During the pandemic, the Duterte administration has made it clear that those who act against the government will be punished, going as far as giving “shoot to kill” orders to the police. There have also been warnings circulating that any form of disrespect and disobedience online are being monitored by the government.
The Facebook page of Brgy. Manocmanoc, Boracay Island, along with other accounts of local government units (LGUs), recently posted a message warning citizens to be careful of what they publish online, claiming that the national government through the Philippine National Police and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) can file a case against “anyone who acts, speaks and shows disrespect and discrimination against people who are tasked to keep everyone safe and alive.” Said people include doctors, nurses, medical workers, police, soldiers of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, government officials and other frontliners.
Such has happened in cases when the NBI issued subpoenas to more than a dozen social media users. According to the Bureau, those summoned to court were allegedly spreading “false information.” However, one suspect, who was represented by Atty. Chel Diokno, was only expressing his concerns about the alleged misuse of government funds.
Likewise, Maria Victoria Beltran, a poet and scriptwriter from Cebu was arrested for allegedly publishing “false information” on the alleged surge of COVID-19 in the country. On Facebook, Beltran posted satirically “9,000+ new cases (all from Zapatera) of COVID-19 in Cebu City in one day. We are now in the epicenter in the whole solar system.” Due to this post, she was allegedly immediately arrested by the police.
Is it lawful to arrest those who publicly criticize the government?
According to retired Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, “the person in authority or his agent must be giving you a lawful order and you resist or disobey. It cannot cover criticisms of a person in authority or his agent because that is part of freedom of expression.” Therefore, only those who have directly disobeyed authorities as a response to their orders can be arrested. Otherwise, views and opinions publicly expressed are legal under the mandate of Article III of the Constitution, under the Section 4 of the Bill of Rights, that states “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, [or] of expression.”
Contrary to the message circulating in Facebook posts of LGUs, which warned citizens to be careful of “posting or sharing anything on social media which connotes disrespectfulness and discrimination towards agents of the Government or persons in authority,” government officials cannot file a case against you if you are simply expressing your views and opinions online. However, once you resist or disobey authorities or frontliners, you may be subjected to punishment.
Upon further review of the Revised Penal Code, Article 151 (which was cited in the Facebook posts) states that only those who “resist or seriously disobey any person in authority, or the agents of such person” will be fined a maximum of P500 or P10 to P100 for minor acts of disobedience.
The following are all the information you need to know in case you are issued a subpeona by the NBI for allegedly publishing false information.
Header photo courtesy of Inquirer.net
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