Political Law

Jose B.L. Reyes vs Ramon Bagatsing

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G.R. No. L-65366 – 125 SCRA 553 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Freedom of Speech – Primacy of the Constitution over International Law

Retired Justice JBL Reyes in behalf of the members of the Anti-Bases Coalition sought a permit to rally from Luneta Park until the front gate of the US embassy which is less than two blocks apart. The permit has been denied by then Manila Mayor Ramon Bagatsing. The mayor claimed that there have been intelligence reports that indicated that the rally would be infiltrated by lawless elements. He also issued City Ordinance No. 7295 to prohibit the staging of rallies within the 500 feet radius of the US embassy. Bagatsing pointed out that it was his intention to provide protection to the US embassy from such lawless elements in pursuant to Art. 22 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. And that under our constitution we “adhere to generally accepted principles of international law”.

ISSUE: Whether or not a treaty may supersede provisions of the Constitution. Whether or not the rallyists should be granted the permit.

HELD:

I. No. Indeed, the receiving state is tasked for the protection of foreign diplomats from any lawless element. And indeed the Vienna Convention is a restatement of the generally accepted principles of international law. But the same cannot be invoked as defense to the primacy of the Philippine  Constitution which upholds and guarantees the rights to free speech and peaceable assembly. At the same time, the City Ordinance issued by respondent mayor cannot be invoked if the application thereof would collide with constitutionally guaranteed rights.

II. Yes. The denial of their rally does not pass the clear and present danger test. The mere assertion that subversives may infiltrate the ranks of the demonstrators does not suffice. In this case, no less than the police chief assured that they have taken all the necessary steps to ensure a peaceful rally. Further, the ordinance cannot be applied yet because there was no showing that indeed the rallyists are within the 500 feet radius (besides, there’s also the question of whether or not the mayor can prohibit such rally – but, as noted by the SC, that has not been raised an an issue in this case).

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