“There are no tyrants where
there are no slaves.”
– Jose Rizal
“Our language is the reflection of ourselves.
A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers.”
– Cesar Chavez
“A hungry man is an angry man. An angry
man knows no law.”
-A statement of a UP Collegian
Editor-in the 1950s at Diliman

In the world today, tyranny is very common. In media, it is tyranny of words, bias and partisanship. In politics, whether local, national or international, it is a tyranny of threats, bullying, economic or military might topped by nuclear weapons.

Politics as in economics, tyranny rides the crest of the wave. From Brazil to the United States, Russia to China, Iran to Japan, Myanmar to the Senippilihp, you find them in various shapes and styles. Tyranny is nothing new in the history of the world. It gets so pronounced and scandalous today because we have pretensions to embrace democracy and its values.

Take the case of the States. In politics, we have President Donald Trump. He is at center stage. He dominates the scene. He is the star of the show. Anyone he dislikes he calls them idiots, fools, ignorant. And when he speaks with these expletives, many Americans drown his words with a deafening ovation as though God has spoken with uncontested authority. Of course, we know President Trump is not god. He will never become one even if he lives a thousand lifetimes.

The scene is no different in the Philippines. If you hear President Trump speaking, you could easily imagine you are in our country. The difference is – here it is more mundane than in the States. The similarities are accentuated by the total lack of intellectual and ideological moorings.

Rage: In this time of the corona virus, there is a continuing rage among our people showing in various forms. The ones which have attracted excessive national attention nation are the cases of a school teacher, age twenty-five years, offering a reward of Fifty Million (P50,000.00) Pesos to kill President Duterte and that of a construction worker offering Seventy-Five (P75,000.00) Pesos for the same objective. That is, if the media reports are to be believed.

If the object of the reward is not President Duterte, the offers would not even land in the obituary page. It is absolutely funny to be believed. How can a school teacher have Fifty Million Pesos when teachers are complaining of meager salaries, unless he won the Three Hundred Million peso lotto prize? The same case holds for the construction worker.

In the Cebuano Bisayan speaking world, anyone who hears of these stories would immediately say, “Buang!”(crazy) or “Nabuang na” (He has gone crazy.). No person would make such offers unless he has lost his marbles. But in this country, in many instances, crazy behavior is perceived to be normal, especially among politicians.

Question: Since the ones who made the offers were arrested, the question immediately comes to mind – did they commit any crime? Of course, they did. The crime is either grave threats under Article 282 of the Revised Penal Code which is as – “Any person who shall threaten another with the infliction upon the person…of any wrong amounting to a crime, shall suffer…1…If the threat be made in writing or through a middleman, the penalty shall be imposed in a maximum period…” What is the “wrong amounting to crime” which is intended to be committed?

It is murder as defined and penalized under Article 248 of the same Code which provides that –“Any person who, not falling under the provisions of Article 246, shall kill another, shall be guilty of murder and shall be penalized by reclusion perpetua, to death if committed with any of the following attendant circumstances:…2. In consideration of a price, reward or a promise…” Article 248 makes reference to Article 246. The latter refers to parricide which defines it as – “Any person who shall kill his father, mother, or child, whether legitimate or illegitimate, or any of his ascendants or descendants, or his spouse shall be guilty of parricide…”

Arrest: Can a person who makes such grave threat be legally arrested by police authorities without a warrant of arrest? No, he cannot be arrested. Why? It is a crime against security of a person and it needs a complainant before the wheels of justice start turning? Who should be the complainant in these cases? It is President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. He has not filed a complaint before the arrest and even if he did, the prosecutor before who the complaint was filed must conduct preliminary investigation. If he finds probable cause, then he writes a resolution accompanied by an information and submits it to his superior. If approved by his superior, the information is filed in court. If the judge finds there is probable cause, he issues a warrant. That’s the only time the ones who offered a reward to kill President Duterte can be arrested.

Government view: The arrests were made legally according to government reports. The arresting units claim that the ones who made the offer committed the crime of inciting to sedition. What is inciting to sedition? Under Article142 of the Revised Penal Code, inciting to sedition is “… imposed upon any person, without taking any direct part in the crime of sedition, should incite others to the accomplishment of any of the acts, by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, cartoons, banners, or other representations tending to the same end…”

What is sedition referred to in Article 142? It is defined in Article 139 of the same Code in these terms: “The crime of sedition is committed by persons who rise publicly and tumultuously in order to attain by force, intimidation, or by other means outside of legal methods, any of the following objects:

xxx xxx xxx

3. To inflict any act of hate or revenge upon the person or property of any public officer or employee;

xxx xxx xxx

5. To despoil, for any political or social end, any person…”

The rule: In criminal law, when there are two rational and acceptable interpretations, the explanation favorable to the accused or respondent should be adopted, unless the prosecutor or arresting officer is ignorant of this basic rule. In this case, the definition of inciting to sedition is clear. It refers to ACTS not a single act. As the law itself states – “…should incite others to the accomplishment of any of the acts, by of means speecheS, proclamationS, writingS, emblemS, cartoonS, bannerS, or other representationS tending to the same end…” (Capitalization supplied.) The crime complained of speaks of a single act of offering a reward to kill the President. In statutory construction or interpretation, when the provision of the law is clear, there is no room for interpretation.

