Saturday, April 7, 2012

U. S. v Perfecto March 4, 1922 G.R. No. 17493

J. Johnson

The complainant charged the defendants with sedition in violating section 8 of Act No. 292 as amended by section 1 of Act No. 1692.
The defendants averred that:
(a) that the complaint was illegal and unconstitutional for the reason that it had been presented by a political entity without authority, and that the same had not been formulated in accordance with the essential requisites required by the law;
 (b) that the facts alleged in the complaint did not constitute a crime and that, even though they came under the provisions of Act No. 292 as reformed by Act No. 1592, said laws were null because they violated certain provisions of the organic law of the Philippine Island
 (c) that as a result of the first two grounds of the demurrer, the Court of First Instance of the city of Manila was without jurisdiction of the person of the defendants nor over the facts alleged in the complaint.
In the trial court, the judge ruled that he evidence was insufficient to show that one of the defendants, Mendoza, was guilty. He was absolved with ½ costs. However, the other defendant, Perfecto, was guilty and made to pay 500 and ½ of the costs.
Perfecto appealed to the SC and gave several assignments of error. These were:
(a) That the lower court committed an error in overruling the demurer;
(b) That the lower court committed an error in not declaring the complaint illegal and unconstitutional, in that it was entitled "The People of the Philippine Islands" instead of in the name o the "United States of America;"
(c) In not declaring illegal, unconstitutional, and null, Act Nos. 2667 and 2886 of the Philippine Legislature;
(d) In not declaring that Act No. 292, as amended by Act No. 1692, is null, illegal, and unconstitutional; and
(e) In not declaring that the trial court was without jurisdiction to try and decide the cause presented in the complaint.
The question of fact presented by the appellant claimed that the evidence given during the trial didn’t show that he was guilty of the crime charged in the complaint.

Issue: Did the defendant act in violation of violating section 8 of Act No. 292 as amended by section 1 of Act No. 1692?

Held: No. Petition granted

Given the evidence, the Supreme Court held that the appellant intended to disturb or obstruct any lawful officer in executing his office, nor that said publication tended to instigate others to cabal or to meet together for unlawful purposes, or to suggest or incite rebellious conspiracies or riots, or to stir up the people against the lawful authorities, or to disturb the peace of the community, or the safety and good order of the government.
To hold otherwise, upon the evidence adduced during the trial of the cause, in our opinion would be to abridge the freedom of the press in the Philippine Islands, which abridgment would be in direct contravention of the provisions of paragraph 13 of section 3 of the Jones Law.
When the citizens of a state become convinced that the administration of the affairs of their government is not carried on in accordance with the law, or is not conducted for the best interest of all concerned, they have not only a right but it is their duty to present the cause of their grievances to the public, and the free press of the state usually affords the best avenue for that purpose. To that end, the organic laws of all modern free states have wisely provided that "no law shall be passed, abridging the freedom of the press" and that no person shall be punished except for an above of that freedom. The interest of civilized society and the maintenance of good government demand a full and free discussion of all affairs of public interest.
Complete liberty to comment upon the administration of Government, as well as the conduct of public men, is necessary for free speech. the people are not obliged, under modern civilized government, to speak of the conduct of their officials, of their servants, in whispers or with bated breath. US. V Bustos
The freedom of the press consists in the right to publish the truth, with good motives and for justifiable ends, although said publication may be offensive to the Government, to the courts, or to individuals.
Chief Justice Marshall of the Supreme Court of the United States, in discussing the freedom of the press, said: "The spirit of the constitution and the opinion of the people cannot be curbed by those who administer the Government. Among those principles which are held most sacred by the people of America, there is none more deeply rooted in the public mind than that of the liberty of the press."
Webster- It is important to safeguard to the utmost the right to free speech and the free press. It is the ancient and constitutional right of our people to judge public matters and public men. It is such a self-evident right as the right to breathe the air and to walk on the surface of the earth. I will defend this high constitutional prerogative in time of war, in time of peace and all the time. Dead or alive I shall maintain it.
It is the particular duty of the people of the state to zealously maintain the right to express freely, either verbally or by publication, their honest convictions regarding the acts of public officials and the governing class. If the people of a free state should give up the right of free speech; if they are daunted by fear and threats, and abdicate their convictions; if the governing body of the state could silence all the voices those that extol their acts; if nothing relating to the conduct of the governing class can be reach the people except that which will uphold the men in power, then we may well say "Good-bye" to our liberties forever. While under such circumstances free government may still be maintained, their life, their soul, and their essentials will be gone. If the publication of the conduct of public officials annoys them, let them examine their own act and determine the time of the illustrious Voltaire he expressed the opinion that "tolerance was never the cause of internal strife in the state, on the contrary, the pursuit of intolerance has covered the world with blood. The tyrants of our thought have caused the greater part of the misfortunes of the world."

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