Our barangay organized a public dialogue to discuss a new health program for our community. Both parties in the meeting delivered their respective speeches which were followed by an open forum. A heated debate ensued between the speakers while delivering their speeches. As one of the participants in the debate, we secretly recorded the speech of the opposing speaker. When the other speaker found out about this recording, they demanded that we delete the recorded speech as they allege that it was an illegal recording according to what they call as the anti-wire tapping law. They also threatened to file a criminal complaint against us for our recording. Because of this, we want to know if we violated any law in the recording of the speech that we did. I hope you can clarify this for us. Thank you!
Based on your narration, your group was threatened to be criminally charged for your act of recording a public speech. The law being cited by your opponent involving the alleged illegal recording of a communication is Republic Act (RA) 4200, known as “An Act to Prohibit and Penalize Wire- Tapping And Other Related Violations Of The Privacy Of Communication, And For Other Purpose.” This law enumerates and specifies the acts that violate the protection of private communications, to wit:
“Section 1. It shall be unlawful for any person, not being authorized by all the parties to any private communication or spoken word, to tap any wire or cable, or by using any other device or arrangement, to secretly overhear, intercept or record such communication or spoken word by using a device commonly known as a dictaphone or dictagraph or dictaphone or walkie-talkie or tape recorder, or however otherwise described.
Xxx” (R.A. No. 4200) Emphasis supplied.
It is important to note that RA 4200, which your opponent is citing and planning to use against your group, protects private communications, not public conversations. This law prohibits the unauthorized recording of private communications but it does not cover the recording of public speeches such as the speech delivered in your barangay. Considering that the recording you have made involves a barangay speech delivered in public, which in essence is a public speech, it can be argued that you have not violated any law in the recording of that public speech.
Please keep in mind that only private communications are expressly prohibited to be recorded secretly under RA 4200. And as such, this cited law cannot be used against your group since what you recorded is not a private communication but a public speech. Thus, the threat of criminal prosecution against your group is erroneous and misplaced since there is nothing in the law that can hold your group criminally liable for recording a public speech.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org