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G.R. No.

82585 November 14, 1988 subsequently, by the President; (2) whether or not the searched and the persons or things to
constitutional rights of Beltran were violated when be seized.
respondent RTC judge issued a warrant for his arrest
MAXIMO V. SOLIVEN, ANTONIO V. ROCES, FREDERICK K.
without personally examining the complainant and the
AGCAOLI, and GODOFREDO L. MANZANAS, petitioners, The addition of the word "personally" after the word
witnesses, if any, to determine probable cause; and (3)
vs. "determined" and the deletion of the grant of authority by
whether or not the President of the Philippines, under the
THE HON. RAMON P. MAKASIAR, Presiding Judge of the the 1973 Constitution to issue warrants to "other
Constitution, may initiate criminal proceedings against the
Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 35, responsible officers as may be authorized by law," has
petitioners through the filing of a complaint-affidavit.
UNDERSECRETARY SILVESTRE BELLO III, of the apparently convinced petitioner Beltran that the
Department of Justice, LUIS C. VICTOR, THE CITY FISCAL Constitution now requires the judge to personally examine
OF MANILA and PRESIDENT CORAZON C. Subsequent events have rendered the first issue moot and the complainant and his witnesses in his determination of
AQUINO, respondents. academic. On March 30, 1988, the Secretary of Justice probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest. This
denied petitioners' motion for reconsideration and upheld is not an accurate interpretation.
the resolution of the Undersecretary of Justice sustaining
G.R. No. 82827 November 14, 1988
the City Fiscal's finding of a prima facie case against
What the Constitution underscores is the exclusive and
petitioners. A second motion for reconsideration filed by
personal responsibility of the issuing judge to satisfy
LUIS D. BELTRAN, petitioner, petitioner Beltran was denied by the Secretary of Justice
himself of the existence of probable cause. In satisfying
vs. on April 7, 1988. On appeal, the President, through the
himself of the existence of probable cause for the issuance
THE HON. RAMON P. MAKASIAR, Presiding Judge of Executive Secretary, affirmed the resolution of the
of a warrant of arrest, the judge is not required to
Branch 35 of the Regional Trial Court, at Manila, THE Secretary of Justice on May 2, 1988. The motion for
personally examine the complainant and his witnesses.
HON. LUIS VICTOR, CITY FISCAL OF MANILA, PEOPLE OF reconsideration was denied by the Executive Secretary on
Following established doctrine and procedure, he shall: (1)
THE PHILIPPINES, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE WESTERN May 16, 1988. With these developments, petitioners'
personally evaluate the report and the supporting
POLICE DISTRICT, and THE MEMBERS OF THE PROCESS contention that they have been denied the administrative
documents submitted by the fiscal regarding the existence
SERVING UNIT AT THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF remedies available under the law has lost factual support.
of probable cause and, on the basis thereof, issue a
MANILA, respondents.
warrant of arrest; or (2) if on the basis thereof he finds no
It may also be added that with respect to petitioner probable cause, he may disregard the fiscal's report and
G.R. No. 83979 November 14, 1988. Beltran, the allegation of denial of due process of law in require the submission of supporting affidavits of witnesses
the preliminary investigation is negated by the fact that to aid him in arriving at a conclusion as to the existence of
instead of submitting his counter- affidavits, he filed a probable cause.
LUIS D. BELTRAN, petitioner,
"Motion to Declare Proceedings Closed," in effect waiving
vs.
his right to refute the complaint by filing counter-
EXECUTIVE SECRETARY CATALINO MACARAIG, SECRETARY Sound policy dictates this procedure, otherwise judges
affidavits. Due process of law does not require that the
OF JUSTICE SEDFREY ORDOÑEZ, UNDERSECRETARY OF would be unduly laden with the preliminary examination
respondent in a criminal case actually file his counter-
JUSTICE SILVESTRE BELLO III, THE CITY FISCAL OF and investigation of criminal complaints instead of
affidavits before the preliminary investigation is deemed
MANILA JESUS F. GUERRERO, and JUDGE RAMON P. concentrating on hearing and deciding cases filed before
completed. All that is required is that the respondent be
MAKASIAR, Presiding Judge of Branch 35 of the Regional their courts.
given the opportunity to submit counter-affidavits if he is
Trial Court, at Manila, respondents.
so minded.
