Sedition: A Variable Crime Arising from Insecurity

I was prowling the online law library of Chan Robles researching Customs law. According to standing Customs law, which are ancient statutes put into effect by Presidential Decree under President Marcos, inspectors are supposed to be on the lookout for seditious materials. As decreed, the following are banned:
(b) Written or printed articles in any form containing any matter advocating or inciting treason, or rebellion, or insurrection, sedition or subversion against the Government of the Philippines, or forcible resistance to any law of the Philippines, or containing any threat to take the life of, or inflict bodily harm upon any person in the Philippines.
That is an excerpt from Chan Robles’ highly excellent internet law library. Search of the library turned up a series of laws on subversion. They were introduced to stop the spread of communism. All were overturned in 1992 by Republic Act No 7276.
I enjoyed reading the original law, Republic Act No. 1700, approved in 1957. Well, maybe “enjoyed” is not the right word. I was intrigued? Scared? Given the heebie jeebies? The Act was amended and broadened by Presidential Decree  885 under President Marcos in 1976. This is the pertinent section under Decree 885:
Sec. 2. Subversive Associations and Organizations. — Any association, organization, political party, or group of persons organized for the purpose of overthrowing the Government of the Republic of the Philippines with the open or covert assistance and support of a foreign power by force, violence, deceit or other illegal means shall be considered and is hereby declared an illegal organization.
The following acts shall constitute prima facie evidence of membership in any subversive association:
(1) Allowing himself to be listed as a member in any book or any of the lists, records, correspondence, or any other document of the organization;
(2) Subjecting himself to the discipline of such association or organization in any form whatsoever;
(3) Giving financial contribution to such association or organization in dues, assessments, loans, or in any other forms;
(4) Executive order, plans or directives of any kind of such association or organization;
(5) Acting as an agent, courier, messenger, correspondent, organizer, or in any other capacity, on behalf of such association or organization;
(6) Conferring with officers or other members of such association or organization in furtherance of any plan or enterprise thereof;
(7) Transmitting orders, directives, or plans of such association or organization orally or in writing or any other means of communication such as by signal, semaphore, sign or code;
(8) Preparing documents, pamphlets, leaflets, books, or any other type of publication to promote the objectives and purposes of such association or organization;
(9) Mailing, shipping, circulating, distributing, or delivering to other persons any material or propaganda of any kind on behalf of such association or organization;
(10) Advising, counselling, or in other way giving instruction, information, suggestions, or recommendations to officers or members or to any other person to further the objectives of such association or organization;
(11) Participating in any way in the activities, planning action, objectives, or purposes of such association or organization. 
I’m glad that law was prima facie repealed. It is a prima facie catch-bucket that is simply too big and too open to prima facie subjective interpretation.
The important thing to note is that sedition laws come and go. Values change with time and circumstance.
During WW II, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, American racial angers and mistrust ran amok and the U.S. put Japanese American citizens into camps as threats to the nation. Japanese were declared seditious for having the wrong face. Innocence had nothing to do with it.
In fact, let’s go way back in time to 1901, just after the Philippine American War, when the U.S. was trying to establish firm control over the Philippines. I don’t know if you caught the link to the photograph that ran under a recent blog here. The blog was entitled  “Ellentordesillas: treasonous or hysterical?
