What is the writ of habeas data?
It is a remedy available to any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data or information regarding the person, family, home and correspondence of the aggrieved party.
What rule governs petitions for and the issuance of a writ of habeas data?
It is governed by The Rule on the Writ of Habeas Data (A.M. No. 08-1-16-SC – full text), which was approved by the Supreme Court on 22 January 2008. That Rule shall not diminish, increase or modify substantive rights.
What is the Supreme Courtâ€™s basis in issuing the Rule?
When does the Rule take effect?
The Rule takes effect on 2 February 2008, following its publication in three (3) newspapers of general circulation.
Who may file a petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas data?
The petition may be filed by the aggrieved party. However, in cases of extralegal killings and enforced disappearances, the petition may be filed by:
(a) Any member of the immediate family of the aggrieved party, namely: the spouse, children and parents; or
(b) Any ascendant, descendant or collateral relative of the aggrieved party within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, in default of those mentioned in the preceding paragraph.
Where can the petition be filed?
a. Regional Trial Court where the petitioner or respondent resides, or that which has jurisdiction over the place where the data or information is gathered, collected or stored, at the option of the petitioner.
b. Supreme Court;
c. Court of Appeals; or
d. Sandiganbayan, when the action concerns public data files of government offices.
How much is the docket or filing fees for the petition?
No docket and other lawful fees shall be required from an indigent petitioner. The petition of the indigent shall be docketed and acted upon immediately, without prejudice to subsequent submission of proof of indigency not later than 15 days from the filing of the petition.
What are the required contents of the petition?
The verified written petition shall allege the following:
(a) The personal circumstances of the petitioner and the respondent;
(b) The manner the right to privacy is violated or threatened and how it affects the right to life, liberty or security of the aggrieved party;
(c) The actions and recourses taken by the petitioner to secure the data or information;
(d) The location of the files, registers or databases, the government office, and the person in charge, in possession or in control of the data or information, if known;
(e) The reliefs prayed for, which may include the updating, rectification, suppression or destruction of the database or information or files kept by the respondent. In case of threats, the relief may include a prayer for an order enjoining the act complained of; and
(f) Such other relevant reliefs as are just and equitable.
When is the writ of habeas data issued?
Upon the filing of the petition, the court, justice or judge shall immediately order the issuance of the writ if on its face it ought to issue. The clerk of court shall issue the writ under the seal of the court and cause it to be served within three (3) days from its issuance; or, in case of urgent necessity, the justice or judge may issue the writ under his or her own hand, and may deputize any officer or person to serve it. The writ shall also set the date and time for summary hearing of the petition which shall not be later than ten (10) work days from the date of its issuance.
Is there any penalty in case of refusal to issue or serve the writ?
Yes. A clerk of court who refuses to issue the writ after its allowance, or a deputized person who refuses to serve the same, shall be punished by the court, justice or judge for contempt without prejudice to other disciplinary actions.
How is the writ of habeas data served?
The writ shall be served upon the respondent by the officer or person deputized by the court, justice or judge who shall retain a copy on which to make a return of service. In case the writ cannot be served personally on the respondent, the rules on substituted service shall apply.
After the writ is served, what should the respondent do?
The respondent shall file a verified written return together with supporting affidavits within five (5) work days from service of the writ, which period may be reasonably extended by the Court for justifiable reasons.
What are the contents of the written return?
The return shall, among other things, contain the following:
(a) The lawful defenses such as national security, state secrets, privileged communication, confidentiality of the source of information of media and others;
(b) In case of respondent in charge, in possession or in control of the data or information subject of the petition:
(i) a disclosure of the data or information about the petitioner, the nature of such data or information, and the purpose for its collection;
(ii) the steps or actions taken by the respondent to ensure the security and confidentiality of the data or information; and
(iii) the currency and accuracy of the data or information held; and
(c) Other allegations relevant to the resolution of the proceeding.
A general denial of the allegations in the petition shall not be allowed.
What happens if the respondent makes a false return or refuses to make a return; or if any person who disobeys or resists a lawful process or order of the court?
That person may be punished with imprisonment or fine.
Also, when the respondent fails to file a return, the court, justice or judge shall proceed to hear the petition ex parte, granting the petitioner such relief as the petition may warrant unless the court in its discretion requires the petitioner to submit evidence.
Instead of having the hearing in open court, can it be done in chambers?
Yes. It can be done when the respondent invokes the defense that the release of the data or information in question shall compromise national security or state secrets, or when the data or information cannot be divulged to the public due to its nature or privileged character.
What is the nature of the hearing on the petition?
The hearing on the petition shall be summary. However, the court, justice or judge may call for a preliminary conference to simplify the issues and determine the possibility of obtaining stipulations and admissions from the parties.
How long does the court have in deciding the petition?
The court shall render judgment within ten (10) days from the time the petition is submitted for decision. If the allegations in the petition are proven by substantial evidence, the court shall enjoin the act complained of, or order the deletion, destruction, or rectification of the erroneous data or information and grant other relevant reliefs as may be just and equitable; otherwise, the privilege of the writ shall be denied.
What happens after the finality of the judgment?
Upon its finality, the judgment shall be enforced by the sheriff or any lawful officer as may be designated by the court, justice or judge within five (5) work days.
The officer who executed the final judgment shall, within three (3) days from its enforcement, make a verified return to the court. The return shall contain a full statement of the proceedings under the writ and a complete inventory of the database or information, or documents and articles inspected, updated, rectified, or deleted, with copies served on the petitioner and the respondent.
The officer shall state in the return how the judgment was enforced and complied with by the respondent, as well as all objections of the parties regarding the manner and regularity of the service of the writ.
The court shall set the return for hearing with due notice to the parties and act accordingly.
Does the filing of the petition preclude the filing of separate criminal, civil or administrative actions?
No. However, when a criminal action has been commenced, no separate petition for the writ shall be filed, but the reliefs under the writ shall be available by motion in the criminal case, and the procedure under this Rule shall govern the disposition of the reliefs available under the writ of habeas data.
When a criminal action and a separate civil action are filed subsequent to a petition for a writ of habeas data, the petition shall be consolidated with the criminal action. After consolidation, the procedure under this Rule shall continue to govern the disposition of the reliefs in the petition.