On June 30, 1987, the Supreme Court unanimously adopted
Angara, Abello, Concepcion, Regala and Cruz for Circular No. 12, setting down guidelines for the issuance of
The second issue, raised by petitioner Beltran, calls for an
petitioners in G.R. No. 82585. warrants of arrest. The procedure therein provided is
interpretation of the constitutional provision on the
reiterated and clarified in this resolution.
issuance of warrants of arrest. The pertinent provision
Perfecto V. Fernandez, Jose P. Fernandez and Cristobal P. reads:
Fernandez for petitioner in G.R. Nos. 82827 and 83979. It has not been shown that respondent judge has deviated
from the prescribed procedure. Thus, with regard to the
Art. III, Sec. 2. The right of the people
issuance of the warrants of arrest, a finding of grave abuse
RESOLUTION to be secure in their persons, houses,
of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction
papers and effects against
cannot be sustained.
unreasonable searches and seizures of
whatever nature and for any purpose
shall be inviolable, and no search Anent the third issue, petitioner Beltran argues that "the
PER CURIAM: warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue reasons which necessitate presidential immunity from suit
except upon probable cause to be impose a correlative disability to file suit." He contends
determined personally by the judge that if criminal proceedings ensue by virtue of the
In these consolidated cases, three principal issues were
after examination nder oath or President's filing of her complaint-affidavit, she may
raised: (1) whether or not petitioners were denied due
affirmation of the complainant and the subsequently have to be a witness for the prosecution,
process when informations for libel were filed against them
witnesses he may produce, and bringing her under the trial court's jurisdiction. This,
although the finding of the existence of a prima facie case
particularly describing the place to be continues Beltran, would in an indirect way defeat her
was still under review by the Secretary of Justice and,
privilege of immunity from suit, as by testifying on the
witness stand, she would be exposing herself to possible the usual difficulties encountered by any accused and
contempt of court or perjury. results in an unwillingness of media to freely criticize
government or to question government handling of
sensitive issues and public affairs, this Court and not a
The rationale for the grant to the President of the privilege
lower tribunal should draw the demarcation line.
of immunity from suit is to assure the exercise of
Separate Opinions
Presidential duties and functions free from any hindrance
or distraction, considering that being the Chief Executive of As early as March 8, 1918, the decision in United States v.
the Government is a job that, aside from requiring all of Bustos (37 Phil. 731) stated that "(c)omplete liberty to
the office holder's time, also demands undivided attention. comment on the conduct of public men is a scalpel in the
case of free speech. The sharp incision of its probe relieves
GUTIERREZ, JR., J., concurring:
the abscesses of officialdom. Men in public life may suffer
But this privilege of immunity from suit, pertains to the
under a hostile and unjust accusation; the wound can be
President by virtue of the office and may be invoked only
I concur with the majority opinion insofar as it involves the assuaged with the balm of a clear conscience." The Court
by the holder of the office; not by any other person in the
three principal issues mentioned in its opening statement. pointed out that while defamation is not authorized,
President's behalf. Thus, an accused in a criminal case in
However, as to the more important issue on whether or not criticism is to be expected and should be borne for the
which the President is complainant cannot raise the
the prosecution of the libel case would produce a "chilling common good.
presidential privilege as a defense to prevent the case from
effect" on press freedom, I beg to reserve my vote. I
proceeding against such accused.
believe this is the more important issue in these petitions
In People v. Perfecto (43 Phil. 887 [1922]), the Court
and it should be resolved now rather that later.
