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MORFE vs.

MUTUC Executive Secretary Mutuc’s Defense


J. Fernando | January 31, 1968 | Digest by RMLP
Exec. Sec. Mutuc argues that when a government official accepts a public position,
NATURE: Declaratory Relief. APPEAL. he is deemed to have voluntarily assumed the obligation to give information about his
personal affair, not only at the time of his assumption of office but during the time he
PETITIONER: Jesus Morfe, CFI Judge continues to discharge public trust. The private life of an employee cannot be
RESPONDENT: Amelito Mutuc, Executive Secretary segregated from his public life. More so, RA 3019, Sec. 7 merely seeks to adopt a
reasonable measure of insuring the interest of general welfare in honest and clean
public service and is therefore a legitimate exercise of police power.
ART. 3, SEC. 3
Ruling of CFI Pangasinan
(1) The privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except
upon lawful order of the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise CFI Pangasinan held that RA 3019, Sec. 7 is unconstitutional, null and void, insofar
as prescribed by law. as it required periodical submittal of sworn statements of financial conditions, assets
and liabilities of an official or employee of the government after he had once
(2) Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be submitted such a sworn statement upon assuming office.
inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.

ISSUES
FACTS
(1) WON RA 3019, Sec. 7 is beyond the exercise of police power of the State – NO
Morfe Questions the Validity of RA 3019, Sec. 7
(2) WON RA 3019, Sec. 7 invades the right to privacy of communication and
correspondence – NO
Jesus Morfe is CFI judge questioning the validity of AO 334 in connection with Sec. 7
of RA 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act of 1960). These provisions require
(3) WON RA 3019, Sec. 7 violates the guarantees against unreasonable search and
public officials to submit a statement of their assets and liabilities within 30 days upon
seizure and against self-incrimination – NO
assuming office and then submit the same periodically every January of the
succeeding years.
(4) WON RA 3019, Sec. 7 could be nullified on the allegation that it constitutes “an
insult to the personal integrity and official dignity” of public officials – NO
About RA 3019, Sec. 7

RA 3019 was enacted by Congress as a police power of the State to promote morality
in public service with the view that “public office is a public trust”. Sec. 7 of 3019 RATIO
operates to determine whether a public officer accumulated assets greatly
disproportionate to his income after assuming office. (1) RA 3019, Sec. 7 is a Valid Exercise of Police Power

Morfe’s Contentions Admittedly without the challenged provision, a public officer would be free from
such a requirement. To the extent then that there is a compulsion to act in a
According to Morfe, the questioned provisions are invalid as they bare the financial certain way, his liberty is affected. It cannot be denied however that under the
condition of public officials upon assuming office; hence it is violative of due process Constitution, such a restriction is allowable as long as due process is observed.
and an unlawful invasion in their constitutional rights to privacy and correspondence,
unreasonable searches and seizures, and self-incrimination. (2) RELEVANT PORTION:

Morfe also alleges that this requirement amounts to "an insult to the personal integrity First Case of the Supreme Court on Right to Privacy of Communication and
and official dignity" of public officials, premised as it is "on the unwarranted and Correspondence
derogatory assumption" that they are "corrupt at heart" and unless thus restrained by
this periodical submission of the statements of "their financial condition, income, and In view of the fact that there is an express recognition of privacy, specifically that
expenses, they cannot be trusted to desist from committing the corrupt practices of communication and correspondence which "shall be inviolable except upon
defined. lawful order of Court or when public safety and order" may otherwise require, the
alleged repugnancy of such statutory requirement of further periodical
submission of a sworn statement of assets and liabilities deserves to be further which are deemed precious to Anglo-American civilization. Merely because there
looked into. may be the duty to make documents available for litigation does not mean that
police officers may forcibly or fraudulently obtain them. This protection of the right
In that respect the question is one of first impression, no previous decision to be let alone except under responsible judicial compulsion is precisely what the
having been rendered by this Court. In Griswold v. Connecticut, Justice Fourth Amendment meant to express and to safeguard."
Douglas, speaking for five members of the Court, stated: "Various guarantees
create zones of privacy..." It would appear then that a reliance on that case for an allegation that this
statutory provision offends against the unreasonable search and seizure clause
The Griswold case invalidated a Connecticut statute which made the use of would be futile and unavailing.
contraceptives a criminal offense on the ground of its amounting to an
unconstitutional invasion of the right of privacy of married persons; rightfully it It thus appears clear that no violation of the guarantee against unreasonable
stressed "a relationship lying within the zone of privacy created by several search and seizure has been shown to exist by such requirement of further
fundamental constitutional guarantees." periodical submission of one's financial condition as set forth in the Anti-Graft Act
of 1960.
So it is likewise in our jurisdiction. The right to privacy as such is accorded
recognition independently of its identification with liberty; in itself, it is fully On Self-Incrimination
deserving of constitutional protection. The language of Prof. Emerson is
particularly apt: "The concept of limited government has always included the idea Nor does the contention of plaintiff gain greater plausibility, much less elicit
that governmental powers stop short of certain intrusions into the personal life of acceptance, by his invocation of the non-incrimination clause.
the citizen. This is indeed one of the basic distinctions between absolute and
limited government. Ultimate and pervasive control of the individual, in all aspects In a declaratory action proceeding such as this, the objection based on the
of his life, is the hallmark of the absolute state. In contrast, a system of limited guaranty against self-incrimination is far from decisive. If in this case, the
government, safeguards a private sector, which belongs to the individual, firmly constitutional privilege justified the refusal to give the information exacted by the
distinguishing it from the public sector, which the state can control." statute, that question can be raised in the defense to the pending prosecution.
Whether it would avail, we are not called upon to decide in this proceeding.
Why RA 3019, Sec. 7 does not violate the Right to Privacy of
Communication and Correspondence (4) The Supreme Court will not Touch on the Wisdom of the Congress

It cannot be said that the challenged statutory provision calls for disclosure The questioned provision cannot be nullified on the allegation that it constitutes
of information which infringes on the right of a person to privacy. It cannot "an insult to the personal integrity and official dignity" of public officials. On its
be denied that the rational relationship such a requirement possesses with face, it cannot thus be stigmatized. As to its being unnecessary, it is well to
the objective of a valid statute goes very far in precluding assent to an remember that this Court, in the language of Justice Laurel, "does not pass upon
objection of such character. This is not to say that a public officer, by virtue questions of wisdom, justice or expediency of legislation."
of a position he holds, is bereft of constitutional protection; it is only to
emphasize that in subjecting him to such a further compulsory revelation
of his assets and liabilities, including the statement of the amounts and RULING
sources of income, the amounts of personal and family expenses, and the
amount of income taxes paid for the next preceding calendar year, there is CFI Pangasinan is REVERSED.
no unconstitutional intrusion into what otherwise would be a private
sphere.

(3) There is no Violation of the Guarantees against Unreasonable Search and


Seizure and against Self-Incrimination

On Unreasonable Search and Seizure

Morfe’s complaint cited on this point Davis v. United States.

Even this opinion, however, concerned that the constitutional guarantee against
unreasonable search and seizure "does not give freedom from testimonial
compulsion. Subject to familiar qualifications every man is under obligation to
give testimony. But that obligation can be exacted only under judicial sanctions