Palace: No 'clear and present danger' in call for revolutionary government
Undated file photo shows presidential spokesperson Harry Roque speaking to reporters at a press briefing.
Presidential Photo/Joey Dalumpines, File

Palace: No 'clear and present danger' in call for revolutionary government

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - August 24, 2020 - 9:25pm

MANILA, Philippines — The government does not support calls from supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte for him to establish a "revolutionary government" but there is no harm in their doing so, the Palace said Monday.

Speaking at a press briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also said that a term extension "farthest in the mind" of President Duterte, whom he reiterated was focused on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.  

"[The proposed revolutionary government] does not enjoy support from the government right now but private individuals can express their views," Roque said.

"[The calls] are moot and academic as far as president is concerned because a constitutional government is what we have right now. We do not need a revolutionary government right now... It is clear that this is a private initiative that is not among our priorities."

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This comes after the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte-National Executive Coordinating Committee assembled at the Clark Freeport to call for a "revolutionary government" headed by the president himself until December 31, 2021.

The collective claimed to be made up of numerous civil society groups and non-government organizations supporting Duterte and urged Filipinos to join calls for the adoption of a new Constitution. 

'Clear and present danger required' 

Asked if the calls for a revolutionary government are potentially illegal, Roque also said: "The courts are consistent in their decisions on free expression...there isn't any clear and present danger there anyway. There has to be a clear and present danger in order to suppress that kind of language."

Under Chavez v. Gonzales, the court held that

In this jurisdiction, it is established that freedom of the press is crucial and so inextricably woven into the right to free speech and free expression, that any attempt to restrict it must be met with an examination so critical that only a danger that is clear and present would be allowed to curtail it.

Philippine jurisprudence holds that the "clear and present danger" rule, "as interpreted in a number of cases, means that the evil consequence of the comment or utterance must be 'extremely serious and the degree of imminence extremely high' before the utterance can be punished."

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The reaction is markedly different from the reaction to similar instances when it involved dissent against the Duterte administration. 

When medical societies called for a "time-out" at the start of August, Duterte said that he heard and acknowledged their concerns—but he also publicly scolded them for publicly voicing their grievances "as if" calling for a revolution. 

In May, elements of the National Bureau of Investigation also arrested a public school teacher without a warrant for publicly posting a tweet on social media offering a P50-million reward to anyone who could kill Duterte. He secured provisional liberty only after posting a bail bond of P72,000.

The charges have since been dropped because his arrest was invalid.

Although the Philippine National Police also claimed it was against the calls, it has not made any arrests despite possible violations of quarantine protocols on physical distancing and on mass gatherings—rules it has strictly enforced when dispersing protests.

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