sin el embarazo de publicaciones que razonablemente tiendan a
menoscabar la imparcialidad de los veredictos, o a obstruir de otro modo la administracion de justicia, este
Tribunal no vacilara en ejercitar sus facultades no dudades de castigar por desacato.
xxx xxx xxx
"A este Tribunal se le debe permitir que proceda a disponer de sus asuntos de una manera ordenada, libre de
intromisiones externas que obstruvan sus funciones constitucionales. Se insistira en este derecho como vital
para un tribunal imparcial y, como ultimo recurso, como un individuo que ejercita el derecho de propia
defensa, actuara para conservar su existencia como un tribunal libre de prejuicios, * * *." (U.S. vs. Sullens
[1929], 36 Fed., [2d], 230, 239, 239). (Asunto de Lozano y Quevedo, 54 J ur. Fil., p. 867.)
Reiteramos, pues, de una manera firme e inequivoca la regla sentada en el asunto de Ramon torres, con la
advertencia de que en el futuro infracciones de esta clase seran tratadas con mas rigor. En el presente asunto,
sin embargo, entendemos que la explicacion dada por el recurrido y las circunstancias singualares del caso
justifican el que impongamos la misma sancion correctiva que en el referido caso de Torres. Dijomos entonces
y lo repetimos hoy: "El objeto que tenemos ante nos es la correccion, no la represalia."
Por lo expuesto, declaramos que Abelardo Subido, editor de "The Manila Post", es culpable de desacato a esta
Corte, y por ello se le requiere el pago en la escribania, dentro del plazo de 15 dias desde el recibo de la
notificacion, de la suma de P30. Asi se ordena.
Moran, Pres., Paras, Feria, Pablo, y Bengzon, MM., estan conformes.
Separate Opinions
PERFECTO, J., dissenting:
The regime of justice, liberty, and democracy envisioned by the framers of the Constitution is in crisis. Truth
has again to seek refuge in the catacombs of Rome. The people are denied the right to know matters of public
interests, matters that constitute an essential part of the people's business. Editors, publishers, journalists cannot
relay to the public the information that they may receive of official actuations. They are compelled to act as
accomplices in a policy of concealment of public acts. They are intimidated with punishment to withhold vital
information from the public. They are compelled to help screen government acts and to keep people deaf and
blind on some of the most important public actuations.
The fundamental law commands that "the natural right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic
efficiency should received the aid and support of the government" but the people's civic efficiency is
jeopardized by keeping them ignorant of important processes of government. The Constitution ordains that "the
government shall establish and maintain a complete and adequate system of public education, and shall provide
at least free public primary instruction and citizenship training to adult citizens. "Information on government is
not only essential but indispensable to citizenship training. But one of the most important organs of government
denies the people information on officials actuations of that government., For the sake of obsolete theories, old
errors canonized by tradition, paradoxies proclaimed infallible as lectern dogmas, the elementals are forgotten
or ignored, and inconsistent theses and incompatible attitudes are adopted as naturally as the expression of
logic and common sense.
The clash of ideologies in this case shall forever remain indecisive until the public opinion shall have been able
to plasticize official conduct in the eternal moulds of human conscience. Truth and justice, freedom of the
press, public interests, secrecy in the Supreme Court, tradition and progress, conventional routine and
intelligent and reasonable appraisal of situations and circumstances, conflict of public and moral values, and
many other factors are involved in this intellectual battle of ideas and systems of ideas, the far-reaching effects
of which is beyond measurement and estimate.
Freedom of the press is here recognized as a constitutional right. But the press is denied the elemental human
right of expressing the truth and the publication of the truth is punished as an offense. Such inconsistency is
beyond comprehension. No amount of juristic logodaedaly can reconcile freedom of the press with truth behind
an iron curtain. Freedom of the press is freedom to publish the truth. It is incompatible with any system of
censorship and with any psychological or ideological muzzle. It cannot subsist where editors and journalists are
terrorized with prosecution and punishment into hiding a set of official facts, of public actuations, of
government processes vitally affecting the people which they know to be true on unimpeachable source and
authority.
There is nothing so essentially public as government Generally, the characteristic distinction between what is
public and what is private, is the fact that the first is governmental. People call private that which does not
belong to government and public that which belongs to government. Public men are those in government.
