April 18, 2024

The pronouncement of former President Rodrigo R. Duterte that he is seeking the separation of the Island of Mindanao where his home province of Davao is situated, from the Republic of the Philippines, is perceived by many as an act of sedition or inciting to sedition penalized as a criminal act under the Penal Code of the Philippines.
Coming from the past chief executive of the country, his advocacy is seen by many as an act of treachery, an act of defiance against the duly established authority of the Republic of the Philippines. To this end, anti-Duterte forces are clamoring that he be prosecuted for sedition or inciting to sedition. Are they correct?
When Duterte made the bold pronouncement that he and his followers shall undertake steps to create Mindanao as a separate state like what happened to the Baltic States in the now non-existent Yugoslavia, he was in one of his fits of rage.
He felt betrayed and left to fend for himself in an investigation that might pin him down for crimes against humanity. Such statement, therefore, is more of a knee jerk reaction than a genuine desire to lead a movement.
Yet, though the statement of Duterte should not be taken seriously, coming from a former President who has the means and the machi- nery to carry out his plan, it is quite disturbing. Hence, the Armed Forces of the Philippines did not take this sitting down and warned that any secessionist movement in Mindanao shall be dealt with by the full force of the law. This may not be necessary.
In my view, Duterte is not liable for sedition nor inciting to sedition. His speech is fairly covered by the freedom of expression enshrined and guaranteed by the Constitution. There is no need to use force against him. Neither is there any necessity to pro-secute him for sedition or inciting to sedition as it will certainly not prosper.
To consummate sedition, there must be a public and tumultuous uprising accompanied by force, intimidation or other means outside legal methods.
In the case of Duterte, this element of force or intimidation is clearly lacking. Thus, regardless of his intent or motive, his expression of an opinion that it is for the best welfare of Mindanao that it be established as a separate state is far from being a criminal act.
Nor did Duterte commit the crime of inciting to sedition. Inciting to sedition is defined as inciting others to the execution of any act of sedition which includes, but not limited to, seizing or diminishing state power without any open hostility against the government. While Duterte’s advocacy to separate Mindanao from the rest of the country clearly constitutes an act of diminishing State power, it does not fall under the ambit of inciting to sedition.
Foremost, nobody was incited in his speech to do violence against the Philippine government and any of its incumbent officials. In fact, nobody appears to take him seriously and his threat of secession is scoffed at as a mere rhetoric. He himself clarifies by saying that he will follow the legal process to secede Mindanao from the rest of the country. Nothing illegal with that as long as it is within the bounds of law.
And even this is quite laughable. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Moro National Liberation Front, and other separatist groups have waged war for an independent Mindanao for almost a century with no or little success to show. These groups tried everything possible, from violence to peaceful means, to attain their objective. To this day, they have nothing to show. What then, does Duterte have to show that he will be successful where others were not? Probably, the only thing working for him is his mouth and his knack for making statements at the wrong time and at the wrong place.
At any rate, Duterte’s secessionist movement is surely bound to fail. Hence, give him his ounce of satisfaction. Just let the old man rap and say anything he wants. That is his freedom to do.