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THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, plaintiff-appellee, vs. GREGORIO PERFECTOR, defendant-appella

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Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. L-18463 October 4, 1922
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
GREGORIO PERFECTOR, defendant-appellant.
Alfonso E. Mendoza and the appellant in behalf of the latter.
Attorney-General Villa-Real for appellee.
MALCOLM, J.:
The important question is here squarely presented of whether article 256 of the Spanish
Penal Code, punishing "Any person who, by . . . writing, shall defame, abuse, or insult any Minister
of the Crown or other person in authority . . .," is still in force.
About August 20, 1920, the Secretary of the Philippine Senate, Fernando M. Guerrero,
discovered that certain documents which constituted the records of testimony given by witnesses
in the investigation of oil companies, had disappeared from his office. Shortly thereafter, the
Philippine Senate, having been called into special session by the Governor-General, the Secretary
for the Senate informed that body of the loss of the documents and of the steps taken by him to
discover the guilty party. The day following the convening of the Senate, September 7, 1920, the
newspaper La Nacion, edited by Mr. Gregorio Perfecto, published an article reading as follows:
Half a month has elapsed since the discovery, for the first time, of the scandalous robbery of
records which were kept and preserved in the iron safe of the Senate, yet up to this time there is
not the slightest indication that the author or authors of the crime will ever be discovered.
To find them, it would not, perhaps, be necessary to go out of the Sente itself, and the
persons in charge of the investigation of the case would not have to display great skill in order to
succeed in their undertaking, unless they should encounter the insuperable obstacle of offical
concealment.
In that case, every investigation to be made would be but a mere comedy and nothing more.
After all, the perpetration of the robbery, especially under the circumstances that have
surrounded it, does not surprise us at all.
The execution of the crime was but the natural effect of the environment of the place in
which it was committed.
How many of the present Senators can say without remorse in their conscience and with
serenity of mind, that they do not owe their victory to electoral robbery? How may?
The author or authors of the robbery of the records from the said iron safe of the Senate
have, perhaps, but followed the example of certain Senators who secured their election through
fraud and robbery.

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The Philippine Senate, in its session of September 9, 1920, adopted a resolution authorizing
its committee on elections and privileges to report as to the action which should be taken with
reference to the article published in La Nacion. On September 15, 1920, the Senate adopted a
resolution authorizing the President of the Senate to indorse to the Attorney-General, for his study
and corresponding action, all the papers referring to the case of the newspaper La Nacion and its
editor, Mr. Gregorio Perfecto. As a result, an information was filed in the municipal court of the City
of Manila by an assistant city fiscal, in which the editorial in question was set out and in which it
was alleged that the same constituted a violation of article 256 of the Penal Code. The defendant
Gregorio Perfecto was found guilty in the municipal court and again in the Court of First Instance of
Manila.
During the course of the trial in the Court of First Instance, after the prosecution had rested,
the defense moved for the dismissal of the case. On the subject of whether or not article 256 of the
Penal Code, under which the information was presented, is in force, the trial judge, the Honorable
George R. Harvey, said:
This antiquated provision was doubtless incorporated into the Penal Code of Spain for the
protection of the Ministers of the Crown and other representatives of the King against free speech
and action by Spanish subjects. A severe punishment was prescribed because it was doubtless
considered a much more serious offense to insult the King's representative than to insult an
ordinary individual. This provision, with almost all the other articles of that Code, was extended to
the Philippine Islands when under the dominion of Spain because the King's subject in the
Philippines might defame, abuse or insult the Ministers of the Crown or other representatives of
His Majesty. We now have no Ministers of the Crown or other persons in authority in the
Philippines representing the King of Spain, and said provision, with other articles of the Penal
Code, had apparently passed into "innocuous desuetude," but the Supreme Corut of the Philippine
Islands has, by a majority decision, held that said article 256 is the law of the land to-day. . . .
The Helbig case is a precedent which, by the rule of stare decisis, is binding upon this court
until otherwise determined by proper authority.
In the decision rendered by the same judge, he concluded with the following language:
In the United States such publications are usually not punishable as criminal offense, and
little importance is attached to them, because they are generally the result of political controversy
and are usually regarded as more or less colored or exaggerated. Attacks of this character upon a
legislative body are not punishable, under the Libel Law. Although such publications are
reprehensible, yet this court feels some aversion to the application of the provision of law under
which this case was filed. Our Penal Code has come to us from the Spanish regime. Article 256 of
that Code prescribes punishment for persons who use insulting language about Ministers of the
Crown or other "authority." The King of Spain doubtless left the need of such protection to his
ministers and others in authority in the Philippines as well as in Spain. Hence, the article referred
to was made applicable here. Notwithstanding the change of sovereignty, our Supreme Court, in a
majority decision, has held that this provision is still in force, and that one who made an insulting
remark about the President of the United States was punishable under it. (U.S. vs. Helbig, supra.)
If it applicable in that case, it would appear to be applicable in this case. Hence, said article 256
must be enforced, without fear or favor, until it shall be repealed or superseded by other legislation,
or until the Supreme Court shall otherwise determine.
In view of the foregoing considerations, the court finds the defendant guilty as charged in the
information and under article 256 of their Penal Code sentences him to suffer two months and one
day of arresto mayor and the accessory penalties prescribed by law, and to pay the costs of both
instances.
The fifteen errors assigned by the defendant and appellant, reenforced by an extensive brief,
and eloquent oral argument made in his own behalf and by his learned counsel, all reduce

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC G.R. No. L-18463             October 4, 1922 THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, plaintiff-appellee, vs. GREGORIO PERFECTOR, defendant-appellant. Alfonso E. Mendoza and the appellant in behalf of the latter. Attorney-General Villa-Real for appellee.   MALCOLM, J.:           The important question is here squarely presented of whether article 256 of the Spanish Penal Code, punishing "Any person who, by . . . writing, shall defame, abuse, or insult any Minister of the Crown or other person in authority . . .," is still in force.           About August 20, 1920, the Secretary of the Philippine Senate, Fernando M. Guerrero, discovered that certain documents which constituted the records of testimony given by witnesses in the investigation of oil companies, had disappeared from his office. Shortly thereafter, the Philippine Senate, having been called into special session by the Governor-General, the Secretary for the Senate informed that body of the loss of the documents and of the steps taken by him to discover the guilty party. The day following the convening of the Senate, September 7, 1920, the newspaper La Nacion, edited by Mr. Gregorio Perfecto, published an article reading as follows:           Half a month has elapsed since the discovery, for the first time, of the scandalous robbery of records which were kept and preserved in the iron safe of the Senate, yet up to this time there is not ...
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