stated:
Moreover, there is nothing in our laws that would prevent
the President from waiving the privilege. Thus, if so
Consistent with our decision in Salonga v. Cruz Pano (134
minded the President may shed the protection afforded by xxx xxx xxx
SCRA 438 [1985]), the Court should not hesitate to quash a
the privilege and submit to the court's jurisdiction. The
criminal prosecution in the interest of more enlightened
choice of whether to exercise the privilege or to waive it is
and substantial justice where it is not alone the criminal ... No longer is there a Minister of the
solely the President's prerogative. It is a decision that
liability of an accused in a seemingly minor libel case which Crown own or a person in authority of
cannot be assumed and imposed by any other person.
is involved but broader considerations of governmental such exalted position that the citizen
power versus a preferred freedom. must speak of him only with bated
As regards the contention of petitioner Beltran that he breath. "In the eye of our Constitution
could not be held liable for libel because of the privileged and laws, every man is a sovereign, a
We have in these four petitions the unusual situation where
character or the publication, the Court reiterates that it is ruler and a freeman, and has equal
the highest official of the Republic and one who enjoys
not a trier of facts and that such a defense is best left to rights with every other man." (at p.
unprecedented public support asks for the prosecution of a
the trial court to appreciate after receiving the evidence of 900)
newspaper columnist, the publisher and chairman of the
the parties.
editorial board, the managing editor and the business
manager in a not too indubitable a case for alleged libel. In fact, the Court observed that high official position,
As to petitioner Beltran's claim that to allow the libel case instead of affording immunity from slanderous and libelous
to proceed would produce a "chilling effect" on press charges, would actually invite attacks by those who desire
I am fully in accord with an all out prosecution if the effect
freedom, the Court finds no basis at this stage to rule on to create sensation. It would seem that what would
will be limited to punishing a newspaperman who, instead
the point. ordinarily be slander if directed at the typical person
of observing accuracy and fairness, engages in unwarranted
should be examined from various perspectives if directed at
personal attacks, irresponsible twisting of facts, of
a high government official. Again, the Supreme Court
The petitions fail to establish that public respondents, malicious distortions of half-truths which tend to cause
should draw this fine line instead of leaving it to lower
through their separate acts, gravely abused their discretion dishonor, discredit, or contempt of the complainant.
tribunals.
as to amount to lack of jurisdiction. Hence, the writs of However, this case is not a simple prosecution for libel. We
certiorari and prohibition prayed for cannot issue. have as complainant a powerful and popular President who
heads the investigation and prosecution service and This Court has stressed as authoritative doctrine in Elizalde
appoints members of appellate courts but who feels so v. Gutierrez (76 SCRA 448 [1977]) that a prosecution for
WHEREFORE, finding no grave abuse of discretion
terribly maligned that she has taken the unorthodox step of libel lacks justification if the offending words find
amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction on the part of
going to court inspite of the invocations of freedom of the sanctuary within the shelter of the free press guaranty. In
the public respondents, the Court Resolved to DISMISS the
press which would inevitably follow. other words, a prosecution for libel should not be allowed
petitions in G. R. Nos. 82585, 82827 and 83979. The Order
to continue, where after discounting the possibility that
to maintain the status quo contained in the Resolution of
the words may not be really that libelous, there is likely to
the Court en banc dated April 7, 1988 and reiterated in the I believe that this Court should have acted on this issue
be a chilling effect, a patently inhibiting factor on the
Resolution dated April 26, 1988 is LIFTED. now instead of leaving the matter to fiscals and defense
willingness of newspapermen, especially editors and
lawyers to argue before a trial judge.
publishers to courageously perform their critical role in
Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Cruz, Paras, society. If, instead of merely reading more carefully what a
Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Cortes, There is always bound to be harassment inherent in any columnist writes in his daily column, the editors tell their
Griño-Aquino Medialdea and Regalado, JJ., concur. criminal prosecution. Where the harassment goes beyond
people to lay off certain issues or certain officials, the eschewed silence coerced by law—the areas of concern, the extremely difficult issues involving
effect on a free press would be highly injurious. argument of force in its worst form. ... government power and freedom of expression.

