Lawmaker wants planking banned

By David Dizon, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Sep 20 2011 06:15 PM | Updated as of Sep 21 2011 02:15 AM

But youth groups call proposal anti-democratic

MANILA, Philippines - A Quezon City congressman has filed a bill that seeks to prohibit "planking" as a form of protest.

Quezon City Rep. Winston "Winnie" Castelo said he was worried after seeing a "planking" protest done by League of Filipino Students members wherein protesters lay face down in the middle of España Avenue and Welcome Rotonda to denounce skyrocketing fuel prices. The incident caused traffic on the major thoroughfare as students and irked many motorists.

"I was really worried as a parent. I have kids. I was also a UP (University of the Philippines) student and I sympathize with them. It is normal to air their grievances and I welcome that as a lawmaker. However, as a parent, we have to see to it that their lives are protected as well," he told abs-cbnNEWS.com.

"If you have plankers in the middle of the street, it will disrupt traffic. While we recognize their right to express themselves, you have to respect the rights of the riding public," he added.

Under the proposed Anti-Planking Act of 2011, Castelo proposed the creation of a universal Code of Student Conduct "where planking as a form of redress of grievance be strictly prohibited and appropriate sanctions be applied for violations thereof."

The congressman said schools and universities could impose sanctions on students who conduct planking to air their grievances especially when it poses a danger to themselves or to the public.

He said Congress will also need to determine what sanctions could be imposed on ordinary citizens who conduct planking protests.

Castelo said the bill will not prohibit the constitutional right of freedom of expression since it only seeks to ensure the safety of protesters. He noted that the proposed measure will not sanction planking done as a form of self-expression and not in the context of airing a grievance.

The congressman said he is not keen on punishing plankers who conduct their protests on sidewalks or areas where they will not be put in danger.

"As long as there is no disruption to the public, I think we will liberal about that. As I mentioned, I am more inclined to (allow them to) air their grievances than curtail their freedom," he said.

More planking protests

Campus-based youth groups on Tuesday criticized Castelo’s proposed anti-planking bill, calling the proposal “ridiculous and anti-democratic”.

“This is a cheap attempt at publicity and with the sole intention of abridging the rights of the youth to freely express themselves. The Anti-Planking bill is very anti-democratic and definitely ridiculous. This is ironic considering that today is the eve of Martial Law’s 39th anniversary," said Carl Reyes, Sanlakas Youth spokesperson.

Jico Santos, chairperson of UP Diliman-based student group KAISA, added, “These politicians should instead get themselves busy in crafting laws that will ensure the exercise of the people’s rights like the Freedom of Information and Reproductive Health bills. Planking is covered by our freedom of expression. Cong. Castelo, wala namang basagan ng trip.”

Reyes said Sanlakas Youth is planning to hold a planking activity in October 16 entitled “Facing Mother Earth: Mass Planking for Climate Justice” that seeks to popularize understanding of the climate crisis and ways to contribute in preventing more catastrophic effects of climate change.