July 29, 2021

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eSalvar civil case: Naga City’s 2nd defeat, Motion for Partial Reconsideration dismissed by Judge Formaran III

Atty. Luis Ruben General. Photo from FB

By Joey Natividad

Naga City Government in Camarines Sur suffered another setback again after it’s Motion for Partial Reconsideration filed before the Court was dismissed for lack of merit.

On June 9, 2021, Judge Pablo Cabillan Formaran III of Branch 21 dismissed for lack of merit the Motion for Partial Reconsideration filed by the Naga City Government.

“Naga’s 2nd defeat”

This is the second time Naga City Government lost in the civil case filed by concerned citizens on some questionable provisions of its contact tracing ordinance, known as eSalvar, as being unconstitutional.

These citizens filed a civil case last year against the Naga City Government, as respondent, to scrap the ordinance.

“Concerned citizens as Petitioners”

The petitioners are Atty. Agapito B. Rosales, Atty. Alex A. Arejola, Edgardo M. Castro, Edizza Lynn D. Quides, Dianne M. Durante, Roy Angelo R. Belleza, Francis Patray P. Bolaños and Paulo Gabriel D. Jamer.

The petition is for Certiorari and Prohibition under Rule 65 under the Rules of Court with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction.

Cited as Respondent is the Local Government of Naga City, represented by Mayor Nelson S. Legacion and Vice Mayor Cecilia B. Veluz-De Jesus.

Attorney Luis Ruben M. General, representing the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), Bikol Chapter, is counsel for the petitioners.

“April 8, 2021 Court decision vs. Naga City”

Judge Formaran III, on April 8, 2021, ruled that the City Ordinance, eSALVAR, on contact tracing that will check on Covid-19 spread, that some of its provisions are “unconstitutional”, and “null and void”.

“Unconstitutional provisions”

Judge Formaran III acted on the petition filed by several city residents, questioning the legality of the city “eSalvar Ordinance”, insisting that some provisions as “unconstitutional”, and infringement of human rights, and intrusion by the State on the privacy of individuals that might lead to the city government “spying” on the citizens.

Lawyer Luis Ruben General, counsel for the petitioners, lauded the court decision as a victory for the protection of human rights against the State’s over-intrusion on civil rights of every citizen.

“Petitioners fear of spying, State’s ‘big brother’ intrusion on citizens rights”

Petitioners led by former Provincial Prosecutor Agapito Rosales, Edgardo Castro, and others filed the petition, fearing, among other reasons, that the eSalvar Ordinance might be used for spying on citizens; the questionable integrity on the handling of personal data privacy; and, may be subjected for abuse as such malicious handling of individuals’ personal data might lead to blackmail, extortion, and coercion if used by evil persons.

“City Government’s watchful eyes on individual’s activities”

Last year, the Naga City Government under Mayor Nelson Legacion, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, passed an Ordinance mandating residents and visitors to present a QR Code ID before entering buildings and establishments in the city. The QR ID must be applied online, or at the City Hall.

In effect, “No QR ID Card, No Entry” signs were posted on buildings and establishments, a city mandate that empowers security guards to refuse entry to persons without the required “QR ID”.

The filing of the petition has been monitored by legal stakeholders such as Lawyer Areiz Macaraig ànd others, and LGUs since this petition might prevent other LGUs from adopting similar ordinances in their own turf.

“Unconstitutional provisions”

On the April 8 decision, the court ruled the ” No QR Code ID Card, No Entry” policy as being unconstitutional, and declared as “null and void” other regulations springing out from the implementation of the Ordinance.

“Data on Sex, Birthdates declared ‘unconstitutional'”

Judge Formaran III also declared as “Invalid” , and “Unconstitutional” the collection of data of persons under the heading of “Birthdates” and “Sex”, which is violative of Data Privacy law on the principle of proportionality.

“All-out mandatory registration under eSalvar is unconstitutional”

The Honorable Judge also declared “unconstitutional” the city ordinance provisions mandating all residents and non-residents, permanent and temporary to register under the eSalvar contact tracing system application.

However, the rest of the provisions of the Ordinance, as amended by Ordinance 2020-101, are upheld as valid and constitutional.

The court decision was ordered on April 8, 2021.

“Motion for Partial Reconsideration filed by Naga City”

Recoiling back from its defeat from the April 8, 2021 Court decision, the Naga City Government filed a Motion for Partial Reconsideration before the same Court Branch 21.

On June 9, 2021, the Court, finding Naga City’s arguments without merit, reaffirmed its previous decision and dismissed the City’s motion.

Photo:
FLAG lawyer Luis Ruben General, of Naga City, Camarines Sur, as legal counsel for petitioners, in civil case versus Naga City Government regarding the unconstitutional provisions of eSalvar Ordinance. (FB photo)