Because many questions regarding press freedom are left Thus we consider this case against the However, since we have decided to defer the "chilling
unanswered by our resolution, I must call attention to our background of a profound national effect" issue for a later day, I limit myself to reiterating the
decisions which caution that "no inroads on press freedom commitment to the principle that dissenting words of Mr. Justice Jackson in the American
should be allowed in the guise of punitive action visited on debate on public issues should be case of Beaurnhais v. Illinois (343 U. S. 250) when he said:
what otherwise should be characterized as libel." (Lopez v. uninhibited, robust, and wide open,
Court of Appeals, 34 SCRA 117 [1970]; See also the citations and that it may well include vehement,
If one can claim to announce the
in Elizalde v. Gutierrez, supra). caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly
judgment of legal history on any
sharp attacks on government and public
subject, it is that criminal libel laws
officials. ... (at pp. 700-701)
The United States Supreme Court is even more emphatic, are consistent with the concept of
to wit: ordered liberty only when applied with
Shunting aside the individual liability of Mr. Luis Beltran, is safeguards evolved to prevent their
there a prima facie showing that Messrs. Maximo Soliven, invasion of freedom of expression.
In deciding the question now, we are
Antonio V. Roces, Frederick K. Agcaoili, and Godofredo L.
compelled by neither precedent nor
Manzanas knowingly participated in a wilful purveying of
policy to give any more weight to the In the trial of the libel case against the petitioners, the
falsehood? Considering the free speech aspects of these
epithet "libel" than we have to other safeguards in the name of freedom of expression should be
petitions, should not a differentiated approach to their
"mere labels" of state law. N. A. A. C. faithfully applied.
particular liabilities be taken instead of lumping up
P. v. Button, 371 US 415, 429, 9L ed 2d
everybody with the offending columnist? I realize that the
405, 415, 83 S Ct 328. Like
law includes publishers and editors but perhaps the Separate Opinions
insurrection, contempt, advocacy of
"chilling effect" issue applies with singular effectivity to
unlawful acts, breach of the peace,
publishers and editors vis-a-vis newspaper columnists.
obscenity, solicitation of legal business, GUTIERREZ, JR., J., concurring:
There is no question that, ordinarily, libel is not protected
and the other various other formulae
by the free speech clause but we have to understand that
for the repression of expression that
some provocative words, which if taken literally may I concur with the majority opinion insofar as it involves the
have been challenged in this Court,
appear to shame or disparage a public figure, may really be three principal issues mentioned in its opening statement.
libel can claim no talismanic immunity
intended to provoke debate on public issues when uttered However, as to the more important issue on whether or not
from constitutional limitations. It must
or written by a media personality. Will not a criminal the prosecution of the libel case would produce a "chilling
be measured by standards that satisfy
prosecution in the type of case now before us dampen the effect" on press freedom, I beg to reserve my vote. I
the First Amendment.
vigor and limit the variety of public debate? There are believe this is the more important issue in these petitions
many other questions arising from this unusual case which and it should be resolved now rather that later.
xxx xxx xxx have not been considered.
Consistent with our decision in Salonga v. Cruz Pano (134
Those who won our independence I, of course, concur with the Court's opinion because it has SCRA 438 [1985]), the Court should not hesitate to quash a
believed ... that public discussion is a decided to limit the issues to narrowly drawn ones. I see no criminal prosecution in the interest of more enlightened
political duty; and that this should be a reason to disagree with the way the Court has resolved and substantial justice where it is not alone the criminal
fundamental principle of the American them. The first issue on prematurity is moot. The second liability of an accused in a seemingly minor libel case which
government. They recognized the risk issue discusses a procedure now embodied in the recently is involved but broader considerations of governmental
to which all human institutions are amended Rules of Court on how a Judge should proceed power versus a preferred freedom.
subject. But they knew that order before he issues a warrant of arrest. Anent the third issue,
cannot be secured merely through fear considerations of public policy dictate that an incumbent
We have in these four petitions the unusual situation where
of punishment for its infraction; that it President should not be sued. At the same time, the
the highest official of the Republic and one who enjoys
is hazardous to discourage thought, President cannot stand by helplessly bereft of legal
unprecedented public support asks for the prosecution of a
hope and imagination; that fear breeds remedies if somebody vilifies or maligns him or her.