Private persons are those who are not in the government. Public funds are those belonging to the government
and private funds those not belonging to the government. the Supreme Court is one of the highest organs of the
government. It is official and public. But it is maintained that it has to be surrounded with mystery, that a set of
its acts and actuations must be hidden in air-tight concealment, and that any outsider who should dare lift the
lid of secrecy is liable to suffer as if he had opened the box of Pandora. There again is an inconsistency that no
amount of dialectics may reconcile.
Government business is the people's business. Governments are established to serve the interest of the people.
Be they democratic, oligarchical, autocratic, monarchical, or totalitarian, all are intended to foster the general
welfare of the people at large. The more ruthless dictators have always made loud protestations that the interest
of the people has been the closest thing their heart. Mussolini and Hitler have been outstanding examples.
Stalin is only duplicating, if not improving, their act. At least, nowadays no dictator or ruler would dare to
repeat the shameless statement of the French king that "The State is I."
Ours is a Republic. A republican government has, by its nature, to be democratic. For that reason, our
Constitution declares that sovereignty resides in the people and all government powers emanate from them.
Here the government is the creature of the people. It is established at their image. It is the manifestation of the
rule of the people, by the people, and for the people. The government is just an organ of the people as much as
the hands are organs of the human being. In the same way that the hands execute the commands of the person
to whom they belong, the government has to execute the commands of the collective will of the people. Our
hands have to perform what we feel or think to be desirable or beneficial. They are supposed not to do anything
harmful to us. In like manner, the government should only undertake what is desirable to the people and
completely abstain from doing anything inimical to their welfare.
As ineludible consequence of the above premises, nothing pertaining or affecting the government should be
hidden from the people. It is a question of elemental logic, principle, and honest consistency, upon which no
sensible dispute can be entertained. Secrecy is incompatible with the very nature of a government.
Concealment from the people of public affairs is highly detrimental to social interest. The withholding from the
public knowledge of the result of our voting in the Krivenko case since February, 1947, when the Supreme
Court actually decided how to dispose of the case, until the publication made by respondent Subido in the issue
of "The Manila Post" of October 13, 1947, caused considerable harm to many. Perhaps many of the damages
done are irreparable.
Secrecy breeds irregularity, fraud and crime. It allows chicanery, graft and corruption. Mystery in government
prevents the press from performing its essential and salutary function. A democracy based on ignorance, on
misinformation, on conjectures, on suspicion, is doomed to fail. The more enlightenment the people have, the
more guarantee there is for their success in their collective enterprises, and in the fulfillment of their social
aspirations and purposes.
Respondent is the editor of "The Manila Post", a daily published in Manila. In its issue of October 13, 1947, the
newspaper published the article, subject of these proceedings, copy of which is attached to this opinion as
appendix.
No one has ever questioned the truth of the publication. As a matter of fact, the publication is based on
information we ourselves have furnished to editor Subido. No one has dared to dispute the fact that the
publication was made to serve public interest. No one has pretended that the publication obeyed any personal
motivation or was intended to serve any private interest. It is recognized that, with the publication, "The Manila
Post" has rendered a great public service. With the notice to the public at large of what actually happened in the
Supreme Court, the on rush of unconstitutional transaction flooding the offices of the Register of Deeds of
Manila and those of provinces was stopped. The people have been greatly received with the information given
in the article. The worry about the dangers besetting the national patrimony was eased. When, to restore the
peace of mind of all of the other members of the Supreme Court, we revealed that we were the ones who gave
the information, warm praises and congratulations were showered on us. After the revelation had been, no one
has ever voiced in public any criticism of or objection to our release of the information.
Strong reasons prompted us to make the disclosure. The constitutional controversy involved in the Krivenko
case head been raging on long before the last war. It started shortly after the Constitution came into effect in
1935. The question had been raised in the Oh Cho case which we decided in 1946. The case remained pending
during the whole period of enemy occupation, and it took our post-liberation Supreme Court more than a year
to dispose of it. We had been urging, as demanded by public interest, that we decide the constitutional question
squarely presented in the Oho Cho case, but it was our lot to be the only one who expressed a definite opinion
on the question. This had been sidestepped by the majority, although the assurance was given that question
would be decided should another case be brought to the Supreme Court.
Then the Krivenko case came. The constitutional question was finally settled by overwhelming majority vote,
8-3, taken in February, 1947. Unfortunately, it took many months before the decision was promulgated.
Several months after the vote we have taken, but much before the promulgation of our decision, there flared a
long and heated public controversy between Secretary of J ustice Ozaeta and Editor Subido involving the very
constitutional question. The controversy which has reached the people through the columns of the press and
radio broadcast, centered around the act of the Secretary of J ustice in ordering Registers of Deeds all over the
country to give effect, by proper registration, to transfers of Philippine Lands to aliens, regardless of the
pendency in the Supreme Court of the Krivenko case, where said transfers in favor of aliens was the subject to
a constitutional question.
