Published 1 July 2022, The Daily Tribune

In this day and age, more and more of our conversations take place in the digital sphere. Increasing various personal data, including the words we choose and the expressions we make, are ceaselessly processed and exchanged through the invisible threads that make up online applications.

In this digital world, it seems as though the rules of social interaction are perpetually being rewritten. Our laws, by comparison, do not transform much. Though forced to contend with new realities and new subjects, the rights they seek to protect, and the extent to which they protect them, remain essentially the same.

In our previous article, we commented on the case of Cadajas v. People (G.R. 247348, 16 November, 2021) where the Supreme Court defined the right to privacy as “the right to be free from unwarranted exploitation of one’s person or from intrusion into one’s private activities in such a way as to cause humiliation to a person’s ordinary sensibilities.” The Court explained that the right to privacy also contemplates informational privacy, or the right to control “the processing of personal information.” Indubitably, Cadajas has the right “not to be exposed on the Internet in matters involving one’s private life, such as acts having no relation to public interest or concern.” This right is enshrined in no less than the Bill of Rights (Article III, Section 3, 1987 Constitution).

The Court was quick to remind, however, that the Bill of Rights was intended to protect private individuals against government intrusions. Its provisions are thus not applicable between and among private individuals. In this case, the photos used in evidence against Cadajas were not obtained through the efforts of any agent of the State, but were obtained by the private complainant.

The Court also touched upon data privacy laws and explained that the Data Privacy Act allows the processing of data and sensitive personal information where it relates to the determination of criminal liability of a data subject (Section 19, Data Privacy Act).

The Court also rejected Cadajas’s reliance on the sweetheart theory, which operates on the premise that the violation committed was consensual, and a product of love. According to the Court, cajoling AAA to send him photos of her breasts and vagina was not an expression of love, but an advance of lust on Cadajas’s part.

Moreover, the sweetheart defense ought not to be invoked in cases involving Child Pornography, because children are easily induced or coerced to engaged in explicit sexual acts under the pretense of a romantic relationship. The Court also took judicial notice of the fact that minors between the ages of 12 and 18 years are sexually curious and consequently vulnerable to the deception of adults.

Indeed, the Internet may reorder human relationships (Disini Secretary of Justice, G.R. 203335, 11 February 2014), but the need to respect one another remains essential, in whatever form that may take.

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