It’s ’ludicrous’ to call transport strike a ‘rebellion,’ lawyers tell Duterte
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) on Wednesday labeled as “ludicrous” the claim of President Rodrigo Duterte that protesting jeepney drivers and operators committed rebellion.
“Aside from unilaterally revising the law and reinterpreting it to suit one’s draconian fetishes, to label legitimate and legal people’s actions is a foreboding of worse things to come,” Edre Olalia, NUPL president, said in a statement.
He also tagged as “wild” Duterte’s claim that left-leaning groups behind the two-day nationwide transport strike were “legal fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
“We remember [late dictator Ferdinand] Marcos and GMA [President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo] when they routinely charged activists, dissenters and critics with the political offense of rebellion to silence, intimidate or punish them,” Olalia added.
He said that the legitimate exercise of the freedom of speech and assembly could not “by any convoluted reading amount to any crime, much less rebellion.”
Olalia reminded Duterte – who is also a lawyer – of the definition of rebellion, as stipulated under Article 134 of the Revised Penal Code.
“As early as first year of law school, we were present in class and read, memorized, analyzed, understood and recited rebellion as ‘rising and taking arms against the Government for the purpose of removing from the allegiance to said Government or its laws, the territory of the Republic of the Philippines or any part thereof, of any body of land, naval or other armed forces, or depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives’,” Olalia said.
“Even a perfunctory reading of the law by a layman would disclose that the elements of the crime do not exist at all. To belabor the obvious is to dignify a distorted and contorted legal inanity,” he added.
In a speech in Pili, Camarines Sur on Tuesday, Duterte said Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston), the human rights group Karapatan, and the labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) were in conspiracy with the communist rebels.
“Itong Karapatan, itong KMU, itong Piston, they are just the legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines,” Duterte said. “Kaya nga CPP, NDF [National Democratic Front], pati the NPA, the New People’s Army. It’s a one big conspiracy. But they are at the same time, all of them, are committing right now rebellion.”
“It is bad enough that political prisoners are routinely charged with nonbailable common crimes instead of the proper legal charge of rebellion,” Olalia said. “It is manifoldly worse that poor and hungry jeepney drivers and their supporters will be accused or charged with ‘rising and taking arms’ when all they did was raise their flags, placards and fists.” /atm
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