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#9 SOCIAL WEATHER STATIONS, INC. VS. JUDGE MAXIMIANO C.

ASUNCION, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 104, QUEZON CITY A.M. No. RTJ-93-1049 FACTS: Published under the by-line of one Marichu Villanueva and titled Judiciary worse than PNP, an item in the June 17, 1993 issue of the Manila Standard, a metropolitan daily, reported that the results of the latest opinion polls conducted by the Ateneo Social Weather Station, as Social Weather Stations, Inc. (or SWS) is also known, showed the Judiciary to have an even lower satisfaction rating that the Philippine National Police. The item went on to state that the President and his Cabinet had been briefed on the results of the survey by Professors Mahar Mangahas and Felipe Miranda of the SWS, and that Malacanang had expressed concern over the Judiciarys law standing. Press Secretary Jesus Sison was also quoted as saying that this was most puzzling, although he could not, recall the exact rating, noting only that the PNP had a better image that the judiciary. Said report appears to have prompted Judge Maximiano C. Asuncion, presiding judge of Branch 104 of the Regional Trial Court at Quezon City, motu proprio to initiate on the same date of June 17, 1993 proceedings ordering the President of the SWS to: explain why you should not be held in contempt for distributing to the general public without prior permission from any court your findings that the people have more confidence with the police than with judges thereby tending directly or indirectly to degrade the administration of justice. On June 21, 1993, Prof. Mahar Mangahas through Atty. Antonio M. Abad, Jr. submitted his comment and explanation that it was not true that the Social Weather Stations, Inc. distributed to the general public the alleged survey. Said survey was privately given to Pres. Ramos and the cabinet and was not intended for publication nor for public consumption and that if ever it reaches the media, he had not authorized anyone to do so. The hearing was had a scheduled on June 23, 1993, after which Judge Asuncion promulgated an Order dated July 2, 1993, finding Professor Mangahas explanation satisfactory and dismissing the contempt charge against him. After three weeks or so, or more precisely on July 26, 1993, Professor Mangahas addressed a letter to the Chief Justice intended as a formal complaint against Honorable Maximiano C. Asuncion for grave abuse of authority and gross ignorance of the law, in connection with his issuance of an Order dated 17 June 1993. ISSUE: Whether the Order dated 17 June 1993 is violative of the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom from prior restraint. HELD: No.

What was clearly implicit in the newspaper report about the results of the SWS poll - in the words of Judge Asuncion, that the people have more confidence with the police than with the judges in light of the fact, of which judicial notice is taken, that said report came out at a time when there already was widespread publicity adverse to the judiciary, there can be no doubt of its clear tendency to degrade the administration of justice. Thus, Judge Asuncion can hardly be faulted for what, at a minimum, he must have felt duty-bound to do in the circumstances. No question of prior restraint or violation of the guarantee of free speech arises here, what he did being, in essence, merely to initiate an inquiry into the source and basis of the derogatory news report. And he forthwith abated the proceedings upon receiving an explanation he deemed satisfactory. Upon the facts, and under applicable law and principle, the complaint fails to make a prima facie showing of the charges made therein, and must perforce be as it is hereby, DISMISSED.