What Is Sedition Law In The Philippines | Knowledge Guide
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Sedition, in general parlance, may be one of crimes often associated with the felony of rebellion, treason and coup d’etat. Though always associated with those other punishable offenses, sedition is distinct from them. In this legal perspective, we will discuss what is sedition law in the Philippines.

What is Sedition Law in the Philippines?

Justice Reyes, in his book,[1]LB Reyes [2021]. The Revised Penal Code, Book Two, p. 111-117 quoted People vs. Perez,[2]G.R. No. L-21049 December 22, 1923 the ultimate object of sedition is a violation of the public peace or at least such a course of measures as evidently engenders it.

“In the words of the law, Perez has uttered seditious words. He has made a statement and done an act which tended to instigate others to cabal or meet together for unlawful purposes. He has made a statement and done an act which suggested and incited rebellious conspiracies. He has made a statement and done an act which tended to stir up the people against the lawful authorities. He has made a statement and done an act which tended to disturb the peace of the community and the safety or order of the Government. x x x  . . .”[3]Ibid.

As cited by the Supreme Court in People vs. Cabrera,[4]G.R. No. 17748, March 4, 1922 sedition, in its general sense, is the raising of commotions or disturbances in the State.

“The Philippine law on the subject (Act No. 292) makes all persons guilty of sedition who rise publicly and tumultuously in order to obtain by force or outside of legal methods any one of vie objects, including that of inflicting any act of hate or revenge upon the person or property of any official or agent of the Insular Government or of Provincial or Municipal Government. The trial court found that the crime of sedition, as defined and punished by the law, had been committed, and we believe that such finding is correct.”[5]Ibid.

Is Sedition punishable by law?

As provided in Art. 140 of the Revised Penal Code [RPC], the leader of a sedition shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period and a fine not exceeding 10,000.00 pesos. Other persons participating therein shall suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period and a fine not exceeding 5,000.00 pesos.[6]Article 140, RPC

Nonetheless, in view of the enactment of Republic Act [RA] No. 10951,[7]Section 7, RA 10951 the fine for the crime of Sedition has been increased. Thus:

Section 7. Article of the same Act is hereby amended to read as follows:[8]Id.

“Art. 140. Penalty for sedition – The leader of sedition shall suffer the penalty of prisión mayorin its minimum period and fine not exceeding Two million pesos (₱2,000,000).[9]Id.

“Other persons participating therein shall suffer the penalty of prisión correccional in its maximum period and a fine not exceeding One million pesos (₱1,000,000).”[10]Id.

How can Sedition, as a felony, be committed?

As provided in Art. 139 of the Revised Civil Code, the crime of sedition is committed by person 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:[11]Article 139, RPC

  1. To prevent the promulgation or execution of any law or the holding of any popular election;[12]Id.
  2. To prevent the National Government, or any provincial or municipal government, or any public officer thereof from freely exercising its of his functions, or prevent the execution of any administrative order;[13]Id.
  3. To inflict any act of hate or revenge upon the person or property of any public officer or employee;[14]Id.
  4. To commit, for any political or social end, any act of hate or revenge against private persons or any social class; and[15]Id.
  5. To despoil, for any political or social end, any person, municipality or province, or the National Government (or the Government of the United States) of all its property or any part thereof. (As amended by Com. Act No. 202)[16]Id.

Elements of Sedition

As discussed by Justice Reyes,[17]LB Reyes (2021). The Revised Penal Code, Book Two, p. 116 the elements of sedition are:

  1. That the offenders rise (1) publicly, and (2) tumultuously;
  2. That they employ force, intimidation, or other means to attain any of the following objects:
  3. To prevent promulgation or execution of any law or the holding of any popular election;
  4. To prevent the National Government, or any provincial or municipal government, or any public officer thereof from freely exercising its or his functions, or prevent the execution of any administrative order;
  5. To inflict any act of hate or revenge upon the person or property of any public officer or employee;
  6. To commit, for any political or social end, any act of hate or revenge against private persons or any social class; and
  7. To despoil, for any political or social end, any person, municipality or province, or the National Government of all its property or any part thereof.

Pursuant to the provisions of the Revised Penal Code and as ruled in People vs. Cabrera,[18]Supra. inflicting an act of hate or revenge upon a property of a private person is not an act of sedition. The Revised Penal Code specifically connotes that sedition is towards a public person and not a private person.

If an act of hate or revenge is directed against the property of a private person, even if tumultuously and publicly done, the same may be penalized as Malicious Mischief offense, among others, as the case may be.