newspaper columnist, the publisher and chairman of the
repression; that repression breeds
editorial board, the managing editor and the business
hate; that hate menaces stable
The Court has decided to defer the "chilling effect" issue manager in a not too indubitable a case for alleged libel.
government; that the path of safety
for a later day. To this, I take exception. I know that most
lies in the opportunity to discuss freely
of our fiscals and judges are courageous individuals who
supposed grievances and proposed I am fully in accord with an all out prosecution if the effect
would not allow any considerations of possible
remedies; and that the fitting remedy will be limited to punishing a newspaperman who, instead
consequences to their careers to stand in the way of public
for evil counsel is good ones. Believing of observing accuracy and fairness, engages in unwarranted
duty. But why should we subject them to this problem? And
in the power of reason as applied personal attacks, irresponsible twisting of facts, of
why should we allow the possibility of the trial court
through public discussion, they malicious distortions of half-truths which tend to cause
treating and deciding the case as one for ordinary libel
dishonor, discredit, or contempt of the complainant.
without bothering to fully explore the more important
However, this case is not a simple prosecution for libel. We should draw this fine line instead of leaving it to lower subject. But they knew that order
have as complainant a powerful and popular President who tribunals. cannot be secured merely through fear
heads the investigation and prosecution service and of punishment for its infraction; that it
appoints members of appellate courts but who feels so is hazardous to discourage thought,
This Court has stressed as authoritative doctrine in Elizalde
terribly maligned that she has taken the unorthodox step of hope and imagination; that fear breeds
v. Gutierrez (76 SCRA 448 [1977]) that a prosecution for
going to court inspite of the invocations of freedom of the repression; that repression breeds
libel lacks justification if the offending words find
press which would inevitably follow. hate; that hate menaces stable
sanctuary within the shelter of the free press guaranty. In
government; that the path of safety
other words, a prosecution for libel should not be allowed
lies in the opportunity to discuss freely
I believe that this Court should have acted on this issue to continue, where after discounting the possibility that
supposed grievances and proposed
now instead of leaving the matter to fiscals and defense the words may not be really that libelous, there is likely to
remedies; and that the fitting remedy
lawyers to argue before a trial judge. be a chilling effect, a patently inhibiting factor on the
for evil counsel is good ones. Believing
willingness of newspapermen, especially editors and
in the power of reason as applied
publishers to courageously perform their critical role in
There is always bound to be harassment inherent in any through public discussion, they
society. If, instead of merely reading more carefully what a
criminal prosecution. Where the harassment goes beyond eschewed silence coerced by law—the
columnist writes in his daily column, the editors tell their
the usual difficulties encountered by any accused and argument of force in its worst form. ...
people to lay off certain issues or certain officials, the
results in an unwillingness of media to freely criticize
effect on a free press would be highly injurious.
government or to question government handling of
Thus we consider this case against the
sensitive issues and public affairs, this Court and not a
background of a profound national
lower tribunal should draw the demarcation line. Because many questions regarding press freedom are left
commitment to the principle that
unanswered by our resolution, I must call attention to our
debate on public issues should be
decisions which caution that "no inroads on press freedom
As early as March 8, 1918, the decision in United States v. uninhibited, robust, and wide open,
should be allowed in the guise of punitive action visited on
Bustos (37 Phil. 731) stated that "(c)omplete liberty to and that it may well include vehement,
what otherwise should be characterized as libel." (Lopez v.
comment on the conduct of public men is a scalpel in the caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly
Court of Appeals, 34 SCRA 117 [1970]; See also the citations
case of free speech. The sharp incision of its probe relieves sharp attacks on government and public
in Elizalde v. Gutierrez, supra).<äre||anº•1àw>
the abscesses of officialdom. Men in public life may suffer officials. ... (at pp. 700-701)
under a hostile and unjust accusation; the wound can be
assuaged with the balm of a clear conscience." The Court The United States Supreme Court is even more emphatic,
Shunting aside the individual liability of Mr. Luis Beltran, is
pointed out that while defamation is not authorized, to wit:
there a prima facie showing that Messrs. Maximo Soliven,
criticism is to be expected and should be borne for the
Antonio V. Roces, Frederick K. Agcaoili, and Godofredo L.
common good.