The photograph was pulled from a project done in 2009 by students at the University of California, Irvine, as posted on temblr: The link is: I trust the students got a top grade for this fine project work.
Here’s a large version of the photo. The scene is acerbically amusing, as political cartoons are inclined to be, mocking the bully America:
The 1901 Sedition Act No. 292, Section 10, which the cartoonist condemns, said the following:
  • “Until it has been officially proclaimed that a state of war or insurrection against the authority or sovereignty of the United States no longer exists in the Philippine Islands it shall be unlawful for any person to advocate orally, or by writing or printing or like methods, the independence of the Philippine Islands or their separation from the United States, whether by peaceable or forcible means, or to print, publish, or circulate any handbill, newspaper, or other publication advocating such independence or separation.”
The Act resulted in the jailing of many Filipino playwrights, actors and journalists. Sedition laws are the opposite of free speech laws. Hysteria, eh?
Echoes and mirrors . . . echoes and mirrors . . .
Here again are the recent troublesome words of blogger Ellen Tordesillas that suggest some Filipinos want to turn the tables and declare associations with the United States as seditious, undermining Philippine sovereignty:
  • The dispute with China over Scarborough Shoal and the Spratlys islands is not only a territorial issue but also of sovereignty. Aquino’s solution of asking the United States to do the monitoring through their spy planes over those disputed islands is tantamount to ceding sovereignty over to the United States. That’s treason.
According to her, relying on the superior technology resources of the United States is treasonous. Next she will want to jail playwrights, actors  and journalists who advocate for closer ties to the United States.
Is that wild, or what?
Sedition charges, and treason charges, give me the heebie jeebies. They are like censorship taken one notch too far, generally by the insecure or angry. It is like having the Ampatuans in charge of determining what speech is allowed.  And according to Ellen, President Aquino is NOT FREE to publicly speculate on what options are available to him in dealing with China, the bullyboy of Asia.
Somehow sedition charges, treason charges, and coups are extreme behaviors all too easily associated with Filipino emotionalism. It is this emotionalism that drives the sensationalist press and the fanatical bias of Filipinos toward Filipino boxers and entertainers (thinking  about the angst in the Philippines over Jessica Sanchez finishing second on American Idol; or go back to the near lunatic ravings about Nicole a few years ago). Objectivity and calm are set aside for making an emotional point.
Two Important Take-aways
These are Joe Am’s main deductions from his review of Philippine sedition laws. They are not scientific facts. You are free to dismiss them, or reflect on them.
  1. Easy accusations of sedition or treason are founded on emotions of fear and anger. Filipinos are an emotional people, and, beyond that, they are COMFORTABLE in that emotionalism. There are no private or public efforts underway to change it or temper it. The risk exists that such emotionalism will work AGAINST the Philippines by making it a place of everlasting rancor,  bickering, unfounded accusations, and hostile acts.
  1. Sedition is a variable keyed to time and circumstance. Charges of sedition generally arise during war or threat of rebellion when fears and angers run high and deep. Sedition is not a fixed “truth”. Accusations and convictions are based, not on the facts of the acts, but on the BELIEF that the acts are dangerous. Robbery? The gold is gone. Murder? The body is dead. Sedition? “I don’t like what you said.”  Thus, in court cases on sedition, the person really being tried is not the accused, but the judge and jury.

