MANILA - Two Philippine lawmakers are pushing for the deletion of a provision in Revised Penal Code, which was first instituted during the American occupation and is still effective today.
AKBAYAN party-list Reps. Ibarra Gutierrez and Walden Bello said the act of inciting to sedition is an "outdated penal provision which was based on Article 292 of the Philippine Commission."
"This is a law promulgated during the American occupation and intended to clamp down on dissent," the lawmakers said.
Article 142 of Act No. 3815, as amended, 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."
Gutierrez and Bello are pushing for the passage of HB 4725 entitled "An Act repealing Article 142 of Act No. 3815, as amended, otherwise known as the "Revised Penal Code of the Philippines."
The authors said the Revised Penal Code (RA 3815), as amended, which was enacted in 1932, has been amended to accommodate basic constitutional rights.
They also noted that the more than fifty years gap between the enactment of the Code and the 1987 Philippine Constitution resulted to the apparent conflict between the rights granted by the fundamental law and some acts defined by the Penal Code as offenses.
"The Constitution grants every person freedom of speech which is affirmed and established by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights," the authors said.
The lawmakers said Article 19 of the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Philippines is a signatory to, states that "Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference."
Article 19 also states: "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 authors said the offense 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," the authors concluded.