• Recording private conversation illegal without either party’s consent

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    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    I am working in a private company where I had a dispute with an office mate. We were called by the Human Resources director to try to resolve our differences. We were able to loudly vent out our complaints against each other during the meeting. Although the mediation did not completely resolve our problem, we agreed to avoid having confrontation while at work. I found out, however, from my other co-employees that my “adversary” secretly recorded our conversation during one of our mediation meetings and even allowed some of our officemates to hear our conversations despite our agreement to make the details of our talks confidential.

    I was told that I can file a criminal complaint about this. Can you tell me more about what law was violated, if any, from her act of recording our meetings? Thank you for any advice you can give.
    Camie

    Dear Camie,
    From the details you have given, it appears that your officemate may have violated Republic Act (RA) 4200, or An Act to Prohibit and Penalize Wire Tapping And Other Related Violations of the Privacy Of Communication and for Other Purposes. This law primarily protects private communication by making it illegal and punishable to record conversations without the consent of the parties involved in the communication.

    To begin with, it must be emphasized that the protection given to private communication is a fundamental rule that is enshrined in our Constitution, which states:

    The privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise, as prescribed by law. xxx(Article III, Sec. 3, the 1987 Philippine Constitution)

    This protection on private communication is further enforced through the aforementioned RA 4200. According to this law:

    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, walkie-talkie or tape recorder, or however otherwise described.

    It shall also be unlawful for any person, be he a participant or not in the act or acts penalized in the next preceding sentence, to knowingly possess any tape record, wire record, disc record or any other such record, or copies thereof, of any communication or spoken word secured either before or after the effective date of this Act in the manner prohibited by this law; or to replay the same for any other person or persons; or to communicate the contents thereof, either verbally or in writing, or to furnish transcriptions thereof, whether complete or partial, to any other person: Provided, That the use of such record or any copies thereof as evidence in any civil, criminal investigation or trial of offenses mentioned in Section 3 hereof, shall not be covered by this prohibition). (RA 4200) Emphasis supplied.

    The above-cited provision expressly prohibits recording of private communication without the consent of the conversing parties. And as stated therein, no one can record a private conversation if any of the parties to it does not give his consent to such recording. Thus, even if one party in a communication records the conversation, it will still be illegal if the other party does not authorize the recording. Furthermore, please note that even the reproduction, distribution and replay of the unauthorized recording is prohibited by the law.

    Considering the above-cited law, it is clear that your officemate’s recording of your conversation without your consent and her act of sharing this unauthorized recording with your officemates is illegal and punishable under RA 4200. Thus, you may rightfully file a criminal case against her for the violation of the law.

    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 dearpao@manilatimes.net

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