Content Regulation / Censorship, Privacy, Data Protection and Retention, Defamation / Reputation
Hegglin v. Google
Closed Contracts Expression
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The Philippines Supreme Court found that text messages can be admitted into evidence for purposes of prosecution if the prosecution can show that the person testifying about the text messages had actual knowledge of the text messages. In this case, a police officer posing as an accused had first hand knowledge of the text messages he was sending and receiving, and therefore, the messages were admissible.
The defendant, taxi driver Enojas, was stopped by police while parked suspiciously in front of a glass shop. Enojas provided the police with identification that the officers suspected to be fake. The officers then asked Enojas to accompany them to the police station. Enojas agreed.
On the way, the officers stopped at a 7/11 to use the restroom. The officer who went into the store apprehended two robbers, one of whom shot and killed the officer. The other officer got out of the car upon hearing the gunshots. Returning to the police car, he found that Enojas had fled the scene. Later, the police searched his abandoned taxi car and found Enojas’ phone. They monitored the messages on the phone and communicated with the other suspects, resulting in an entrapment operation.
Enojas, along with several other defendants, was charged with murder in 2006 before the Las Pifias Regional Trial Court. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal and affirmed the conviction. The accused then appealed to the Supreme Court.
The defense argued that the prosecution failed to provide direct evidence that the accused shot the victim. The Court ruled that circumstantial evidence can be sufficient to convict if: “1) there is more than one circumstance; 2) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and 3) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.” The Court found that the evidence presented by the prosecution was sufficient to provide a basis for conviction of the accused. The Court, however, disagreed with the Court of Appeals, which found “that the aggravating circumstances of a) aid of armed men and b) use of unlicensed firearms” made the killing of the police officer a murder. Rather, the Supreme Court found that the accused could only be found liable for homicide.
The Court found that the text messages were properly admissible because the police officer, posing as Enojas, had personal knowledge of the messages and was competent to testify about them. Further, the accused argued that they were arrested without a valid warrant. The court found that even if this were the case, it is not grounds for reversing a conviction. Thus, the Court lowered the crime to that of homicide and lessened Enojas’ sentence to 12 years in prison.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
This case contracts expression by allowing text messages to be admitted in a criminal trial even though the text messages were obtained without a warrant. This case also exhibits a disregard for the defendants’ right to privacy in the messages on his phone.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
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