Global Freedom of Expression

Garcia v. Board of Investments

Closed Expands Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Public Documents
  • Date of Decision
    September 7, 1989
  • Outcome
    Access to Information Granted, Law or Action Overturned or Deemed Unconstitutional
  • Case Number
    G.R. No. 88637
  • Region & Country
    Philippines, Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Judicial Body
    Supreme (court of final appeal)
  • Type of Law
    Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Access to Public Information
  • Tags
    Confidentiality, Commercial Confidentiality, Financial Information, trade secrets, Judicial Review, Contracts/Agreement

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The Supreme Court of the Philippines ruled that a foreign investment group’s applications to build a petrochemical plant had to be disclosed, but any trade secrets and other confidential information could be redacted. The Bataan Petrochemical Corporation (BPC) applied to invest into Bataan State, but later amended its application to invest in a different region of Batangas. This angered a Bataan congressman who requested a copy of BPC’s original and amended application documents, which was denied, leading to a lawsuit. The Court reasoned that the inhabitants of Bataan had an interest in the establishment of a petrochemical plant because it would affect their economic life and health, and that BPC’s amended application required a new public notice to be filed and a new hearing to be held.

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The Bataan Petrochemical Corporation (BPC), a Taiwanese private corporation, applied for registration with the Board of Investments (BOI) in February 1988 as a new domestic producer of petrochemicals in the Philippines. It originally specified the province of Bataan as the site for the proposed investment but later submitted an amended application to change the site to Batangas. Unhappy with the change of the site, Congressman Enrique Garcia of the Second District of Bataan requested a copy of BPC’s original and amended application documents.

The BOI denied the request on the basis that the investors in BPC had declined to give their consent to the release of the documents requested, and that Article 81 of the Omnibus Investments Code protected the confidentiality of those documents absent consent to disclose.

The BOI subsequently approved the amended application without holding a second hearing or publishing notice of the amended application. Garcia filed a petition before the Supreme Court.

Decision Overview

The Court ruled that the BOI violated Garcia’s Constitutional right to have access to information on matters of public concern under Article III, Section 7 of the Constitution. The Court found that the inhabitants of Bataan had an “interest in the establishment of the petrochemical plant in their midst [that] is actual, real, and vital because it will affect not only their economic life, but even the air they breathe”. [p. 4] The Court also ruled that BPC’s amended application was in fact a second application that required a new public notice to be filed and a new hearing to be held.

Although Article 81 of the Omnibus Investments Code provides that “all applications and their supporting documents filed under this code shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed to any person, except with the consent of the applicant,” the Court emphasized that Article 81 provides for disclosure “on the orders of a court of competent jurisdiction”. [p. 4] The Court ruled that it had jurisdiction to order disclosure of the application, amended application, and supporting documents filed with the BOI under Article 81, with certain exceptions.

The Court went on to note that despite the right to access information, “the Constitution does not open every door to any and all information” because “the law may exempt certain types of information from public scrutiny”. [p. 4] Thus it excluded “the trade secrets and confidential, commercial, and financial information of the applicant BPC, and matters affecting national security” from its order. [p. 4] The Court did not provide a test for what information is excluded from the Constitutional privilege to access public information, nor did it specify the kinds of information that BPC could withhold under its ruling.

Decision Direction

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Global Perspective

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Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Phil., Omnibus Investments Code, art. 81

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

Official Case Documents

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