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Is This a Violation of Right to Privacy?: Christian Cadajas vs People

The case of Christian Cadajas vs People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 247348, raises several issues that are deserving of separate discussions. For now, we shall focus on the issue of the violation of one’s right to privacy.


Christian Cadajas met the victim, AAA, in the canteen where he works. At the time, he was 24 while AAA was 14. Their relationship began when AAA’s younger sibling told Cadajas that AAA had a crush on him. Cadajas tried to evade AAA, but then she began to stalk him and eventually sent a request in his Facebook Messenger, which he accepted. Cajadas and AAA would then begin exchanging messages on Facebook Messenger. Eventually, Cadajas courted AAA for two weeks, until they got together on April 2, 2016.

AAA would borrow the cellphone of her mother, BBB, to access her own Facebook account. This is how BBB learned of the relationship in June 2016. She was then able to read their messages whenever AAA forgot to log out of her account. BBB disapproved of their relationship because AAA was still too young, but the couple ignored her admonishment.

Sometime in October 2016, BBB was disheartened when she read that Cadajas was sexually luring her daughter into meeting with him in a motel. She confronted Cadajas and told him to stay away from AAA as she was still a minor.

At around 5:30 in the morning of November 18, 2016, BBB was shocked to find out that Cadajas had been coaxing her daughter into sending him photos of her own breasts and vagina. AAA relented and sent Cadajas the photos he was asking. When AAA learned that her mother read their conversation, she rushed to a computer shop to delete her messages. BBB, however, was able to force her to open Cadajas’s Facebook Messenger account to get a copy of their conversation.

Cadajas admitted to sending AAA messages such as, “oo ready ako sa ganyan,” and “sige hubad.” He, however, denied having sent AAA photos of his privates. On November 17, 2016, AAA asked Cadajas to delete their messages from his account. He even told her, “bakit kasi hindi ka pa nagtitino, hayan tuloy nakita ng mama mo.” On the same day, Cadajas broke up with AAA because her mother did not like him.

Cadajas was charged for violation of Section 10(a) of R.A. No. 7610, also known as the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act. He was also charged for child pornography as defined and penalized under Section 4(c)(2) of R.A. No. 10175, known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012,  in relation to Sections 4(a), 3(b) and (c)(5) of R.A. No. 9775, known as the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009.

One of the arguments raised by the petitioner concerns the admissibility of the evidence presented by the prosecution, which was taken from his Facebook messenger account. He claims that the photos presented in evidence during the trial of the case were taken from his Facebook messenger account. According to him, this amounted to a violation of his right to privacy, and therefore, any evidence obtained in violation thereof amounts to a fruit of the poisonous tree.


Is the evidence, which was taken from Cadajas’ Facebook messenger account, presented by the prosecution inadmissible, and therefore violated Cadajas’ right to privacy?

Under the 1987 Constitution, the right of privacy is expressly recognized under Article III, Sec. 3 thereof, which reads:

SECTION 3. (1) 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.

(2) Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding. 

While the above provision highlights the importance of the right to privacy and its consequent effect on the rules on admissibility of evidence, one must not lose sight of the fact that the Bill of Rights was intended to protect private individuals against government intrusions. Hence, its provisions are not applicable between and amongst private individuals.

While the case of Zulueta v. Court of Appeals (Zulueta) may appear to carve out an exception to the abovementioned rule by recognizing the rule on inadmissible of evidence between spouses when one obtains evidence in violation of his/her spouse’s right to privacy, such a pronouncement tis a mere obliter dictum that cannot be considered as a binding precedent. This is because the petition brought to the Court in Zulueta simply asked for the return of the documents seized by the wife and thus, pertained to the ownership of the documents therein. Moreover, documents were declared inadmissible because of the injunction order issued by the trial court and not on account of Art. III, Sec. 3 of the Constitution. At any rate, violation of the right to privacy between individuals is properly governed by the provisions of the Civil Code, the Data Privacy Act (DPA), and other pertinent laws, while its admissibility shall be governed by the rules on relevance, materiality, authentication of documents, and the exclusionary rules under the Rules on Evidence.

In this case, the photographs and conversations in the Facebook Messenger account that were obtained and used as evidence against Cadajas, which he considers as fruit of the poisonous tree, were not obtained through the efforts of the police officers or any agent of the State. Rather, these were obtained by a private individual. Indeed, the rule governing the admissibility of an evidence under Article III of the Constitution must affect only those pieces of evidence obtained by the State through its agents. It is these individuals who can flex government muscles and use government resources for possible abuse. However, where private individuals are involved, for which their relationship is governed by the New Civil Code, the admissibility of an evidence cannot be determined by the provisions of the Bill of Rights.

Be that as it may, the act of AAA cannot be said to have violated Cadajas’s right to privacy. The test in ascertaining whether there is a violation of the right to privacy has been explained in the case of Spouses Hing v. Choachuy, Sr. as follows:

In ascertaining whether there is a violation of the right to privacy, courts use the “reasonable expectation of privacy” test. This test determines whether a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and whether the expectation has been violated. In Ople v. Torres, we enunciated that “the reasonableness of a person’s expectation of privacy depends on a two-part test: (1) whether, by his conduct, the individual has exhibited an expectation of privacy; and (2) this expectation is one that society recognizes as reasonable.” Customs, community norms, and practices may, therefore, limit or extend an individual’s “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Hence, the reasonableness of a person’s expectation of privacy must be determined on a case-to-case basis since it depends on the factual circumstances surrounding the case.

Here, Cadajas’s expectation of privacy emanates from the fact that his Facebook Messenger account is password protected, such that no one can access the same except himself. Cadajas never asserted that his Facebook Messenger account was hacked or the photos were taken from his account through unauthorized means. Rather, the photos were obtained from his account because AAA, to whom he gave his password, had access to it. Considering that he voluntarily gave his password to AAA, he, in effect, has authorized AAA to access the same. He did not even take steps to exclude AAA from gaining access to his account. Having been given authority to access his Facebook Messenger account, Cadajas’s reasonable expectation of privacy, in so far as AAA is concerned, had been limited. Thus, there is no violation of privacy to speak of.

While the messages and photos were taken from Cadajas’s Facebook Messenger because AAA was forced by BBB to do so, such does not deviate from the fact that Cadajas allowed another person to access his account. When he gave his Facebook Messenger password to AAA, he made its contents available to AAA, and the latter would then have the latitude to show to other persons what she could access, whether she be forced to do so or not. The availability of these photos limited the scope of his right to privacy, especially that these became essential in pursuing AAA’s claims to protect her rights.

From the foregoing, one can be convicted for committing child pornography upon proof of the following: (1) victim is a child; (2) victim was induced or coerced to perform in the creation or production of any form of child pornography; and (3) child pornography was performed through visual, audio or written combination thereof by electronic, mechanical, digital, optical, magnetic or any other means. This Court finds that the prosecution was able to prove these facts by proof beyond reasonable doubt.


The RTC found him guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violation of Section 4(c)(2) of R.A. No. 10175 in relation to Sections 4(a), 3(b) and (c)(5) of R.A. No. 9775. According to the RTC, Cadajas was aware that AAA was still a minor when he obstinately prodded the latter to send him photos of her private parts. This is an explicit sexual activity, which AAA could not have done were it not for Cadajas’s persistent inducement. Moreover, Cadajas’s violation of R.A. No. 9775 is a malum prohibitum. As such, his claim that he was in a relationship with AAA finds no relevance. On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTC’s judgment.

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