In deciding the question now, we are Manzanas knowingly participated in a wilful purveying of
compelled by neither precedent nor falsehood? Considering the free speech aspects of these
In People v. Perfecto (43 Phil. 887 [1922]), the Court policy to give any more weight to the petitions, should not a differentiated approach to their
stated: epithet "libel" than we have to other particular liabilities be taken instead of lumping up
"mere labels" of state law. N. A. A. C. everybody with the offending columnist? I realize that the
P. v. Button, 371 US 415, 429, 9L ed 2d law includes publishers and editors but perhaps the
xxx xxx xxx
405, 415, 83 S Ct 328. Like "chilling effect" issue applies with singular effectivity to
insurrection, contempt, advocacy of publishers and editors vis-a-vis newspaper columnists.
... No longer is there a Minister of the unlawful acts, breach of the peace, There is no question that, ordinarily, libel is not protected
Crown own or a person in authority of obscenity, solicitation of legal business, by the free speech clause but we have to understand that
such exalted position that the citizen and the other various other formulae some provocative words, which if taken literally may
must speak of him only with bated for the repression of expression that appear to shame or disparage a public figure, may really be
breath. "In the eye of our Constitution have been challenged in this Court, intended to provoke debate on public issues when uttered
and laws, every man is a sovereign, a libel can claim no talismanic immunity or written by a media personality. Will not a criminal
ruler and a freeman, and has equal from constitutional limitations. It must prosecution in the type of case now before us dampen the
rights with every other man." (at p. be measured by standards that satisfy vigor and limit the variety of public debate? There are
900) the First Amendment. many other questions arising from this unusual case which
have not been considered.
In fact, the Court observed that high official position, xxx xxx xxx
instead of affording immunity from slanderous and libelous I, of course, concur with the Court's opinion because it has
charges, would actually invite attacks by those who desire decided to limit the issues to narrowly drawn ones. I see no
Those who won our independence
to create sensation. It would seem that what would reason to disagree with the way the Court has resolved
believed ... that public discussion is a
ordinarily be slander if directed at the typical person them. The first issue on prematurity is moot. The second
political duty; and that this should be a
should be examined from various perspectives if directed at issue discusses a procedure now embodied in the recently
fundamental principle of the American
a high government official. Again, the Supreme Court amended Rules of Court on how a Judge should proceed
government. They recognized the risk
before he issues a warrant of arrest. Anent the third issue,
to which all human institutions are
considerations of public policy dictate that an incumbent
President should not be sued. At the same time, the
President cannot stand by helplessly bereft of legal
remedies if somebody vilifies or maligns him or her.

The Court has decided to defer the "chilling effect" issue


for a later day. To this, I take exception. I know that most
of our fiscals and judges are courageous individuals who
would not allow any considerations of possible
consequences to their careers to stand in the way of public
duty. But why should we subject them to this problem? And
why should we allow the possibility of the trial court
treating and deciding the case as one for ordinary libel
without bothering to fully explore the more important
areas of concern, the extremely difficult issues involving
government power and freedom of expression.

However, since we have decided to defer the "chilling


effect" issue for a later day, I limit myself to reiterating the
dissenting words of Mr. Justice Jackson in the American
case of Beaurnhais v. Illinois (343 U. S. 250) when he said:

If one can claim to announce the


judgment of legal history on any
subject, it is that criminal libel laws
are consistent with the concept of
ordered liberty only when applied with
safeguards evolved to prevent their
invasion of freedom of expression.

In the trial of the libel case against the petitioners, the


safeguards in the name of freedom of expression should be
faithfully applied.