Freedom of Speech in the Philippines

Expats have less freedom of speech in the Philippines than do citizens.  Like it or not, if you live in the Philippines as a foreigner, you do not have freedom of speech. I’m not clear on just what that means. What I know is that immigration has warned foreigners on several occasions that they can be deported for participating in demonstrations.

If you tell a Filipino what you think of them and what you think of them is not pleasant, you can be deported. Both of these are well known.  Even raising your voice in an unfriendly way can be grounds for being deported and blacklisted. Preventing you from ever returning to the Philippines.

Limited Freedom of Speech in the Philippines for Filipinos Too?

In The PhilippinesI think most Filipinos would say they have freedom of speech. I know several have told me that. Some have told me that I too can speak out about politics but I think they are mistaken. Fact is this, speaking out against a politician in the Philippines can get you killed. There is a journalist organization, I forget their name, that list the Philippines as one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist. My memory says it is on top of the list, but I’m not at all certain my memory is correct.

As an American, we treat speech as a form of protest.  An article can be a form of protest. If that is not also true in the Philippines? If an article is not a form of protest in the Philippines then I suppose I can write anything I like to about the Philippines. I could write without running afoul of the limitations of free speech in the Philippines. I will stick with the broader implication of what protest is.

There is a law in the Philippines that makes it a crime for a public display to offend someone’s race or religion. I like the concept of that.  We should accept the views of others as they apply to others.  I don’t mean we should accept those views as our own way. I’ve never seen an instance where insult a race makes any sense. Do I like the law itself? Don’t feel it is my place to say.

This law applies to Filipino as well as foreigners. It is a distinct difference in an American’s way of thinking and understanding of free speech. The right to offend in the American system is clearly included. Even in American law we do have our limitations but they can get very muddy.

Recently there was much outrage over an art exhibit in the Philippines. I didn’t grasp the point of the artist was trying to make. Jessie thought the point was that Jesus was a man.  Even if that is accurate, I don’t know what that would man, only a man or a man too.

The art included a phallic protruding from the face of Jesus.  No doubt shocking. I can be quite the fan of shocking art to make a point.  It is very effective. Whatever the point of the artist was, what I saw didn’t cause me to think he was necessarily attacking Christ.  Even if he was, then within my culture and legal system, he has every right to do so. Though even in America, some would like to be able to prevent this kind of speech. They are often the very same people that wrap themselves in the flag. They don’t even understand our flag.

This display was not in America and though that is an obvious thing to say, I too am trying to make a point.  This is the Philippines, our way is not necessarily better.  It is extremely arrogant to tell another culture they should accept our values and systems.

This artist Mideo Cruz, is now facing criminal charges in the Philippines. A religious group has filed charges for a public display of this art. The art was shown at Cultural Center of the Philippines which I believe is backed by the Philippine government. The director in charge of the exhibit has also resigned over this affair.

In many cases, any Filipino can prosecute a law in the Philippines. They can file suit if a law is broken. Usually it has to effect them directly. In family matters it usually must be brought by family. But filing suit in the Philippines is not always for civil purposes, it can mean brought up before a court on criminal charges. In some states in the USA, citizens can do this too. I saw it happen in Tennessee involving some strip clubs.

This doesn’t mean that authorities will charge him but it does mean a court could send the artist to jail If you are sitting in jail, the distinction won’t matter very much as to who did it.

This art might be seen as obscene to some in the Philippines. If the art met that definition, then freedom ofexpats have less freedom of speech in the Philippines speeach in the Philippines would parallel freedom of speech in the USA.  I’ve not seen anyone espouse the idea that it is obscene though I suspect it is to some. Obscenity though is not the test for freedom of speech in the Philippines.

As a foreigner, you may not like the limitations imposed on your freedom of speech in the Philippines.  There will be things you don’t like about living in the Philippines.  The fact is, if you choose to live in the Philippines you are held to their laws. If you are an American, then your held to both the Philippines and the USA’s laws.  Since I am not a lawyer, I can’t tell you exactly what these limitations end or how far they reach. However, by American standards, freedom of speech in the Philippines is not as broad and there are limitations you may not much like.

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Filed under: Living In The Philippines

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