34 arrested for sitting out national anthem at 'The Hows of Us' screening

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Refusing to stand up and face the flag could land you in jail during the singing of the Philippine national anthem.

Around 34 movie-goers learned this lesson in Lemery town in Batangas after cops arrested them for not standing up when "Lupang Hinirang" was played before the 2 pm screening of The Hows of Us at Cinema 2 in Xentro Mall on Wednesday, September 5.

"Operatives of the police station conducted operation against violators of Republic Act 8491 at said place that resulted in the arrest of the suspects wherein they did not stand in attention and disrepect[ed] the Philippine National anthem while it was being played prior to the showing of movie film entitled The Hows of Us," said the police report obtained by Rappler.

They were detained at the Lemery police station while appropriate charges were prepared for filing in court on Thursday, September 6.

Why the arrest? RA 8491 or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines mandates "reverence and respect" for the Philippine flag at all times.

Under Section 38 of RA 8491 states: "When the National Anthem is played at a public gathering, whether by a band or by singing or both, or reproduced by any means, the attending public shall sing the anthem. The singing must be done with fervor."

"As a sign of respect, all persons shall stand at attention and face the Philippine flag, if there is one displayed, and if there is none, they shall face the band or the conductor."

Violating the rules set by the flag code is punishable by a fine of P5,000 to P20,000, or by up to a year in prison, or both. (FAST FACTS: Philippine flag misconceptions and other trivia)

It's part of Oplan Bandila: According to Batangas police chief Senior Superintendent Edwin Quilates, the arrest was part of Oplan Bandila.

Oplan Bandila was initiated by Calabarzon police regional director Chief Superintendent Edward Carranza.

"[Aside from cinemas], it also includes flag raising in public schools and other occasions," Quilates told Rappler in a text message. – With a report from Tina Ganzon-Ozaeta/Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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