Era of tyrants, age of the people

Diliman Way

With Homobono A. Adaza

“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” – Section 4, Article III of the Constitution.

I have to stop doing something equally important when I read in a national daily the news with this heading, “DON’T ALLOW SONA RALLIES, DILG TELLS LOCAL GOV’TS.” The person who gave the advisory is the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), citing as his authority Resolution No. 57 of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) which is mandated to manage and control the spread of Coronavirus. IATF, like the Secretary of DILG, has no right to prohibit rallies and demonstrations, even during the SONA.

Did these people who issued these orders read Section 4, Article III of the Constitution which is written in plain and simple English? Or do they need an interpreter, to interpret this simple English into their local language as they cannot understand English?

Constitution over statutes and executive orders:  Provisions of the Constitution like Section 1, Article III of the Constitutions are not suspended even during emergences. They can be subject to regulations but not suspended. 

Like now, because of the Coronavirus pandemic, regulations like wearing a mask and physical distancing are the two regulatory protocols which must be observed during protests, demonstrations, and in other exercises of freedom of speech or expression. But nobody can prohibit protests and demonstrations even during the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of the President. 

Is the presidential SONA so sacred it cannot be subject to protests and demonstrations? Is this country already a kingdom and the President is the King? If this is, then the President as King or his minion, the Duke of DILG on orders of the King, can issue that order. 

Today, I have not heard President Duterte declaring this country already a kingdom and he is King. Similarly, if this country is a dictatorship, then the dictator or his alter ego like the Secretary of the DILG can prohibit or outlaw protests and demonstrations. But President Duterte says he is not a dictator and this country is not a dictatorship, so the DILG Secretary must be misinformed when he issued the advisory.

The DILG advisory is illegal and unconstitutional. Any public officer or employee who obeys an illegal and unconstitutional advisory or order is liable for violation of our Constitution and criminal laws.

Permits in rallies and demonstrations: The issuance of permits by local government is only ministerial, not discretionary. Anytime an application for a rally or demonstration is filed, the local government must issue immediately a permit. It cannot deny issuing a permit. Denial is not only unconstitutional, it is criminal. Why unconstitutional? It is as it violates Section 4, Article III of the Constitution. Similarly, it violates the due process clause of the Constitution which is provided in Section 1, Article III of the Constitution.

The rationale behind the requirement for a permit is to make the local government concerned monitor the rallies and demonstrations so they can provide security for the demonstrators and protestors as well as citizens who maybe affected by the rallies and demonstrations. Also, to insure that demonstrations will be peaceful and our laws will be observed. Nothing more, nothing less.

 Liabilities: There are criminal and administrative liabilities for public officials and employees who issue orders or prohibit the issuance of permits for demonstrations and rallies during the SONA or at any other time. As mentioned earlier, they are in violation of provisions of the Constitution and our criminal and administrative laws.

Specifically, the public officer who refuses to issue a permit or advises anyone not to issue a permit is liable under Section 3 (e) of Republic 3019, known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 4 in relation to Section 5 of Republic Act No 6713, known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Government Officials and Employees.

These are the enabling laws which lend teeth to Section 1, Article XI of the Constitution which states – “Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.” 

Prohibiting or denying permits for demonstrations and rallies run counter to acting with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency and it is not an act of patriotism and justice. It is betrayal of the Constitution, the country and our people. Prohibition or denial of permits to hold rallies or demonstrations during the SONA is criminal and the public officials who prohibit or deny permits to hold demonstrations and rallies during the SONA can be charged before the Ombudsman and subsequently tried before the Sandigan Bayan.

Similarly, they can be administratively charged with grave misconduct.  They should remember that even the unconstitutional Anti-Terrorism Act allows protests, rallies and demonstrations.

Servant of the people: The Secretary of DILG before issuing such an advisory and local mayors before obeying the said order, like dumb driven cattle, should think and consult their lawyers who should know the fundamental provisions of the Constitution. They will not be in power forever. As President Duterte himself has consistently warned – “There is always a time for reckoning.” Where will they be when the time comes? As the smart street bystander usually say, “Baka pulutin sila sa kangkongan.” And that is not a desirable fate.

They are behaving like masters and they are not. They are servants of the people as Section 1, Article XI of the Constitution simply states based on Section 1, Article II of the Constitution provides that – “The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.” It is clear. It is simple. Even a fool with a modicum of intelligence knows and understands that.

Lesson: In a constitutional democracy, preserving the right to dissent or disagree is a categorical imperative. Without dissent, it is like staying in a graveyard. No matter how loud you shout, the graves are silent and there are no responses – agreement or disagreement. But who wants to live or stay there? You only have the silence of the grave.
It is important to hear various views. 

In the words of the Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. of the American Supreme Court, “Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition. But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas… 

“The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.”

This is the dissenting opinion of Justice Holmes in the case of Abrams vs. US. Today, this is the prevailing majority view in deciding cases before that Court. Taking a lesson from this experience is that today’s dissent may just become tomorrows’s majority view.

Ours is an era of tyranny but it also the beginning of the age of the people. 

From the United States of America to Great Britain, Paris to Hong Kong, Brazil to Bolivia, the world is shaken by demonstrations by the people on fundamental issues – from Black Lives Matter to freedom and justice as a way of life. This age is also emerging in the Philippines of demonstrations in campuses to the streets of our cities on the issue of freedom of speech, of expression and of the press on the denial of the ABS-CBN franchise and against the repressive, oppressive and unconstitutional Anti-Terrorism Act. It is reminiscent of the terminal days of the Marcos martial law proving that no matter how dark are the clouds, there are always silver linings. 

For every fanatical fool of tyrants, there are always a hundred heroes who are willing to fight for justice and freedom.  
The age of freedom and justice is dawning as summed up by Kalidasa in these lines – “For yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow a vision. But today well-lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day, such is the salutation to the dawn.” 

As the day unfolds, people are remembered for their noble deeds, tyrants are remembered for their evil words and actions.

(Beginning this issue, Atty. Homobono “Bono” A. Adaza will be a Contributing Columnist of Philippine Muslim Today with his column “DILIMAN WAY WITH HOMOBONO A. ADAZA.”

Atty. Adaza was former Governor of Misamis Oriental, Member of Parliament in the Interim Batasang Pambansa (IBP), and former Commissioner of Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID).

The present Column was written on the eve of the 5th SONA of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in a Joint Session of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Philippines at the Batasang Pambansa.

Disclaimer: Views and Opinion in this column belong to the author and are not in any way the official position of the Editorial Board of Philippine Muslim Today. – Editor)

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