As published in the newspapers, the number of land transfers to aliens being rushed for registration, was
growing alarmingly . At the same time, the public controversy was becoming bitter, public confusion was
increasing, and we felt that our majority was menaced by slow disintegration. We felt further that delay in the
promulgation of our decision may end, by deadlock or by change of majority, in the defeat of a judgement that,
in our conviction, would uphold the letter and the spirit of the constitution, and that the alienation on rush of
the national patrimony may finally doom our people to be foreigners in their own native land. In the face of
such national disaster, we were compelled to take a bold step. For great evils, drastic measures. Blocking the
way to national salvation, traditions and conventions had to be wiped out. Much as we have regret, we
disregarded the personal sensibilities of our brethren. Personal considerations for other's sense of propriety had
to be ignored in the interest of the public. The courtesies and amenities of social relations had to be sacrificed
for the sake of truth and justice. No consideration is strong enough bend one's loyalty to truth. No old practices
are old enough to stand in the way of justice. No sacrifice is hard enough if needed to save the Constitution.
Placed in a crucial cross-road, we did not hesitate to go where duty was calling us. Our conscience as a J ustice,
as a Filipino, as human being offered us no other alternative. We cast the die, we crossed the Rubicon, we gave
to Editor Subido the information as to the truth in the Supreme Court on the Krivenko case. Editor Subido, in
publishing the information, fulfilled an unavoidable civic duty. For that courageous act, he deserves praises and
the undying gratitude of all the people. This Supreme Court may punish him, but the final verdict of history
will vindicate him for meritorious service to his country.
There is no law upon which respondent may be found guilty of any offense or deserve any punishment. He is
accused of contempt but his publication cannot be included among the acts classified as contempt under Rule
64, which contains the pertinent provisions on the matter. Section 3 of said rule provides:
Contempt punished after charge and hearing. — After charge in writing has been filed, and an
opportunity given to the accused to be heard by himself or counsel, a person guilty of any of the
following acts may be punished for contempt:
(a) Misbehavior of an officer of a court in the performance of his official duties or his official
transactions;
(b) Disobedience of or resistance to a lawful writ, process, order, judgement or command of a court, or
injunction granted by a court or judge;
(c) Any abuse of or any unlawful interference with the process or proceedings of a court;
(d) Any improper conduct tending, directly, or indirectly to impede, obstruct, or degrade the
administration of justice;
(e) Assuming to be an attorney or an officer of a court, and acting as such without authority;
(f) Failure to obey a subpoena duly served;
(g) The secure, or attempted rescue, of a person or property in the custody of an officer by virtue of an
order or process of a court held by him;
(h) The act of a person who, after being dispossessed or ejected from any real property by the judgement
or process of any court of competent jurisdiction, enters or attempts to enter into or upon such real
property, for the purpose of executing acts of ownership or possession, or in any manner disturbs the
possession given to the person adjudged to be entitled thereto.
But nothing in this section shall be so construed as to prevent the court from issuing process to bring the
accused party into court, or from holding him in custody pending such proceedings.
It seems that respondent's publication is allocated in paragraph (d) as an "improper conduct tending, directly or
indirectly, to impede, obstruct or degrade the administration of justice." As much as imagination can be
stretched, it is impossible to see how the publication in question may "impede, or obstruct the administration of
justice, but had rather the effect of hastening the promulgation of our long delayed decision. No one has taken
the trouble to show how the publication could and can have the effect of degrading the administration of
justice. The task does not deserve any trouble, as it is beyond human ability to perform. There is nothing
degrading in publishing the truth unless the truth is itself degrading to the administration of justice. It shows
only that the Supreme Court had upheld the Constitution.
There being no law, human or divine, that Editor Subido has violated, he is a victim of a veritable ectronomy by
which the written law is being stretched, like a rubber band, to the most unsuspected lengths.
But resort is had to the inexhaustible reservoir of precedents from where is easy to find errors in the past serving
as excuse for repeating the same errors in the present. The case of Ramon Torres (55 Phil., 799) is invoked. We
made a searching analysis of the decision and we did not find in it any hint of any law upon which respondent
here may be punished for contempt. The only rule that can be found therein is this dogmatic pronouncement:
"The proceedings of this Court must remain confidential until decisions or orders have been properly
promulgated." The weakness of the reason given in its support is beyond redemption.
