I had an altercation with my tenant. We often have verbal tussles regarding our rental dispute that’s why I decided one time to record our heated exchange without her knowledge so that I can use this against her. I filed a complaint against her in our barangay and presented our recorded conversation as proof of my complaint. When my tenant found out about this, she demanded that I delete our recorded conversation and claimed that I should be the one charged criminally for the recording I had, and even the barangay officers seemed to agree with her. Right now I’m confused as to what to do with the recording since I want to use it in filing a case against her in court for our lease dispute. Now I want to ask if I can legally use this and if I have any legal liability in the recording I did. I am hoping to receive your advice soon. Thanks,
As a general rule, private communications are protected by law. This rule is enshrined in Article III, Section 3 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which states that:
“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”
The protection on private communications is espoused in 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,” which enumerates and specifies acts that are considered as violations of private communications and the penalties for such acts.
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 or 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. (Emphasis supplied)
The provision of the cited law highlights the prohibition against recording communication without the consent of the conversing parties. And as stated therein, you cannot record a private conversation if any of the parties to it does not give his/her consent to such recording, even if you are one of the parties in a communication. Furthermore, even the reproduction, distribution, and replay, even in transcripted form of the unauthorized recording is prohibited by the law. Because of this, you should delete the unauthorized recording since even mere possession of it is punishable by law.
Keep in mind that since such unauthorized recorded private communication is prohibited by law, it cannot be used as evidence in any proceedings. This is in observance of the mandate of the Constitution as reflected in RA 4200, which states that:
“Section 4. Any communication or spoken word, or the existence, contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning of the same or any part thereof, or any information therein contained obtained or secured by any person in violation of the preceding sections of this Act shall not be admissible in evidence in any judicial, quasi-judicial, legislative or administrative hearing or investigation.” (RA 4200)
Therefore, it is clear from the above-cited laws and discussion that the unauthorized recording of a private conversation is illegal and is of no legal use for you as it only exposes you to criminal liability should you commit such prohibited act.
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 email@example.com