Integrated Bar of the Philippines vs Mayor Jose Atienza
613 SCRA 518 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Freedom of Expression – Clear and Present Danger Test – Modification of a Rally Permit
Remedial Law – Criminal Procedure – Rule 111 – Prejudicial Question
In June 2006, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) filed an application for a rally permit with the office of Manila Mayor Jose “Lito” Atienza. The IBP sought their rally to be staged at the Mendiola Bridge. Atienza granted the permit but indicated thereon that IBP is only allowed to stage their rally at the Plaza Miranda, a freedom park.
IBP President Jose Anselmo Cadiz received the rally permit on the day before the scheduled rally. Cadiz immediately went to the Court of Appeals to assail the permit because what Atienza did was only a partial grant which was alleged to be a violation of the constitutional right to freedom of expression and a grave abuse of discretion on the part of Atienza.
Meanwhile, IBP pushed through with the rally not at Plaza Miranda but at the Mendiola Bridge. Subsequently, the Manila Police District (MPD) filed a criminal case against Cadiz for allegedly violating the Public Assembly Act or specifically, for staging a rally in a place different from what was indicated in the rally permit.
The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Atienza. The CA ruled that what Atienza did was within his power; that freedom of expression is not absolute.
Cadiz appealed before the Supreme Court. Cadiz also prayed for the suspension of the criminal case against him on the ground that the certiorari case he filed against Atienza is a prejudicial question to the criminal case.
1. Whether or not the certiorari case Cadiz filed against Atienza is a prejudicial question to the criminal case filed against him (Cadiz).
2. Whether or not it is within Mayor Jose Atienza’s power to modify the rally permit without consulting with the IBP.
1. No. It is improper for Cadiz to raise the issue of prejudicial question at this stage and in this certiorari case. Under the Rules of Court, a prejudicial question is a ground to suspend the criminal proceeding. However, Cadiz must first file a petition to suspend the criminal proceeding in the said criminal case. The determination of the pendency of a prejudicial question should be made at the first instance in the criminal action, and not before the Supreme Court in an appeal from the civil action.
2. No. In modifying a rally permit or in granting a rally permit which contains a time and place different from that applied for, the mayor must first consult with the applicant at the earliest opportunity. This is in order to give the applicant some time to determine if such change is favorable to him or adverse (and if adverse, he can seek judicial remedies) – Section 6 of the Public Assembly Act.
It is an indispensable condition to such refusal or modification that the clear and present danger test be the standard for the decision reached. If he is of the view that there is such an imminent and grave danger of a substantive evil, the applicant must be heard on the matter. In this case, Atienza did not consult with the IBP. Atienza capriciously and whimsically changed the venue without any reason therefor. Such is a grave abuse of discretion and a violation of the freedom of expression.