THE Regional Trial Court of Misamis Oriental Branch 18 denied the petition of alleged case fixer Genard Abejo for a writ of habeas data against police officials and prosecutors in Cagayan de Oro City.
Abejo, who was arrested in a sting operation last year, had sued officials of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the Police Regional Office-Northern Mindanao’s Anti-Cybercrime Group, Regional State Prosecutor Jaime Umpa, Assistant Regional Prosecutor Irene Meso, and City Prosecutor Merlyn Uy for supposedly violating his privacy when transcripts containing Abejo's text messages were distributed to the media without his consent.
In six-page decision, presiding Judge Dennis Alcantar said the court cannot sustain the claim that the respondents distributed copies of the 138-page computer data recording to the public.
"The Court asked the petitioners and their counsel if they have proof to support their claim during the preliminary hearing on December 27, 2016... However petitioners failed to present a single shred of evidence to prove their allegation and manifested during the continuation of the hearing on January 4, 2017 that they cannot procure the affidavits, as prayed for by petitioners," the decision states.
The decision also pointed out that the court cannot sustain the claim that Abejo was not committing any crime when he was arrested last November 11, 2016 by the members of the CIDG at the Shell Station in the village of Gusa, Cagayan de Oro.
The court ruled that while a person is entitled to his privacy according to Republic Act 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012, some exceptions are also provided by the same law, like, “when the processing concerns such personal information as is necessary for the protection of lawful rights and interests of natural or legal persons in court proceedings, or the establishment, exercise or defense of legal claims, or when provided to government or public entity.”
In this case, the court said, the mobile phones seized from Abejo were used in soliciting money from the complainants of the criminal case he is also facing.
"Petitioners did not submit substantial evidence to prove their claim that respondents used the contents of the sim cards taken from Abejo, to harass or humiliate his family, friends, and contacts or besmirch their reputation in public," the decision reads.
The decision added that the “right to privacy of petitioners” family, friends, and contacts cannot prevail over the right of state to maintain order and deter the commission of crimes especially that some of the personalities mentioned in the 139-page computer recording are the subject of an internal investigation within the Office of the City Prosecutor.
The City Prosecutor's Office is conducting its own internal investigation to uncover any collusion among its personnel after Abejo was arrested for alleged extortion and bribery.