18 Responses to “Sedition: A Variable Crime Arising from Insecurity”
  1. Anonymous says:

    From: The Cricket!1. Enjoyed the information/education essaysto date. I wish I knew more about thehistoric time line, personalities,"characters", pivot points, etc…!2. I also wish that the individual cities had large free libraries with free accesscomputer equipment and the buildings wereair conditioned/energy efficient, etc.!Why? Well my talking points #1-2-3 arecentered around "education", information,communication, and most of all ignoranceof the general public which I sampledaily!#3. Many of my most worst experienceswere due to emotionalism, extermeists,terrorism, fear, fanatics, superstition,and lack of communication (public educators not "knowing" included!).Actions based on fear, anger, stupidity,directed by "idots" are the cause ofmost of the worlds historical disastersand conflicts….!In addition a "stupid" media just helpsto feed the "ignorant" more fuel for afire that eventually "boils water outof the pot"…and the results alwaysleave a stinkie mess…and the cyclerepeats itself (proven by historical/histerical records..!).Okay…good job…good work…love tosee what positive results come forth!Be warned…be very careful of whereyou put your feet on the streets of our rainbow islands…the dogs of warare running on the sidewalks…and inthe streets…!Chirp!

  2. Well, jim-e, I am in the Philippines because I did not want my brain and soul to turn to mush in the lavishes of LaLa land, so I shall say my piece and leave this earth the better for having been engaged. You are right, of course, we are an amazingly stupid species considering how smart we are. Indeed, it is the fact that we have such great intellect, but behave so crudely, that is the stupidity of us. Glad you appreciated the article. If you are interested in the Philippine American War, I highly recommend the following site:

  3. chohalili says:

    Thank you Mr. Joe for this article, I'd like to go back to those time & see how & why this country went down the drain. I wanted to learn more about all the past Presidents. True or not the fact remains that no other personality has been the cause of so much dispute and discord in committee meetings and plenary sessions of convention as President Marcos. No other issue has been more explosive and expensive than Marcos. If the convention is as politicized as it is today, we have only Marcos and to certain extent Mrs. Marcos to thank for it….but of course this piece was 40 years ago February 26, 1972 who could break his record?

  4. The Philippines has had a rich history in rather punitive ways, so that may have contributed to going down the drain. Plus, it has not yet really gotten organized as one nation. But I think things are turning up, so that's good.I was surprised that an branch of government as important as Customs still operated under Marcos-era laws. I would think some refreshment would be good. Like how to get the agency to operate to advance Philippine trade competitiveness, rather than simply be a cop levying lots of fees.

  5. chohalili says:

    Now I got you Mr. Joe…I have to read your article over and over before I get the point "sedation" I think the word is old, it sounds like use in espionage or cloak & dagger. If I were you I will ignore Ms. Ellen Tordisell she read too many spy stories…it's nothing to feel the heebie jeebies

  6. chohalili says:

    *sedition* ahihihi of course if you are calm & sedated no heebie jeebies..lolalready spelling corrected…lol

  7. Yes, I am rapidly losing confidence in Ms. Ellen. Yesterday her blog shouted that the Philippines is "alone" in taking on China. Then, same day, a big story broke about how Japan and China are batting each other about regarding some disputed islands near Okinawa. The Philippines is far from alone, and she seems reluctant to point out that it is CHINA that is bringing the Philippines into the picture so bluntly.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Well, JoeAm, Ms Ellen would probably respond but you left no comment on her post and there's no pingback either.– ricelander

  9. I grasped what you were driving at, but enjoyed the amusing substitution.

  10. I've left comments on her site before, but they are ignored in the trampling of her fans. I have no idea what a "pingback" is.

  11. Anonymous says:

    From: The rocking chair of Island Jim-e!Re: Time to rejoyce! Be of good cheer!Dear Joe America do not be sad just cause you don't know about"ping-back"! That is just another term probably located in the Chinese part of thesand-box world we live in! My wife tells me she has about a fifth of chinese bloodline…and that "ping" can be used as a family name, aka: "little-ping" (vs. big-ping), also when you go "shop-ping",sip-ping, vs. the "ing" family and related terminolgoy of sleep-ing, eat-ing…etc,.! So when in doubt just "wing it"…ifit tastes good, looks good…..just suck it up!Please not to confuse the "ping" family with the "ting"family…like hun-ting, eating, fart-ing, etc…!Now you see…no worries mate just as long as you arethink-ing good thoughts and doing good actions…same-same–no matter what…no matter what language…all same!Happy daze, trails, tails, times and booze to youall! From my rock-ing chair!