Art. 327 of the Revised Penal Code provides that any person who shall deliberately cause the property of another any damage not falling within the terms of the next preceding chapter shall be guilty of malicious mischief.[19]Article 327, RPC

Is there a crime of conspiracy to commit in sedition?

There is indeed a crime of conspiracy to commit sedition. Article 141 of the Revised Penal Code expressly provides for the penalty for said act, which is prision correctional in its medium period and a fine not exceeding 400,000 pesos.[20]Section 6, RA 10951

The elements of conspiracy to commit sedition are:

  • when two or more persons come to an agreement and decision to rise publicly and tumultuously to attain any objects of sedition provided in article 139 of the RPC, and[21]Ibid.
  • they decide to commit the act[22]Ibid.

Emphasis is placed on the agreement to rise publicly and tumultuously. In the absence of such, even with an agreement and a decision to attain an object of sedition, the act will not constitute conspiracy to commit sedition.

Unlike in Treason and Rebellion, there is no crime of Proposal to Commit Sedition.

When one willfully hides Seditious activities, did he commit a crime?

Knowingly concealing seditious activities is an act punishable by Article 142 of the RPC, which in effect makes it a crime. It is inciting to Sedition. The provision punishes the act of “Knowingly concealing such evil practices”, which in ordinary circumstances is a qualifying act for being an accessory, but article 142 of the RPC, treats said act equal of that being the principal. Thus:

Section 9. Article 142 of the same Act is hereby amended to read as follows:[23]Section 9, RA 10951

“Art. 142. Inciting to sedition. – The penalty of prisión correccional in its maximum period and a fine not exceeding Four hundred thousand pesos (₱400,000) shall be imposed upon any person x x x x . . . . who shall knowingly conceal such evil practices.”[24]Id.

Distinguish the crime of Disturbance of Proceedings (Art. 144, RPC) from Prohibition, interruption and dissolution of peaceful meetings (Art. 131, RPC)? 

Although some may perceive these two crimes as similar, both crimes are inherently different from one another. The main distinction between the two crimes is that Prohibition, interruption and dissolution of peaceful meetings (Art. 131, RPC) is a crime against the fundamental laws of the state, while Disturbance of Proceedings (Art. 144, RPC) is a crime against popular representation.

To simply put, crimes against the fundamental laws of the state refers to crimes that violates constitutional rights, which in the case of article 131, is the right of the people peaceably to assemble (Sec. 4, Article III, 1987 Constitution). On the other hand, crimes against popular representation are those that tends to prevent, disturb, and violate parliamentary immunity pertaining to the conduct of legislative functions.

In addition, the two crimes differ when pertaining to the offender, Prohibition, interruption and dissolution of peaceful meetings (Art. 131, RPC) who according to LB Reyes, in his book,[25]LB Reyes [2021], The Revised Penal Code, Book Two, p. 76 deals with any public officers or employee who conducts the following acts:

1] By prohibiting or by interrupting, without legal ground, the holding of a peaceful meeting, or by dissolving the same.

2] By hindering any person from joining any lawful association or from attending any of its meetings.

3] By prohibiting or hindering any person from addressing, either alone or together with others, any petition to the authorities for the correction of abuses or redress of grievances.

Thus, in this regard, private individuals are not liable under Art. 131.

Meanwhile, Disturbance of Proceedings (Art. 144, RPC), when pertaining to the offender, said crime can be committed by any person with no distinction as to being a private individual or public official provided that the following elements are present:

“That there be a meeting of the National Assembly or any of its committees or subcommittees, constitutional commissions or committees or divisions thereof, or of any provincial board or city or municipal council or board and said person disturb any of such meetings or behaves while in the presence of any such bodies in such a manner as to interrupt its proceedings or to impair the respect due it”.[26]Ibid.

Distinguish Art. 143 from 144, RPC? 

Acts tending to prevent the meeting of the Assembly and similar bodies is provided in (Art. 143, RPC) and Disturbance of proceedings (Art. 144, RPC) falls under the same category, which they are crimes against popular representation.

The main difference between the two is with respect to the purpose and the means employed in commission of the crime. The Prior (Art. 143, RPC), for it to be considered a crime, the following elements must concur, to wit:

1] There is a projected or actual meeting of the National Assembly or any of its committees or subcommittees, constitutional committees or divisions thereof, or of any provincial board or city or municipal council or board.

2] The offender, who may be any person, prevents such meeting by force or fraud.

In this regard, the emphasis is on preventing the projected or actual meetings by means of force or fraud. Meanwhile, the latter (Art. 144, RPC) requires that the following elements be present.

