PNP’s Banac says ‘we can criticize but for as long as we don’t violate law’
MANILA, Philippines — Individuals can throw criticisms at the government for as long as they will not violate the law, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said Friday.
Banac, in an interview over CNN Philippines, was asked about the limits of netizens who would criticize the government, particularly President Rodrigo Duterte. This comes as at least two individuals were recently arrested for their social media posts critical of the Chief Executive.
“Well, we all exercise our freedom of expression and speech. We are in a democracy and it is protected under our Constitution. It is normal for us to exercise our freedom of expression. We can criticize but for as long as we don’t violate the law,” he said.
“There are laws on libel, libelous statements that we cannot just speak and utter or post on social media otherwise the privacy of other individuals might also be violated and there are rules also regarding inciting to sedition so any acts violating the law will have to be charged and punished,” he added.
Early this week, the National Bureau of Investigation arrested a public school teacher who offered a P50-million reward to anyone who can kill Duterte on his Twitter account. Another man was arrested in Aklan province after posting on Facebook that he will give P100 million to anyone who can kill the President.
Police days after arrested a 41-year-old man from Nasipit, Agusan del Norte, for calling Duterte “buang” (crazy) and criticizing Duterte’s long-time aid, Senator Christopher Bong Go, on Facebook.
Authorities said the teacher will be charged with inciting to sedition while the other suspect will be charged with cyber libel.
But some personalities like human rights lawyer Chel Diokno questioned the police’s warrantless arrest of the man from Nasipit. He stressed that police officers can only carry out warrantless arrests for crimes that occur in their presence or for hot pursuit.
Banac, however, said there is a presumption of regularity for police officers who arrested the Duterte critic, noting that law enforcers can defend themselves in court.
“They (police) took this person into custody, this person would have to face charges and we presume there was regularity in the performance of the police there and they have to explain themselves also to the court why they took this person into custody based on the evidence gathered,” Banac pointed out.
But for the crime of libel, Diokno emphasized that only judges are equipped with the knowledge to determine if the person can be detained for libel.
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