Posting of ‘indecent’ photos on social media not immoral act – SC

By: Gerome Dalipe

IS posting of supposed indecent photos on social media considered an immoral act?

The Supreme Court does not think so. Even if portraying one’s self in a “seductive manner.”

That’s according to the High Court when it dismissed the disbarment case filed against a female lawyer, who was accused of gross immoral conduct.

“While the kind of pictures which respondent posted do not exemplify and represent how a lawyer, who is an officer of the court, must properly behave in the eyes of the public, we are not inclined to rule that such an act is grossly immoral,” read the SC’s First Division ruling.

The lawyer is accused of having an alleged illicit affair with the complainant’s husband. The complainant said the lawyer and her husband began dating in 2008 by sending emails to each other when the hubby was still based in the United States.

At that time, the lawyer was working as a television anchor in the country. Despite knowing the guy is married, the lawyer reportedly continued her relationship with him. They met in person in January 2009 and the lawyer asked him to do “something” about her marriage.

She even gave him an “ultimatum” to end his marriage. They even met in the United States on January 2011. The husband eventually left her wife and their son in April 2011. He also reportedly stopped supporting his family and began to live with the lawyer.

In her complaint-affidavit, the wife submitted to court transcripts of email exchanges between her husband and the respondent.

Likewise, the wife questioned the lawyer’s conduct of being a member of the bar when she posted several allegedly indecent pictures on her Friendster account.

For her part, the lawyer denied the charges against her, arguing that the complainant did not provide proof of her allegedly gross immoral conduct.

Responding to the supposed indecent pictures, the lawyer said that unconventional behavior is not immoral conduct that would warrant disbarment.

In the report, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) dismissed the complaint for lack of merit. The lawyers’ group said the evidence presented by the complainant failed to meet the standards of the Rules on Electronic Evidence.

Pursuant to Rules on Electronic Evidence, an electronic document may be considered admissible as evidence if it complies with the rules on admissibility.

Likewise, the Rules of Court provides that authenticity and due execution of a private document, offered as authentic, must be proved before it is received in evidence.

Apart from e-mail exchanges, the complainant submitted in evidence several pictures of the respondent and the husband together.

But the IBP ruled that such pictures do not categorically depict an illicit relationship since these pictures are equivocal.

Immoral conduct has been described as that conduct which is so willful, flagrant, or shameless as to show indifference to the opinion of good and respectable members of the community, the IBP said.

“That is, it must be so corrupt as to virtually constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree or committed under such scandalous or revolting circumstances as to shock the common sense of decency,” the SC ruled.