I am a police officer detailed somewhere in Metro Manila. One day, together with five other police officers, I was assigned to secure a certain private parking area that has been a frequent venue for rallies and protests without the necessary permits. We were ordered to maintain peace and order in the area, and in the event of a rally, maintain maximum tolerance.
In one instance, a group of around 10 people gathered at the entrance of the parking lot and insisted to enter. My fellow police officers and I calmly asked if they had a permit to use the parking lot for a protest rally, but they could not show any permit. They began being agitated and started to shout foul words at us, and began throwing materials at us such as their banners, rocks, even monobloc chairs.
Bystanders merely walked past us, but some offered help and were trying to pacify the unruly group. The scuffle ended with four of us police officers hurt. I would just like to know if we, police officers, can file any criminal case against them. If so, what particular case?
Dear PO2 Ramon,
Although the 1987 Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of expression to all persons, it is not an absolute right. Protest rallies may be done in designated freedom parks; otherwise, there is a need for a permit from the local government unit having jurisdiction over the place where the intended rally is to be held. In your case, the protesters did not have a permit and they were attempting to hold a protest rally in a private parking area. Therefore, you and your police officer companions had the duty to ensure and maintain peace and order. You were correct in standing your ground and exercising maximum tolerance.
As for the scuffle that ensued, the persons who threw things at you and the other police officers while engaged in the lawful performance of your duties could be charged with Direct Assault under Art 148 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC). The pertinent portions of which read:
“Any person or persons who, without a public uprising xxx xxx shall attack, employ force, or seriously intimidate or resist any person in authority or any of his agents, while engaged in the performance of official duties, or on occasion of such performance xxx”
Under this provision of the RPC, those persons are liable for attacking you and the other police officers who were in the lawful performance of your official duties. As law enforcers, you and your companions are considered persons in authority. Hence, throwing things such as banners, rocks, monobloc chairs at police officers is clearly an attack on a person in authority.
On the other hand, it could be argued that the incident happened during a public apprising; and thus, exempting the persons from the crime of Direct Assault. It would then be up to the courts and the evidence presented whether or not there was a public apprising at that time that would exempt those involved from the crime of Direct Assault.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com