Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

People v. Perez G.R. No. L-21049 December 22, 1923 Sedition, Freedom of Speech


Isaac Perez, the municipal secretary of Pilar, Sorsogon, and Fortunato Lodovice, a citizen of that municipality met and engaged in a discussion regarding the administration of Governor-General Wood, an executive official of the Philippines appointed by the President of the United States. 

In the said discussion, Perez shouted a number of times: “The Filipinos, like myself, must use bolos for cutting off Wood’s head for having recommended a bad thing for the Filipinos, for he has killed our independence.” 

Perez was charged with a violation of article 256 of the Penal Code, for contempt of ministers of the Crown or other persons in authority.

Perez was subsequently convicted thereof.

Hence, this appeal.


What crime, if any, did the accused commit?


In criminal law, there are a variety of offenses which are not directed primarily against individuals, but rather against the existence of the State, the authority of the Government, or the general public peace. 

The offenses created and defined in Act No. 292 are distinctly of this character. Among them is sedition, which is the raising of commotions or disturbances in the State. It is a revolt against legitimate authority. 

Though the ultimate object of sedition is a violation of the public peace or at least such a course of measures as evidently engenders it, yet it does not aim at direct and open violence against the laws, or the subversion of the Constitution. 

It is of course fundamentally true that the provisions of Act No. 292 must not be interpreted so as to abridge the freedom of speech and the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the Government for redress of grievances. 

Criticism is permitted to penetrate even to the foundations of Government. Criticism, no matter how severe, on the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary, is within the range of liberty of speech, unless the intention and effect be seditious. 

But when the intention and effect of the act is seditious, the constitutional guaranties of freedom of speech and press and of assembly and petition must yield to punitive measures designed to maintain the prestige of constituted authority, the supremacy of the constitution and the laws, and the existence of the State. 

Here, the person maligned by the accused is the Chief Executive of the Philippine Islands. His official position, like the Presidency of the United States and other high offices, under a democratic form of government, instead of affording immunity from promiscuous comment, seems rather to invite abusive attacks.

But in this instance, the attack on the Governor-General passes the furthest bounds of free speech as intended. There is a seditious tendency in the words used, which could easily produce disaffection among the people and a state of feeling incompatible with a disposition to remain loyal to the Government and obedient to the laws.

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 tends 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. All of these various tendencies can be ascribed to the action of Perez and may be characterized as penalized by section 8 of Act No. 292 as amended.

The penalty meted out by the trial court falls within the limits provided by the Treason and Sedition Law, and will, we think, sufficiently punish the accused.

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