  12. Ahhhh, thank's for the clarification, Jim-e. I wasn't lookin' for no Chinese guy, so no wonder I didn't recognize this here ping's back. I especially appreciate the cheering up, as I was contemplating hara kiri due to the shame of my ignorance.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the web link on the Philippine-American war. Had a quick browse and found some articles I'd be going back to.There is also a recently published book on the subject, written by an American, Gregg Jones. It's called Honor in the Dust – Theodore Roosevelt, the Philippine-American War, and the Rise and Fall of the American Imperial Dream. It's also available as an e-book from Amazon and you can preview the first few chapters on their site.Reading the book gave me a greater understanding and appreciation of the courage and bravery of our forefathers who fought and resisted the Americans during the early years of our American occupation. What we have learned growing up from our history books is that the Americans were our liberators, that Gen. MacArthur is our hero who saved us from the Japanese. Little did we know about the widespread torture and cruelty that precluded American rule in our country.Then there is Noli Me Tangere, written by our national hero Jose Rizal. It should give one a pretty good idea of the indignities endured by the Filipinos in the hands of the Spanish conquistadores for more than 300 years.So for three hundred forty and so odd years, my country was under foreign rule. My people were abused, raped and treated with contempt. They were called indios and savages, told they were stupid, lazy and incompetent, and above all, inferior to the white man.This is what lies behind the psyche of your present day Filipino. This is what we all need to appreciate and comprehend before we pass judgment on our collective selves. We and the generation before us were raised by one that had very little to give in terms of engendering dignity and self respect. They never knew themselves what that really meant, they never really had a chance.I see our country as a young adult that has survived a horrible childhood. We made it through with very little knowledge and experience to ease our way into adulthood. We fail, fumble and stumble as we struggle to make our way in this world. But why wouldn't we?After all, we only gained our independence and were allowed self rule in 1946.George Washington became president of the United States in 1789.Who knows what we would also have achieved by now if we also had more than two hundred years figuring out how to run a country and make democracy work.Cha

  14. Extraordinarily well said, Cha. As an American, I found it very difficult reading about the Philippine American War. McKinley was a racist, as were many of the proponents of conquest. I did a fairly lengthy piece on Admiral Dewey a while back, looking for an American of the era I could respect. But even he rolled over in the end, the good soldier, to the political winds of the time. My own suspicion is that America started the war to keep other nations from this valuable prize, the Philippines.There is nothing to do now but shrug, and learn. And move on.Similarly, for Filipinos, the most constructive thing in the world would be a very healthy, heads up "shrug", to get rid of the notion of being subservient to ANYBODY, and to get rid of the need to prove superiority to EVERYBODY, and to move on.Glad you enjoyed Macapili. He is one of my favorites. No bias. No insecurity. Calls it as he sees it. Great photos, too.

  15. Anonymous says:

    From: The Cricket…!1. Every PH child needs to know and understand the islandshistory from the Asian Rim, regional and world perspectives…to bad they don't and at this point I see no improvement!2. Every PH person of voting age (or soon to be able to vote)needs the history,– plus a management, administrative,leadership, and participation in salvation right now….or itmay be too late to "cry over spilit water buffalo andcoconut milk"!3. Why you ask? Well simply put the island rich folks, thegreedy bastardos, the higher-than-mighty family-rulers, anda dysfunctional government have already "exceeded the tippingpoint"–plus the carrying capacity of the lifeboat! Therulers have "sedated" the peons….soo many…sins-mistakesoversights and mis-management…like…the over-population issue,the pollution issue, the over-fishing/mining/deforestationissue, etc..have already heralded the begining of the end forthe islands…"for whom the bell tolls"….!4. Proof–besides what you can witness for yourselves…(remember fruits/results-taste and then tell/act!)…how muchmore is not being reported in the media, by the government…and how much more is covered up by the "spin doctors"…"you have not becuase you ask not…"! Already several ocean coral reefs are dead or are ready to die…over fishing…mis-use of resources…no enforcement of presentlaws, rules, regulation,etc….and more over some rivers andcreeks are no longer able to be breeding grounds for fishpopulations to sustain themselves….oh…sooo sad!5. Be WARNED…BE VERY AFRAID….and act accordingly to beable to survive the coming "great flood"…question: have youstarted building your "ark" as yet?

  16. Do you have these mood swings often? You alternatively uplift and drive to despair. Well, I can only repeat that we are a stupid species for being so intelligent. Sometimes the resourcefulness comes only when our backs are to the wall. But I suppose a dead planet is a dead planet. No walls to back into. We have no ark, as I prefer a fortress. Do you have a timeline to the Resurrection?

  17. ellas says:

    Appreciating the hard work you put into your blog and in depth information you
    present. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same
    unwanted rehashed material. Fantastic read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

    • Joe America says:

      Thank you ellas. I appreciate that you understand that the blogs take a little work, and I’m glad you find them enlightening. Comment whenever the mood strikes.

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