Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sedition in the Philippines II

Two and a half years ago, three hundred Philippine soldiers mutinied and seized control of a Manila shopping complex. They soon surrendered, but a small group recently escaped from jail and went on the run. Now one of them, First Lieutenant Lawrence San Juan, has been recaptured. And in addition to charges relating to his mutiny and escape, he is also reportedly facing charges of incitement to sedition. The reason? He urged people to protest against the president:

He urged the people to not only to come out in the streets but also to wear red armbands to show their disgust for the regime of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He said the red band would symbolize the true sentiments of the people towards the present leadership.

"From now on, let us wear red arm bands to show her what the real truth is. And through this, open her eyes to the reality that the only way towards genuine and peaceful change would be for her to step down from office," he said.

As pointed out in an earlier piece on sedition in the Philippines, that country's sedition law is incredibly broad, and criminalises practically any call for public protest. Last year, the law was used to punish a whistleblower who revealed that President Arroyo had conspired with electoral officials to manipulate election results, truth apparantly being no defence.

I have no truck with military mutineers, and Lieutenant San Juan should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for his crimes in that area. But the sedition charges are clearly a crock, the result of an overbroad law and a government seeking to punish those who speak out against its corruption.