Happy 155th Birthday, Gat Jose Protacio Rizal y Mercado Realonda, born on 19 June 1861.
I can’t forget your line: “Pasasaan pa ang kalayaan kung ang mga alipin ngayon ay sila din namang mang-aalipin bukas?”
As my gift to you, Sir, I quote these lines from immortal Justice George A. Malcolm, that he wrote in his decision in the case of United States vs Felipe Bustos, et al that became an endless story among libertarians because it gave birth to the foundation of free press in the Philippines.
This was a case of whether there was libel when a group of persons of Mababebe, Pampanga, wrote a letter to the Executive Secretary of the Governor General at that time to complain about Judge Roman Punsalan Serrano, that time the Justice of the Peace for the towns of Macabebe and Masantol, for asking money from litigants in exchange for making them win the case.
The said judge countered by filing a libel case against the petitioners to the Governor General. The case went up the Supreme Court and was raffled to Justice Malcolm who penned the dismissal of the libel suit.
To explain the indispensability of press freedom, Justice Malcolm said:
"Turning to the pages of history, we state nothing new when we set down that freedom of speech as cherished in democratic countries was unknown in the Philippine Islands before 1900. A prime cause for revolt was consequently ready made. Jose Rizal in "Filipinas Despues de Cien Años" (The Philippines a Century Hence, pages 62 et seq.) describing "the reforms sine quibus non," which the Filipinos insist upon, said:
"'The minister, . . . who wants his reforms to be reforms, must begin
by declaring the press in the Philippines free and by instituting
"The Filipino patriots in Spain, through the columns of 'La Solidaridad' and by other means invariably in exposing the wants of the Filipino people demanded 'liberty of the press, of cults, and associations.' (See Mabini, La Revolucion Filipina.) The Malolos Constitution, the work of the Revolutionary Congress, in its Bill of Rights, zealously guarded freedom of speech and press and assembly and petition.
"'Mention is made of the foregoing data only to deduce the proposition that a reform so sacred to the people of these Islands and won at so dear a cost, should now be protected and carried forward as one would protect and preserve the covenant of liberty itself.
"'Next comes the period of American-Filipino cooperative effort. The Constitution of the United States and the State constitutions guarantee to the right of freedom of speech and press and the right of assembly and petition. We are therefore, not surprised to find President McKinley in that Magna Charta of Philippine Liberty, the Instructions to the Second Philippine Commission, of April 7, 1900, laying down the inviolable rule "That no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or of the rights of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
"'The Philippine Bill, the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, and the Jones Law, the Act of Congress of August 29, 1916, in the nature of organic acts for the Philippines, continued this guaranty. The words quoted are not unfamiliar to students of Constitutional Law, for they are the counterpart of the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which the American people demanded before giving their approval to the Constitution.
"'We mention the foregoing facts only to deduce the position never to be forgotten for an instant that the guaranties mentioned are part and parcel of the Organic Law — of the Constitution — of the Philippine Islands.
"'These paragraphs found in the Philippine Bill of Rights are not threadbare verbiage. The language carries with all the applicable jurisprudence of great English and American Constitutional cases. (citations omitted) And what are these principles? Volumes would inadequately answer. But included are the following:
"'The interest of society and the maintenance of good government demand a full discussion of public affairs. Completely liberty to comment on the conduct of public men is a scalpel in the case of free speech. The sharp incision of its probe relieves the abscesses of officialdom. Men in public life may suffer under a hostile and an unjust accusation; the wound can be assuaged with the balm of a clear conscience. A public officer must not be too thin-skinned with reference to comment upon his official acts. Only thus can the intelligence and the dignity of the individual be exalted. Of course, criticism does not authorize defamation. Nevertheless, as the individual is less than the State, so must expected criticism be born for the common good. Rising superior to any official or set of officials, to the Chief of Executive, to the Legislature, to the Judiciary — to any or all the agencies of Government — public opinion should be the constant source of liberty and democracy. (citations omitted)
"'The guaranties of a free speech and a free press include the right to criticize judicial conduct. The administration of the law is a matter of vital public concern. Whether the law is wisely or badly enforced is, therefore, a fit subject for proper comment. If the people cannot criticize a justice of the peace or a judge the same as any other public officer, public opinion will be effectively muzzled. Attempted terrorization of public opinion on the part of the judiciary would be tyranny of the basest sort. The sword of Damocles in the hands of a judge does not hang suspended over the individual who dares to assert his prerogative as a citizen and to stand up bravely before any official. On the contrary, it is a duty which every one owes to society or to the State to assist in the investigation of any alleged misconduct. It is further the duty of all who know of any official dereliction on the part of a magistrate or the wrongful act of any public officer to bring the facts to the notice of those whose duty it is to inquire into and punish them. In the words of Mr. Justice Gayner, who contributed so largely to the law of libel. "The people are not obliged to speak of the conduct of their officials in whispers or with bated breath in a free government, but only in a despotism." (citation omitted)'
"'The right to assemble and petition is the necessary consequence of republican institutions and the complement of the part of free speech. Assembly means a right on the part of citizens to meet peaceably for consultation in respect to public affairs. Petition means that any person or group of persons can apply, without fear of penalty, to the appropriate branch or office of the government for a redress of grievances. The persons assembling and petitioning must, of course, assume responsibility for the charges made.'"