MANILA (Mabuhay) – To strengthen the right to freedom of expression, lawmakers of Akabayan party-list have proposed the deletion of Article 142 of the Revised Penal Code, which penalizes inciting to sedition.
“This is an outdated penal provision which was based on Article 292 of the Philippine Commission, a law promulgated during the American occupation and intended to clamp down on dissent,” Representatives Ibarra Gutierrez and Walden Bello said as they pushed for the passage of House Bill 4725, or “An Act repealing Article 142 of Act No. 3815, as amended, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.”
Article 142 of the RPC reads: “The penalty of prision correctional in its maximum period and a fine not exceeding 2,000 pesos shall be imposed upon any person who, without taking any direct part in the crime of sedition, should incite others to the accomplishment of any of the act which constitute sedition, by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, cartoons, banners, or other representations tending to the same end, or upon any person or persons who shall utter seditious words or speeches, rite, publish, or circulate scurrilous libels against the Government of Philippines, or any of the duly constituted authorities thereof, or which the functions of his office, or which tend to disturb or obstruct any lawful officer in executing the functions of his office, or which tend to instigate others to cabal and meet together for unlawful purposes, or which suggest or incite rebellious conspiracies or riots, or which lead or tend to stir up the people against the lawful authorities or to disturb the peace of the community, the safety and order of the Government, or who shall knowingly conceal such evil practices.”
The Akbayan lawmakers said the RPC, which was enacted in 1932, has since been amended to accommodate basic constitutional rights.
They also noted that the more than 50-year gap between the enactment of the Code and the 1987 Philippine Constitution has led to a conflict between the rights granted by the fundamental law and some acts defined as offenses by the RPC.
“The Constitution grants every person freedom of speech which is affirmed and established by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” they said.
Article 19 of the Covenant, to which the Philippines is a signatory, states:
“Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
The exercise of the rights provided for in Paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: a) For respect of the right or reputations of others; b) For the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.”
Because of these, the Akbayan solons said, the criminalization of inciting to sedition “has no room under a government which expressly promotes freedom of speech and expressions.”
“Given that inciting to sedition is committed through forms of human expression, penalizing it clearly violates the constitutional mandate to promote and protect the citizen’s right to freedom of expression. It suppresses the right to free speech and expression, and may be used to punish citizens who are highly critical of the government,” Gutierrez and Bello said. (MNS)