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Lupang Hinrang

Lupang Hinirang

Ronald Roy

This is a sequel to my comment last week under the same title.

A man is driving his car along a city street. A motorcycle cop hails him down then tells him: “This is a one-way street. Don’t you follow traffic regulations?” The driver says:”What regulations sir? There isn’t a single road sign indicating this is a one-way street. The cop presses on his point:”This is a one-way street as declared by City Ordinance numbered 12345, and you violated it.” The driver finally argues:”But I know nothing of this law.”Comes now the curt reply:”Ignorance of the law excuses no one. Sorry. Your registration paper please.”

Ignorance of the law excuses no one, the popular legal dictum most everybody has heard, is under scrutiny. Was the cop correct in invoking it? No.

The illustrative case brings us to a distinction between criminal offenses that are “mala in se” and those that are “mala prohibita”. A mala in se felony is that which is discernible as bad in itself. An example is murder or robbery. In either case, the malefactor cannot claim ignorance of an inherently wrongful act. On the other hand, a mala prohibita offense is that which is not inherently bad, but is nonetheless prohibited by law, such as in the case of a no-right-turn road sign.

These distinctions provide a reason for not allowing any culpa, or fault, to attach to balladeer-belter Martin Nievera who correctly invokes ignorance of RA 8491, which is said to have been violated by his allegedly wrongful rendition of Lupang Hinirang, our national anthem, before the Pacquiao-Hatton rumble in Las Vegas, Nevada, last May 3.

His rendition, to be sure, was not mala in se. If it were, he could be sued under RA 8491. It was mala prohibita, which therefore makes available his defense of ignorance of the said statute, the law governing Lupang HInirang by Julian Felipe.

What is obvious, therefore, is the imperative for road signs to be posted wherever necessary. Road signs are devised for the public safety and convenience. Without them, you can expect traffic accidents and vehicular congestions. Certainly, why there are no signs in our illustrative case is not the driver’s fault. It is the fault of those government agencies obligated to post the signs but did not do so. On the other hand, does Prof. Ryan Cayabyab’s forewarning to Nievera constitute sufficient notice to legally bind him? I don’t think so, because Cayabyab is not a government agent authorized and obligated to enforce RA 8491.

Assuming for the sake of argument that Nievera is barred from availing himself of the defense of ignorance of the law, can he be sued before a Philippine court? No. the court will dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction. Our courts enjoy jurisdiction to try crimes if they are committed within the territorial limits of the country.

However, in those cases where a crime is committed on board, say, a vessel or aircraft already beyond our territorial boundaries, the said felony can be tried here , provided that the said vessel or aircraft is registered under Philippine laws. This is the doctrine of “ex territoriality”. But, then again, Nievera’s alleged crime having been committed in America cannot be tried here.

I am overwhelmed by a strong sense of relief for not having received from a single reader an observation critical of Nievera who, in my opinion, is an innocent victim of circumstances. I remain pat on my conviction that RA 8491 should be amended for being too vague on countless material points. It appears to read more like a toothless document, a congressional resolution reflecting patriotic sentiments about our national anthem.

Last week, I received a very poignant and grateful text message from Mr. Martin Nievera, as follows: “Just wanted to thank you very much for your very inspiring article. I was both touched and relieved that it was not another one of the many trying to bring me down and steal my joy. I took great pride in singing the anthem, and I was never told by anyone, not even by those who sang before me, not even by Mr. C himself, that it was against some law to sing the anthem a little differently. Xx I didn’t know I would be crucified. Xx your article was sunshine on a very long and persistent cloudy day. As a token of my gratitude, may I do something for you, sir?”

My reply:”Yes. Don’t mind your detractors. Plod on making people happy the way you know best with a microphone. Give my best to your parents and Louie Ocampo, the savant who arranged my very first composition, A Lonely Dream, 28 years ago. Take care and God Bless!”

Incidentally, I wish to inform texter 5151 that songwriting is just one of my many hobbies. On the more serious side of life, I am a lawyer, an economics major, a businessman, and an unforgiving critic of Gloria Arroyo and her avaricious cabal.

(Email: arnydolor@yahoo.com, cell # 09186449517, landline # (02)7106701)

Ms. Ninez Cacho-Olivarez

Publisher and editor-in-chief

Dear Ninez,

For your consideration, please.

Yours,

Ronnie (Roy)

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