Vivares v. St. Theresa’s College, G.R. No. 202666, September 29, 2014

 Vivares v. St. Theresa’s College, 

G.R. No. 202666, 

September 29, 2014

DOCTRINE: The individual's desire for privacy is never absolute, since participation in

society is an equally powerful desire. Thus, each individual is continually engaged in a

personal adjustment process in which he balances the desire for privacy with the desire

for disclosure and communication of himself to others, in light of the environmental

conditions and social norms set by the society in which he lives.


Graduating high school students of St. Theresa’s College (STC), Nenita Julia V.

Daluz and Julienne Vida Suzara, both minors and daughters of the petitioners

photographed themselves wearing only their underwear, drinking hard liquor, and

smoking cigarettes. The photos which were uploaded on Facebook by their classmate

caught the attention of Mylene Rheza T. Escudero, a computer teacher of STC’s HS


Escudero then reported the photos to the school’s Discipline-In-Charge and right

after investigating the uploaded images, the identities of the students therein were

identified among others, Daluz and Suzara were in it.

Based on STC’s Student Handbook, such obscene actions made by the students

would require the school to penalize the former by being barred from participating in the

upcoming commencement exercises of the school.

The decision of the STC led the parents of Daluz and Suzara to file a memorandum

with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in which the said court issued a temporary restraining

order (TRO) that allows the accused students from participating in their graduation

ceremonies. However, the STC did not honor the decision of the trial court and it still

prevented the students from graduating.

Further, the parents of Daluz and Suzara filed a Petition for the Issuance of a Writ

of Habeas Data with the RTC but the STC contended that there are no violations of the

students’ privacy since there was no expectation of privacy in social media, particularly

on Facebook. Thus, the RTC denied the petition prayed for by the parents.

Hence, the petitioners filed before the Supreme Court a Petition for Review on

Certiorari under Rule 45 the decision of the trial court denying their application for a Writ

of Habeas Data.


Whether the RTC’s decision of denying the application for a Writ of Habeas Data

is correct since there was no violation of the students’ privacy.


Yes, the RTC’s decision of denying the application of the petitioners for a Writ of

Habeas Data is correct.

The Supreme Court held that the issuance of a Writ of Habeas Data is only

available to a person if his right to privacy in life, liberty, or security has been violated or

threatened by an unlawful act of omission of either a public official or employee, or a

private individual or entity engaged in gathering, collecting or storing of data or information

regarding the person, is family, home and correspondence of the aggrieved party.

In the case at bar, it was only proper for the RTC to deny the application of the

petitioners since the STC did not violate any of the petitioners’ daughters’ right to privacy

as the alleged uploaded photos of the accused students were viewable by the public.

Moreover, the Supreme Court noted that the STC were as mere recipients or

audience of what the students have posted. The school did not resort to any unlawful

means of collecting the photos as it was voluntarily given to them by persons who had

legitimate access to the Facebook post. The damage done if any has been caused by the

friends of the petitioners’ daughters who took and uploaded the undesirable photos.

Also, since the Facebook post’s privacy setting is selected to be on “Friends Only”,

it is unquestionable that the photos were viewable by everyone on the said online

platform. If only the said post was set on a limited audience such as choosing “Only Me”

or custom set-up wherein the user can only select its limited friends to view it but the proof

is in the contrary. The Supreme Court considered that even if the setting is “Friends Only”,

it is still susceptible to be viewed by the public at large since, once a person requests to

be a friend of the user, such request sender automatically becomes part of the audience.

As a result, the petitioners are unable to rely on the protection afforded by the right to

informational privacy.

Therefore, the Supreme Court denied the petition filed by the petitioners and

affirmed the decision of the RTC.

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