by John Lloyd Macuñat

US v. FRED L. DORR ET AL., GR No. 1051, 1903-05-19

Facts:

The defendants have been convicted upon a complaint charging them with the offense of writing, publishing, and circulating a scurrilous libel against the Government of the United States and the Insular Government of the Philippine Islands.

The complaint is based upon section

8 of Act No. 292 of the Commission, which is as follows:

The alleged libel was published as an editorial in the issue of the "Manila Freedom"... under the caption of "A few hard facts."... appointing rascally natives to important Government positions

"There is no doubt but that the Filipino office holders of the Islands are in a good many instances rascals.

"The Commission has exalted to the highest positions in the islands Filipinos who are alleged to be notoriously corrupt and rascally, and men of no personal character.

there can be no such thing as a scurrilous libel, or any sort of a libel, upon an abstraction like the Government in the sense of the laws and institutions of a country

Issues:

what is meant in section 8 of Act No. 292 by the expression "the Insular Government of the Philippine Islands." Does it mean in a general and abstract sense the existing laws and institutions of the Islands, or does it mean the aggregate... of the individuals by whom the Government of the Islands is, for the time being, administered?

Ruling:

"We understand, in modern political science, * * * by the term government, that institution or aggregate of institutions by which an independent society makes and carries out those rules of action which are necessary to enable men to live in a social state, or which... are imposed upon the people forming that society by those who possess the power or authority of prescribing them. Government is the aggregate of authorities which rule a society. By administration, again, we understand in modern times, and especially in more or less... free countries, the aggregate of those persons in whose hands the reins of government are for the time being (the chief ministers or heads of departments)." (Bouvier, Law Dictionary, 891.

The term "government" would appear to be used here in the... abstract sense of the existing political system, as distinguished from the concrete organisms of the Government the Houses of Congress and the Executive which are also specially mentioned.

Upon the whole, we are of the opinion that this is the sense in which the term is used in the enactment under consideration.

The article in question contains no attack upon the governmental system of the United States, and it is quite apparent that, though grossly abusive as respects both the Commission as a body and some of its individual members, it contains no attack upon the governmental system... by which the authority of the United States is enforced in these Islands.

It is the character of the men who are intrusted with the administration of the government that the writer is seeking to... bring into disrepute by impugning the purity of their motives, their public integrity, and their private morals, and the wisdom of their policy. The publication of the article, therefore, no seditious tendency being apparent, constitutes no offense under Act No. 292, section

The judgment of conviction is reversed and the defendants are acquitted

Principles: