Case Brief: Bayan KMP vs. Ermita

BAYAN, KARAPATAN, KILUSANG MAGBUBUKID NG PILIPINAS (KMP), GABRIELA, Fr. Jose Dizon, Renato Constantino, Jr., Froyel Yaneza, and Fahima Tajar, Petitioners,

vs.

EDUARDO ERMITA, in his capacity as Executive Secretary, Manila City Mayor LITO ATIENZA, Chief of the Philippine National Police, Gen. ARTURO M. LOMIBAO, NCRPO Chief Maj. Gen. VIDAL QUEROL, and Western Police District Chief Gen. PEDRO BULAONG, Respondents.

G.R. No. 169838 April 25, 2006

FACTS:

The first petitioners, Bayan, et al., allege that they are citizens and taxpayers of the Philippines and that their rights as organizations and individuals were violated when the rally they participated in on October 6, 2005 was violently dispersed by policemen implementing Batas Pambansa (B.P.) No. 880.

The second group consists of 26 individual petitioners, Jess del Prado, et al., who alleged that they were injured, arrested and detained when a peaceful mass action they held on September 26, 2005 was preempted and violently dispersed by the police. They further assert that on October 5, 2005, a group they participated in marched to Malacañang to protest issuances of the Palace which, they claim, put the country under an “undeclared” martial rule, and the protest was likewise dispersed violently and many among them were arrested and suffered injuries.

The third group, Kilusang Mayo Uno, et al., allege that they conduct peaceful mass actions and that their rights as organizations and those of their individual members as citizens, specifically the right to peaceful assembly, are affected by Batas Pambansa No. 880 and the policy of “Calibrated Preemptive Response” being followed to implement it.

KMU, et al., claim that on October 4, 2005, a rally KMU co-sponsored was to be conducted at the Mendiola bridge but police blocked them along C.M. Recto and Lepanto Streets and forcibly dispersed them, causing injuries to several of their members. They further allege that on October 6, 2005, a multi-sectoral rally which KMU also co-sponsored was scheduled to proceed along España Avenue in front of the University of Santo Tomas and going towards Mendiola bridge. Police officers blocked them along Morayta Street and prevented them from proceeding further. They were then forcibly dispersed, causing injuries on one of them. Three other rallyists were arrested.

All petitioners assail Batas Pambansa No. 880, some of them in toto and others only Sections 4, 5, 6, 12, 13(a), and 14(a), as well as the policy of CPR. They seek to stop violent dispersals of rallies under the “no permit, no rally” policy and the CPR policy recently announced.

Petitioners Bayan, et al., contend that Batas Pambansa No. 880 is clearly a violation of the Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties of which the Philippines is a signatory.

They argue that B.P. No. 880 requires a permit before one can stage a public assembly regardless of the presence or absence of a clear and present danger. It also curtails the choice of venue and is thus repugnant to the freedom of expression clause as the time and place of a public assembly form part of the message for which the expression is sought. Furthermore, it is not content-neutral as it does not apply to mass actions in support of the government. The words “lawful cause,” “opinion,” “protesting or influencing” suggest the exposition of some cause not espoused by the government. Also, the phrase “maximum tolerance” shows that the law applies to assemblies against the government because they are being tolerated. As a content-based legislation, it cannot pass the strict scrutiny test.

Petitioners Jess del Prado, et al., in turn, argue that B.P. No. 880 is unconstitutional as it is a curtailment of the right to peacefully assemble and petition for redress of grievances because it puts a condition for the valid exercise of that right. It also characterizes public assemblies without a permit as illegal and penalizes them and allows their dispersal. Thus, its provisions are not mere regulations but are actually prohibitions.

Furthermore, the law delegates powers to the Mayor without providing clear standards. The two standards stated in the laws (clear and present danger and imminent and grave danger) are inconsistent.

ISSUE:

Whether or not B.P. No, 880 which delegates powers to the Mayor provides clear standards.

RULING:

Yes. As to the delegation of powers to the mayor, the law provides a precise and sufficient standard – the clear and present danger test stated in Sec. 6 (a). The reference to “imminent and grave danger of a substantive evil” in Sec. 6 (c) substantially means the same thing and is not an inconsistent standard. As to whether respondent Mayor has the same power independently under Republic Act No. 7160 is thus not necessary to resolve in these proceedings, and was not pursued by the parties in their arguments.

The so-called calibrated preemptive response policy has no place in our legal firmament and must be struck down as a darkness that shrouds freedom. It merely confuses our people and is used by some police agents to justify abuses. On the other hand, B.P. No. 880 cannot be condemned as unconstitutional; it does not curtail or unduly restrict freedoms; it merely regulates the use of public places as to the time, place and manner of assemblies. Far from being insidious, “maximum tolerance” is for the benefit of rallyists, not the government. The delegation to the mayors of the power to issue rally “permits” is valid because it is subject to the constitutionally-sound “clear and present danger” standard.

RATIO: Examples of standards held sufficient. – The following are legislative specifications are among those which have been held to state a sufficiently definite standard for administrative action in specific fields… “a clear and present danger,” and “imminent and grave danger of a substantive evil.”

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