In the definition of the crime of inciting to sedition, it is clear that it doe not refer to a single act but several acts. In these cases, the act is singular, not plural –one, not many.

Rationality: It is not rational to think that a school teacher or a construction worker by a single posting on the internet can incite anyone to kill the President for a reward of Fifty or Seventy-Five Million Pesos. Even if the posting was made a thousand times, will anyone be incited to accept the offer? Any sane person will laugh at the proposal as it ridiculous for several reasons? Who can believe that a school teacher or construction has that kind of money? It takes much more than that amount to kill a President. If it is not funny, the proposal is visibly insane.

Proper reactions: The arresting or investigating or intelligence units should note down the details and report the matter to their superiors with a suggestion that the incident be brought to the attention of the President. That is simple common sense, if they know their law. If they don’t, they stand the chance of getting prosecuted for violating provisions of the Revised Penal Code, Republic Act No 3019, known as Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Republic Act No. 6713, also known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Government Officials and Employees.

It not a very pleasant prospect for the public officers involved. Surely, the Duterte administration is not going to last forever. It will be there only until a new President takes over in 2022 unless the presidential candidate of President Duterte wins. What if he does not? In the well-publicized words of President Duterte – “There is always a time for reckoning.” If a genuine leader emerges, I am afraid the reckoning is not going to be a happy or forgiving event.

Habit: It is habitual for government functionaries in this country to abuse the citizen and the country in the exercise of power. Nothing much has really changed in this respect since 1949. Then, the Liberal Party was in power. President Elpidio Quirino who was a Liberal when confronted about constitution violations of his government was quoted to have said, “The Constitution is a mere scrap of paper.” Another Liberal Party stalwart, President of the Senate Jose Avelino when asked to comment on anomalies of government replied, “What are we in power for?”

After the Quirino presidency, you don’t hear these words anymore. It is worse because they translate these words into action. And the Duterte government is not an exception – all you need to remember names like Secretary Aguirre, Commissioner Faeldon, Commissioner Morente, now Senator Bato de la Rosa, Secretary Duque, among many others, who are friends of President Duterte.

On the other side of the political fence, all you need to remember is what happened to Senator Delima, Senator Trillanes, former Senator Kit Tatad; Senators Drilon, Gordon and Hontiveros; singer Jim Paredes, ABS-CBN and a number of others.

You see, as I keep on saying, President Duterte is a good friend but a bad enemy.

Due process and equal protection: Since the act of the school teacher or the construction worker does not constitute inciting to sedition, it is rational to conclude that the arrest violates Section 1, Article III of the Constitution on due process and equal protection. Why violation of due process? The arresting and detaining officers did not observe the proper procedure before they could have arrested the ones who offered the reward.

Why violation of equal protection? Any fool who goes to the internet will see a flood of postings asking for the ouster of President Duterte? Why have the arresting and detaining officers not arrested these people who are asking for the ouster of the President? Their acts are more serious because they constitute open defiance of President Duterte and from their profile, they don’t appear to school teachers or construction workers. Failure of the concerned officers to do that, the lawyers of these arrested persons can very easily ask for the dismissal of the case, if one would be filed.

Why rage: The are many reasons for rage in this time of the corona virus – lack of food, lack of medicines, lack of medical attendance, prolonged confinement, incompetent performance of some people in government, graft and corruption, abuse of government functionaries, suppression of civil liberties, loneliness, and depression.

Put these things together and you have many angry men, women and children. The situation is so depressive and oppressive and nobody seems to help solve intelligently the problem primarily caused by the Chinese Wuhan corona virus. So you can hardly blame people blurting invectives and expletives at the President and government for their problems.

Philippine society is basically feudal. We look to our leaders for guidance and support. And when our leaders fail to deliver, people get discouraged and disappointed. And when they are so discouraged and disappointed with many of their continuing problems, they are angry and enraged. Some cannot contain their rage and anger so they curse our leaders and call them names as the case of the salesman of Butuan City who called the President crazy and many netizens who call the President names and even go to extremes asking people to oust the President.

This is true of those making ridiculous and unbelievable offers of rewards to kill the President. These are people who can no longer contain their anger and rage, they have to verbalize them to seek emotional release otherwise their heads will explode and their hearts will break. I am not excusing them because in a civilized society that kind of behavior is not excusable. I am only trying to explain why they behave that way and give notice to government that instead of subjecting them to more difficulties, government should study how deep is that resentment and whether it is shared by many people in the country.

Social and political volcano: Government should conduct an intelligence survey whether this rage, veiled or pronounced, is national in scope. If national, how common is it among the people. Whatever is the size of the population affected now, government should find solutions to the problem – not by filing cases, not by abusing or terrorizing the population but to find the causes of the problem. As soon the causes are identified, then government should do the immediate solutions. It cannot afford to delay as delay could be disastrous to government and our people.

Rage like this has a way of gnawing into everyone. As in the cases of the salesman, school teacher and the construction worker, so many have gripes against incompetence, unequal treatment, lack of food and medicines as well as medical attendance. Name it and some citizen have got it. Rage like this should not be allowed to grow into a social and political volcano. If it erupts, the devastation could be awesome.

So it is good for government and every citizen to remember these telling incandescent lines from Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy, late Attorney General and Senator of the United States of America, my valued and passionate friend on the level of the heart and of the mind.

“It is from numberless diverse act of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these ripples will build a current that will sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”