Secretary of Justice Raul “Not Speedy” Gonzalez has been quoted as saying that the government cannot just remove or ban the giant billboards in Metro Manila because these structures are part of the right to free speech. Following Gonzalez’ reasoning, ordinary citizens like us will just have to suffer and risk a potentially fatal encounter with these killer ads in a storm in order to uphold the Constitutional guarantee of free speech. Death by free speech, so to speak.
But freedom of expression has a number of recognized limitations, one of which is if such would directly harm other persons.The classic example is an individual shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there really was no such fire. The ensuing panic and stampede could result in injury and even death for many. Such forms of expression, which kills under the certain circumstances, does not deserve Constitutional protection.
With this lame argument favoring the retention of dangerous billboards, Gonzalez has once again shown that his reputation for making inappropriate, and downright peculiar, pronouncements at the wrong time is well-deserved. I would be funny if it were not so sad.