Just flag­ging this

The Freeman - - OPINION -

Wait. Po­lice­men ar­rest­ing movie­go­ers just be­cause they didn't stand up dur­ing the na­tional an­them? What is hap­pen­ing to this coun­try?

Thirty four un­sus­pect­ing movie buffs in Batan­gas prob­a­bly got a se­ri­ous shock last week when they got hauled off to jail for vi­o­lat­ing the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philip­pines, or Repub­lic Act 8491. (Did your eyes start to glaze when I started cit­ing the statute?)

Yes, this law re­quires ev­ery­one to stand up and face the Philip­pine flag when the an­them is play­ing. They have to place the right palm on their left chest. If there is no flag, then they have to face the band or the con­duc­tor. All of this has to hap­pen on the first note (not the sec­ond or fifth). Oth­er­wise, se­ri­ous con­se­quences arise.

As what just hap­pened in that the­ater, as our ex­hibit A. Se­ri­ous enough to get bun­dled up in po­lice cars and jailed. Ac­cord­ing to the law, the pun­ish­ments are fines of P5,000 to P20,000, or im­pris­on­ment for not more than a year, or both de­pend­ing on the dis­cre­tion of the judge.

No news yet on where the crim­i­nal case has landed, or which judge will han­dle it. But come on, your Honor. Surely, a case like this mer­its dis­missal? I would even urge you, dear hon­or­able judge, to strike down this law for be­ing con­sti­tu­tion­ally void. I mean, stu­pid­ity aside, the law prob­a­bly can­not bear ra­tio­nal scru­tiny. (Well, my scru­tiny for sure.)

It's a waste of your pre­cious time, your Honor. You should be dis­pens­ing jus­tice and al­le­vi­at­ing so­ci­ety from crim­i­nal ills. Not sen­tenc­ing clue­less movie­go­ers whose only fault would prob­a­bly be lazi­ness and a prob­a­ble lack of civic mind­ed­ness. They prob­a­bly didn't even know this law ex­isted, as our means of dis­sem­i­nat­ing le­gal in­for­ma­tion is ten thou­sand times slower than the speed of fake news.

Not to men­tion our stel­lar po­lice force, whose time and re­sources should be em­ployed to watch over crim­i­nal el­e­ments, not or­di­nary folks watch­ing a movie. What were th­ese cops do­ing, try­ing to en­force the Heraldic Code in a cin­ema? Don't they have bet­ter things to do? Like, pre­vent drug smug­glers? Or, catch snatch­ers and pe­dophiles? Or even rove pub­lic streets un­der the guise of pre­vent­ing crime?

There are so many fea­tures of this law that smacks of (at the very least) au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism. Re­ally? Force peo­ple to stand up when they hear mu­sic? Force them to put one limb in one di­rec­tion while an­other limb is in an­other po­si­tion? Make them open their mouths and sing?

What are we? Un­think­ing ro­bots? It's a won­der con­sti­tu­tion­al­ists haven't brought this to court (although given the hor­ri­ble flood of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings, the id­i­otic Heraldic Code is prob­a­bly very far from their minds).

If those foot­ball play­ers (in­clud­ing man of the mo­ment Colin Kaeper­nick) who went down on bended knee to protest racism dur­ing the na­tional an­them got into trouble there in Amer­ica, boy they would have been in more trouble here just for watch­ing “The Hows of Us”!

We are not a po­lice state (at least, not yet). We al­low peo­ple to dis­sent. We al­low them to sing or not to sing. We al­low them to stand or to sit. Loy­alty to coun­try is demon­strated in many ways, and not only a sin­gle state-pre­scribed way. Love of the na­tion isn't just man­i­fested by stand­ing. And it cer­tainly is not nec­es­sar­ily what a dod­der­ing group of leg­is­la­tors think we should be do­ing when an an­them is played.

That's what I think any­way. Mean­while, watch out for un­der­cover cops in your lo­cal cin­ema. Se­ri­ously. You could be­come the next crim­i­nal.

'What were th­ese cops do­ing, try­ing to en­force the Heraldic Code in a cin­ema? Don't they

have bet­ter things to do?'

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.