Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Leakers in executive sessions may be criminally liable

Those responsible for leaking the events that transpire during executive sessions of the Congress or any of its committees may be held criminally liable.
In other words, to leak in executive session is a criminal act.
I surveyed the provisions of the revised penal code and I stumbled upon the following provisions:

"Article 144 Disturbance of proceedings. The penalty of arresto mayor or a fine from 200 to 1,000 pesos shall be imposed upon any person who disturbs the meetings of the National Assembly or of any of its committees or submittees, constitutional commissions or committees or divisions htereof, or of any provincial board or city or municipal council or board, or in the presence of any such bodies should behave in such manner as to interrupt its proceeding or to impair the respect due it."

So those who, during a meeting of the Senate,or any of its committees, behave in such manner as to impair the respect due it, are criminally liable.

I think to leak any information during an executive session is an impairment of the respect due the Senate. Those who leak such information, be he a senator or not, should be held criminally liable.

Another provision in the revised penal code that invited my attention is Article 229:

"Article 229. Revelation of secrets by an officer. Any public officer who shall reveal any secret known to him by reason of his official capacity, or shall wrongfully deliver papers or copies of papers of which he may have charge and which should not be published, shall suffer the penalties of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods, perpetual special disqualification, and a fine not exceeding 2,000 pesos, if the revelationof such secrets or the delivery of such papers shall have caused serious damage to the public interest; otherwise, the penalties of prision correccional in its minimum period, temporary special disqualification, and a fine not exceeding 500 pesos shall be imposed."

I think the very purpose of executive sessions is to enable a secret to be let out by a resource person, but to be confined among the members of the legislative body.

But if a member of the Senate, a public officer, reveals the secret which he came to know by reason of his being a senator or public officer, and such secret if revealed damages public interest, I think he can be held liable under this provision.

The third provision I came accross with is Article 291 Reveal secrets with abuse of office:

"Article 291. Revealing secrets with abuse of office. The penalty of arresto mayor and a fine not exceeding 500 pesos shall be imposed upon any manager, employee, or servant who, in such capacity shall learn secrets of his principal or master and shall reveal such secrets."

So those waiters, utility persons, in the Senate lounge where executive session is being conducted may be criminally liable if they leak to news reporters what transpired during the executive session, because clearly they learned of such secrets by reason of their being waiters.

Why am I citing these penal provisions?

I think when a news reporter hears or receives a leakage from a senator or even a simple waiter or utility person during an executive session, I think the reporter is witnessing a crime being actually committed.

So what?

This has an impact on the journalist-source privilege.

Question: If a journalist, or news reporter actually witnesses a crime being committed i.e. a senator or waiter leaking secret info, and the journalist reports about this crime, but witholds the identity of his or her sources, can the journalist be compelled to reveal his or her source?
Does the journalist's source-privilege disappear in this instance?

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