The decision says that, in a civil case, "prior knowledge of the result would permit parties to benefit themselves
financially or to compromise cases to the detriment of parties not so well informed." No explanation
whatsoever has been given as to how the parties may be benefit themselves by knowing the result of our vote in
February when the decision was actually promulgated in November. And if the parties would be benefited by
an earlier knowledge of the decision, the promulgation of which is delayed, we wonder if there is any one who
can find anything wrong in it. Is it not universally being insisted that decisions should be promptly rendered?
Are not the clamors against delay in the administration of justice general?
As regards compromise, the decision utterly fails to explain how any part may take advantage of others "not so
well informed" about a decision published in a news paper equally accessible to all parties. That one party may
happen to read the news one or two hours earlier than the other party, does not argue against early publication
in the newspaper. The same differences may obtain when notice of the decision is served upon the parties by
the court. Some parties or their counsel may be present at the time of the delivery of the notice, and others may
be absent and will take one or two hours or more before actually reading the decision.
The second reason is that, in criminal cases, "advances advices regarding the outcome would permit the accused
to flee the jurisdiction of the court." The one who penned the decision must have forgotten that it usually takes
months from the promulgation of our decision in criminal cases before said decisions are actually executed in
the lower court, and no one has ever complained that we should continue promulgation should be published by
the press.
The decision in the Torres case invokes, in turn, the earlier decision. In re Lozano (54 Phil., 801). That decision
does not offer better light. It does not offer us a law more applicable than Rule 64. The citations of English and
American decisions made in it cannot change the wording of Rule 64. Its is interesting, however, to note the
quotation from Burns vs. State (145 Wisc., 373) wherein the Supreme Court of Wisconsin said: "J udicial
proceeding, in a case which the law requires to be conducted secretly for the proper administration of justice,
should not be, while the case is on trial, given publicity by the press." Applying the rule to the present case, is
there any charitable person who can help us in finding the law requiring any proceedings of our Supreme Court
to be conducted "in secret?"
In the Lozano case it is remarked that this Court "is not bound to accept" any of the authorities, advising that the
criterion should be "what is best for the maintenance of the J udiciary in the Philippines." It adds that "we need
not be overly sensitive because of the sting of newspaper articles," and that here "we are not restrained by
regulatory law" and that "the only law, and that judge made, which is at all applicable to the situation, is the
resolution adopted by this Court.
We are fully satisfied that Editor Subido committed absolutely no wrong in publishing facts which, in the
performance of a sacred duty and in a sense of loyalty to our conscience, we furnished him. The only regret we
had in the incident is that we were misunderstood by our brethren and that they resented our having followed a
course of action which is not agreeable to their traditional way of thinking. We did not mean any offense by not
surrendering our conviction to opposing views and criteria that we respect and by our refusal to turn our back
to our own deep notions of right and wrong and to betray the faithfulness we owe toward our concepts of truth
and justice. As matter of civility. Notwithstanding, we offered our apology to appease the sensibilities of our
brethren, without compromising honest convictions or principles upon which we have been honored by the
support of overwhelming public opinion.
This is not the first case in which we abstained from dissenting from a resolution ordering a party to show cause
why he should not be punished for contempt when, without our vote, there is already a majority in support of
the resolution. In the same way that, by issuing the resolution, the majority is not bound to find respondent
necessarily guilty, because the order for him to show cause has precisely the purpose of giving him the
opportunity to show that he is not guilty, in not opposing such a resolution, we are not deprived of our freedom
to vote according to our conscience in the decision of the case, and we do not want to deprive the majority of
the opportunity of going on with the proceedings to their satisfaction and without obstructions.
For all the foregoing, we vote for the complete exoneration of the respondent.
TUASON, J., dissenting:
From the resolution of this Court citing the respondent for contempt, I dissented. Then I said:
In dissenting I do not want to be understood as making light of the publication of the result, or supposed
result, of the voting by this Court before the decision is promulgated. My reason is that it is unfair and
unjust for this Court to call a man to the bar of justice for committing an act which was encouraged,
aided and abetted by a member of the Court. The injustice is multiplied when the member joins in the
citation for contempt.
That the J ustice concerned has already made an 'apology' and that he is beyond the power of the Court to
punish or discipline does not alter the moral aspect of the case, the aspect from which this Court, as the
supposed offended party, should view it.
I am not defending the respondent editor. I am concerned with the principle involved. If the respondent
looks upon this incident in a different light and perceives in it only things for enconium and eulogy, this
dissent nevertheless stands.
