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Supreme Court ruled that messages and photos from FB messenger admissible as evidence

Can you use messages and photos as evidence? Supreme Court's recent ruling on a case that they may be accepted based on circumstances.
Supreme Court ruled that messages and photos from FB messenger admissible as evidence!
File photo: Facebook Messenger icon

Photos and messages obtained by private individuals only

Justice Jhosep Lopez had written a 31-page decision that says SC sustained the conviction of a petitioner, Christian Cadajas. He was accused of violating the Anti-Child Pornography Act.

There was a chat thread presented as a strong proof against Cadajas so he "should be excluded since the same was obtained in violation of his right to privacy." The decision included narration of the case in which the 24-year-old petitioner started a romantic relationship with a 14-year-old-girl.

The victim who was a minor back then was using her mother's cellphone and they would chat on Facebook Messenger. In one of their conversations. Cadajas persuaded the girl to send pictures of her private parts but she relented. 

He found out the minor forgot to log out of her account on her mother's phone so he told her to erase those messages. Supreme Court  that "the Bill of Rights under the Constitution, which includes the right to privacy, was intended to protect citizens from government intrusions, the right to privacy and its consequent effects on the rules on admissibility of evidence cannot be invoked against private individuals."

However, in this case, the Facebook Messenger chat thread was not obtained through the efforts of police officers or any State agent. It was from a private individual who had access to the photos and conversations in the chat thread.

So in this way, the minor did not violate the petitioner's privacy. The decision said that since Cadajas had given the password to his FB messenger account, her lost a reasonable expectation of privacy over the contents.

SC also held that the restrictions under the Data Privacy Act are not applicable to Cadejas since it grants the "processing of personal information related to the determination of criminal liability of a data subject." The decision also explained,

The Court also ruled that the crime of child pornography, while defined and penalized under a special law, should be classified as mala in se, or acts that are inherently immoral and thus require proof of criminal intent by the accused, as opposed to mala prohibita, or those acts which are prohibited only because the law says so, making the intent of the accused irrelevant.

According to the source, a report in 2020 shows that the Philippines has become the world's biggest known source of online child sexual exploitation.

In light of this dilemma, Outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the NTC to punish telcos and providers for failure to comply with the country's Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009.

Source: ABS-CBN
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