1]  That there be a meeting of the National Assembly or any of its committees or subcommittees, constitutional commissions or committees or divisions thereof, or of any provincial board or city or municipal council or board.

2] The offender does any of the following acts:

a. He disturbs any of such meetings

b. He behaves while in the presence of any such bodies in such a manner as to interrupt its proceedings or to impair the respect due it.

Emphasis is on the fact that the meeting is already taking place and the means employed by the offender is an act of disturbance or behavior while in presence of the body which interrupts the proceedings or that impairs the respect due it.

Is there a conflict between Art. 145, RPC and Art. VI, Sec. 11 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution?

Article 145 of the Revised penal code provides for the Violation of Parliamentary Immunity, which can be committed via two modes, the first one by the offender who uses force, intimidation, threats, or fraud to prevent any member of the National Assembly from attending, expressing his opinions freely and casting his vote.

The second is by a public officer or employee, who arrests or searches any member of the National Assembly, where in the Assembly, at the time of arrest or search, is in regular or special session and the member arrested or searched has not committed a crime punishable under the Code by a penalty higher than prision mayor.

The parliamentary immunity being violated in Art. 145 is provided by Art. VI, Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution which expressly exempts members of congress from arrest in all offenses punishable by not more than 6 years imprisonment, while the Congress is in session, whether regular or special and whether or not the legislator is actually attending session, and exempts them from liability for any speech or debate in congress or in any commitment, for the reason as to ensure representation.

In this regard, Art. 145 expressly provides that one of the elements that must concur for an act to constitute a violation of parliamentary immunity is that a member of the national assembly has been arrested or searched who has not committed a crime punishable under the Revised penal Code by a penalty higher than prision mayor.

In consonance with the provisions of Art. VI, Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution, the latter only exempts members of congress from arrest, when the congress is in session, in all offenses punishable by not more than 6 years imprisonment.

Thus, it appears that Article 145 is inconsistent with the Fundamental law. In this case, the latter shall prevail and Article 145 which pertains to the phrase “penalty higher than prision mayor” is effectively amended or modified.

What are Illegal Assemblies?

Pursuant to Art. 146 the Revised Penal Code, illegal assemblies are any meeting attended by armed persons for the purpose of committing any of the crimes punishable under the RPC or of any meeting in which the audience is incited to the commission of the crime of treason, rebellion or insurrection, sedition or assault upon a person in authority or his agents.

Moreover, said article provides that the penalty for such is prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its medium period upon the organizers or leaders of such illegal assemblies.

Illegal assemblies are committed by organizers or leaders of any meeting attended by armed persons for the purpose of committing any of the crimes punishable under the RPC and that the following requisites must be satisfied:

  1. An actual meeting, a gathering or group of persons happened, whether in a fixed place or moving;
  2. The meeting is attended by armed persons;
  3. The purpose of the meeting is to commit any of the crimes punishable under the Code.

Illegal Associations

As provided in Art. 147, the crime of illegal association is imposed upon founders, directors, and presidents of associations totally or partially organized for the purpose of committing any of the crimes punishable under the Revised Penal Code or for some purpose contrary to public morals.

For the crime of illegal assembly, there must be an actual meeting or assembly of armed persons for the purpose of committing any of the crimes punishable under the Code, or individuals who, although not armed, are incited to the commission of treason, rebellion, sedition or assault upon a person in authority or his agent; On the other hand, in illegal association, an actual meeting is not necessary.

In illegal assembly, it is the meeting and attendance at such meeting that are punished; whereas, in illegal associations, it is the act of forming or organizing and membership in the association that are punished.

In illegal assembly, the persons liable are:

(1) the organizers or leaders of the meeting, and

(2) the persons present at meeting.

In illegal association, the persons liable are:

(1) the founders, directors and president, and

(2) the members.

Illegal AssemblyIllegal Association
An actual meeting or assembly of armed persons for the purpose of committing any of the crimes punishable under the Code, or individuals who, although not armed, are incited to the commission of treason, rebellion, sedition or assault upon a person in authority or his agent is necessary.An actual meeting is not necessary.
What is punishable is the meeting and attendance at such meeting.What is punishable is the act of forming or organizing and membership in the association.
The persons liable are:
(1) the organizers or leaders of the meeting, and
(2) the persons present at meeting.
The persons liable are:
(1) the founders, directors and president, and
(2) the members.

Differentiate Inciting to sedition from Illegal Assembly

As provided in Art. 142 of the Revised Penal Code:

Inciting to sedition shall be imposed upon:[27]Article 142, RPC

1] Any person who, without taking any direct part in the crime of sedition, should incite others to the accomplishment of any of the acts which constitute sedition, by means of:[28]Id.

