We bring together information on the legal frameworks for the right to information from more than 100 countries.
You are here: Home Cases Garcia v. Board of Investments

Garcia v. Board of Investments

last modified Aug 21, 2012 01:57 PM

Case number:
G.R. No. 88637
Country:
Philippines
Date of decision:
7 September 1989
Court / Arbiter:
Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines, unreviewable ( Supreme )

Relevant law :
Constitution, Article III, Section 7 (right to information);
Omnibus Investments Code, Article 81 of the Omnibus Investments Code (confidentiality of records in applications to the Board of Investments) ( Constitution, Other Law )

Decision:

Applications filed by a foreign investment group to build a petrochemical plant are covered by the constitutional right to information and have to be disclosed with the exception of privileged information containing the investors’ trade secrets and other confidential financial information.


Keywords:
Commercial confidentiality (including financial/economic interests of private parties or public authorities)
Constitution
Contracts / Agreements (use of public funds, negotiations)
Economic information (including of public authorities, national government; not of individuals)
Judicial review (including access to courts)
Trade secrets (including patents, copyrights)

Case details:

Facts

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 protects the confidentiality of these 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

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 (p.3).

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.

Resources:

Judgment of the Court.