Foodsphere, Inc v. Mauricio
FOODSPHERE, INC. vs ATTY. MELANIO L. MAURICIO, JR
A.C. No. 7199; July 22, 2009
Dubbed as the fourth branch of the government, the power of the media in shaping the opinion of the general public cannot be underestimated. Generally, foreigners may invest up to 100% equity in corporations. This is, however, subject to the limitations provided in the Negative List under the Foreign Investments Act[ Foreign Investment Act of 1991, RA 7042, as amended by RA 8179]. In the foregoing law, ownership of mass media corporations is limited only to Filipino citizens, hence, no foreign equity is allowed. This proscription is carried over even in the updated Negative List as promulgated by the Chief Executive[ EO 98, Promulgating the Ninth Regular Foreign Investment Negative List, Annex]. In fact, the very Constitution itself provides that “the ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens”[ Section 11, Article XVI, 1987 Constitution]. This principle is further bolstered even dating back the year 1976 where then president Marcos issued Presidential Decree 1018 [PD 1018, Limiting the Ownership and Management of Mass Media to Citizens of the Philippines and for Other Purposes]. From the foregoing, it is clear that both the Legislative and the Executive are one in the opinion that mass media corporations hold an immense power and responsibility over the general public. The pervasiveness of mass media cannot be denied and allowing foreigners control over what is broadcasted over the country poses threats not only in our national security but the ability of the state to protect its susceptible citizens from unnecessary foreign influence. Clearly, the media is given high regard, as such, mediamen are expected to act in accordance with such regard.
The pervasiveness of mass media is undisputed, especially in forming and shaping media consumers’ way of thinking and opinion. Thus, a person involved in dissemination of information, who greatly influences the public, must conduct himself with utmost respect, dignity as well as credibility. It must be said, therefore, that Rule 13.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which states that, “A lawyer shall not make public statements in the media regarding a pending case tending to arouse public opinion for or against a party”, is not without basis.
Thus, in the present case the suspension imposed by the Court upon respondent Atty. Melanio L. Mauricio, Jr. is much warranted. The respondent’s acts of asking for exorbitant fees against the petitioner even to the point of harassing and compelling the same to purchase advertisement slots in his program in the guise of public service do not convince. In fact, such acts constitute blatant disregard of the ethics which must be upheld by members of the legal profession. Verily, the practice of law is not a right but a privilege with a high burden to be dignified at all times. Indeed, the acts of the petitioner not only amount to dishonoring and discrediting those in the legal profession but also those engaged in the media profession. Hence, the disciplinary action against respondent is warranted and justified.