Charging PNoy’s heckler on Independence Day was a very bad call
And how Bayan Muna justifies its use of pork
College student Pio Mijares was arrested on Independence Day for publicly calling President Benigno Aquino the “pork barrel king”, demanding his ouster and shouting that nothing has changed in the country.
I personally think Mijares is wrong in what he said. But I also think he has the constitutional right to say it. The authorities over-reacted and could do even more damage to the body politic if they pursue the criminal cases they filed against Mijares.
He was charged with violating Article 153 of the Revised Penal Code. It punishes those who cause “tumultuous disturbance or interruption liable to cause disturbance” with two months to six years in jail and a P1,000 fine. This section further defines the crime as causing “any serious disturbance in a public place, office, or establishment.” A person is considered liable if he “shall interrupt or disturb public performances, functions or gatherings, or peaceful meetings.”
“Tumultuous” means “loud, deafening, thunderous or uproarious.” Can the sound of one voice be considered “tumultuous”? Can Mijares’ yelling be considered a “serious disturbance”?
According to our Revised Penal Code,
“The disturbance or interruption shall be deemed to be tumultuous if caused by more than three persons who are armed provided with means of violence.” [Underlining mine]
Based on this definition, Mijares’ shouting cannot be called “tumultuous.”
Now let’s see if Mijares all by himself even committed a crime. He can only be deemed to have violated Article 153 of our Penal Code (as claimed by the police) if in a public place he “shall make any outcry tending to incite rebellion or sedition or in such place shall display placards or emblems which provoke a disturbance of the public order.”
“Patalsikin ang Pork Barrel King! Walang pagbabago sa Pilipinas!” (Oust the Pork Barrel King! There is no change in the Philippines!”
And he waved a banner that said:
“Oust P-Noy and Free Benito Tiamzon and all political prisoners and scrap all forms [of] pork! DAP, Ibasura.”
From these statements, we can surmise he is a left-wing activist who believes in communist leader Benito Tiamzon and wants all political prisoners released. But there is nothing illegal about that since the Anti-Subversion Law was repealed and belonging to a communist group is no longer a crime.
Although I believe Mijares’ statement is wrong, there is also nothing seditious about saying “Patalsikin ang Pork Barrel King!” because there are legal ways of ousting a president, for instance through impeachment.
The police are also trying to pin him with the charge of violating Article 148 or “direct assaults”. Seriously? One element of the crime is the use of “force or intimidation”, which the police said resulted in torn clothing. Resisting arrest also falls under this crime. Punishment is up to four years in jail.
The police might still make a case out of this charge but the political repercussions could be serious.