The real deal with 34 Filipinos arrested for disrespecting Philippine Anthem

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Thirty four individuals were arrested in a movie house for allegedly disrespecting the Philippine flag. (Artwork by Uela Altar-Badayos)

The arrest of 34 moviegoers in Batangas for allegedly disrespecting the Philippine National Anthem has renewed interest and sparked debate on the Republic Act 8491 or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.

The Philippine National Anthem should only be played and sang during the first and last screening of films, as stated in RA 8491.

However, the arrests in Batangas occurred at 2 p.m. during the second screening of “The How’s of Us” in a mall in Lemery, Batangas.

The Batangas police alleged that the moviegoers “did not stand in attention and disrespected the Philippine National Anthem while it was being played prior to the showing of movie film entitled The Hows of Us.”

Press ReleaseSeptember 6, 201834 Arrested for Disrespecting the Philippine National AnthemPhilippine National Police…

Posted by Batangas PNP on Thursday, September 6, 2018

Chief Inspector Alfie Salang of Batangas said in a radio interview that the arrests were part of “Oplan Bandila” conducted to teach Filipinos in the region to respect the national flag and the anthem while inside movie theaters.

“Bilang Pilipino, we should salute, we should respect our flag and our national anthem ‘pag ito po ay pinapatugtog,” Salang said.

He added that there were law enforcers in civilian clothing with surveillance cameras inside the movie house while those in uniform were stationed outside.

The “Oplan Bandila” operations will be conducted in all movie theaters in Region IV-A which is composed of the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon.

The basis for the arrest is Section 38 of the heraldic code, wherein every person in a “public gathering” is required to sing the Philippine National Anthem or the “Lupang Hinirang” every time it is played.

If convicted, violators of the law can either be fined from P5,000 to P20,000 or imprisoned for one year, but only under the “discretion of the court.”

Cagayan de Oro city Rep. Maximo Rodriguez, Jr. authored a bill seeking to criminalize those who “do not accord the respect due the Philippine flag and the national anthem.”

As of writing, the bill is now pending in the House of Representatives as House Bill No. 5224.

A part of section 38 also seemed to be misunderstood or left out when Batangas police put them into custody.

In general, a mall, along with the amenities inside it, is a private establishment. People have to pay, no matter how small, when you dine, watch a movie, and at times use the restroom of this establishment.

Malls or shopping centers are also not included in the definition of a public space in The Public Assembly Act of 1985.

Mixed reactions

Local authorities of Batangas were praised while those who were arrested were criticized for the alleged disrespect of the Philippine flag.

However, others questioned if what the officers did was “illegal.”

Artwork by Uela Altar-Badayos