1.1] speeches,[29]Id.

1.2] proclamations,[30]Id.

1.3] writings,[31]Id.

1.4] emblems,[32]Id.

1.5] cartoons,[33]Id.

1.6] banners, or other representations tending to the same end, or[34]Id.

2] upon any person or persons who shall:[35]Id.

2.1] utter seditious words or speeches, write, publish, or circulate scurrilous libels:[36]Id.

2.1.a] against the Government of the Philippines, or[37]Id.

2.1.b] against any of the duly constituted authorities thereof, or[38]Id.

2.1.c] which tend to disturb or obstruct any lawful officer in executing the functions of his office, or[39]Id.

2.1.d] which tend to instigate others to cabal and meet together for unlawful purposes, or[40]Id.

2.1.e] which suggest or incite rebellious conspiracies or riots, or[41]Id.

2.1.f] which lead or tend to stir up the people against the lawful authorities or to disturb the peace of the community, the safety and order of the Government, or[42]Id.

3] who shall knowingly conceal such evil practices.[43]Id.

In inciting to sedition, a person is punished if he tends to instigate others to cabal and meet together for unlawful purposes, or which suggest or incite rebellious conspiracies or riots, or which lead or tend to stir up the people against the lawful authorities or to disturb the peace of the community, the safety and order of the Government, or who shall knowingly conceal such evil practices.

Whereas, in illegal assembly, an actual meeting or assembly of armed persons for the purpose of committing any of the crimes punishable under the Code, or individuals who, although not armed, are incited to the commission of treason, rebellion, sedition or assault upon a person in authority or his agent is necessary.

In inciting to sedition, the person liable are those that incite sedition or the principals; whereas, in illegal assembly, The persons liable are: (1) the organizers or leaders of the meeting, and (2) the persons present at meeting.

Inciting to SeditionIllegal Assembly
A person is punishable if he tends to instigate others to cabal and meet together for unlawful purposes, or which suggest or incite rebellious conspiracies or riots, or which lead or tend to stir up the people against the lawful authorities or to disturb the peace of the community, the safety and order of the Government, or who shall knowingly conceal such evil practices.An actual meeting or assembly of armed persons for the purpose of committing any of the crimes punishable under the Code, or individuals who, although not armed, are incited to the commission of treason, rebellion, sedition or assault upon a person in authority or his agent is necessary.
The persons liable are those who should incite others to commit sedition, who should utter seditious words and scurrilous libels, and who conceal such seditious acts.The persons liable are: (1) the organizers or leaders of the meeting, and (2) the persons present at meeting.

What is the effect of of unlicensed firearm possessed by the leader or any participant in the assembly?

Under Art. 146 of the Revised Penal Code, if any person present at the meeting carries an unlicensed firearm, it shall be presumed that the purpose of said meeting, insofar as he is concerned, is to commit acts punishable under the RPC, and he shall be considered a leader or organizer of of the meeting within the purview of RPC.[44]Article 146, RPC

What are the two modes of Illegal Assemblies?

Moreover, Art. 146 of the RPC provides that there are two forms of illegal assemblies:

  1. Any meeting attended by armed persons for the purpose of committing any of the crimes punishable under the Code.[45]Id.
  2. Any meeting in which the audience, whether armed or not, is incited to the commission of treason, rebellion or insurrection, sedition, or assault upon a person in authority or his agents.[46]Id.

To wrap up the discussion, sedition is a crime against public order. Simply put, sedition is the raising of commotions or disturbances in the State as promulgated by the Supreme Court in People vs. Cabrera.[47]Supra.

Final Thoughts

Sedition is a punishable offense under the Revised Penal Code. Other persons participating therein shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment and fine as discussed above.

According to Art. 146 of the Revised Penal Code, Illegal assemblies are defined as any meeting attended by armed persons for the purpose of committing any of the crimes punishable under the RPC, or any meeting in which the audience is incited to commit the crime of treason, rebellion or insurrection, sedition, or assault upon a person in authority or his agents.

Furthermore, the penalty for such acts is prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its medium period for the organizers or leaders of such illegal meetings, according to the text. Participants who are actually incited may be held liable for the crime of Illegal Assembly.

As provided in Art. 147, the crime of illegal association is imposed upon founders, directors, and presidents of associations totally or partially organized for the purpose of committing any of the crimes punishable under the Revised Penal Code or for some purpose contrary to public morals.

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