I reiterate my disagreement.
There is no doubt that the publication of this Court's deliberation while the case was under consideration was
contemptuous, and the party making the publication should, under ordinary circumstances, deserve
punishment. However, punishment does not come with good grace from this Court when one of its members
was primarily responsible of the publication and said members is not only not punished but sits in judgement of
his compliance.
Contempt of court is not a criminal offense for which there is an inexorable duty to impose a penalty, regardless
of the fact that no action is taken against the principal and more guilty offender. The matter of dealing with
contempts is within the court's discretion, and the power, it has been correctly said, should be exercised
sparingly and cautiously, and when absolutely necessary.
In the present case, there is no absolute necessity of taking any action against the jeopardize or involved. The
proceeding is entirely the affair of this Court and has been commenced by the Court on its own initiative. The
respondent is not committing a continuing offense which obstructs or interferes with the administration of
justice. The act complained of is past.
If there is a case which needs circumspection, this is it, I think. If this Court can not punish its erring member
because it has no power to do so, it will do well to pause and forget this incident entirely. In trying to vindicate
its dignity and win respect for itself, the Court places itself ina position which might invite contempt and
ridicule and cause it to lose respect and dignity.
Se declara al recurrido culpable de descato.
APPENDIX
THE MANILA POST
October 13, 1947
HIGH COURT VOTES AGAINST REGISTRATION OF ALIEN LANDS
Tribunal Turns Down Krivenko Plea, 8-3; Upholds Constitution.
Reliable Court Officials Reveals Decisions Reached Last February; Verdict However Not Yet Written.
By ABELARDO SUBIDO
Editor, The Manila Post.
that the high court, with all 11 justices participating, voted 8 to 3 sometimes in February this year that
aliens may not acquire lands or any improvements thereon in the Philippines.
However, this ruling will not affect the citizens of the U. S. in view of the parity amendment to the
Constitution which grants them equal rights as the Filipinos in exploitations of our lands and natural
resources.
The vote was taken on the case brought by Alexander A. Krivenko, a stateless Russian, to compel the
register of deeds of Manila, to accept registration of his residential lot. The case involves the momentous
question as to whether or not a foreigner may acquire lands for residential, commercial and industrial
purposes not withstanding the constitutional mandate which provides that 'save in cases of hereditary
succession no private agricultural land should be transferred or assigned except to individuals,
corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines.'
My informant also told me the name of the justice designated to write the decision but he requested me to
withhold the publication of the name as it may put the justice concerned in bad light for unduly delaying
the writing of the decision. He did not say when the written decision will be released.
THE KRIVENKO CASE
Krivenko bought a lot containing 1,099 square meters in New Manila on December 29, 1941. In May,
19455, he sought to register the land in his name but registration was denied according to Circular No. 14
issued by former Secretary of J ustice Ramon Quisumbing. The circular directed registers of deeds not to
accept registration of lands sold to foreigners in view of the prohibition against alien landholding in the
Philippines Constitution.
Krivenko sued the Register of Deeds in the Court of First Instance of Manila but the case was dismissed
by J udge Francisco de la Rosa on February 4, 1946. In March, 1946, he filed his appeal with the
Supreme Court.
CIRCULAR NO. 128 ISSUED
Meanwhile, J ustice Secretary Roman Ozaeta amended Circular No. 14, and issued Circular No. 128 in
lieu thereof to allow foreigners to register their lands. Circular No. 128 was issued by the justice
secretary following an expose by The Manila Post of two transactions of real estate by foreigners which
he ordered registered notwithstanding Circular No. 14.
With the issuance of Circular No. 128, enabling Krivenko to register his land without the necessity of
further prosecuting his case in the Supreme Court, Krivenko, through the law offices of Gibbs, Gibbs,
Chuidian and Quasha, asked to withdraw the appeal.
POWER OF THE PRESS
My informant told me that the court held three sessions to deliberate on this petition to withdraw. These
sessions, he said, were featured by tumultuous and violent discussions among the justices. He also told
me that my series of editorials attacking the unconstitutionality of J ustice Secretary Ozaeta's order helped
in a big way make the justices decide against the withdrawal.
This official pointed out that the position of the petitioner was strong because the office of the solicitor
general, which represented the government in the case, agreed to the withdrawal. Had the withdrawal
been allowed, my informant indicated, the Supreme Court would have culpably abdicated its important
function as guardian or protector of the Philippine Constitution.
The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation