A 20 year old Filipino man is facing up to a year in prison after allegedly refusing to stand for the national anthem at a screening of superhero flick Justice League over the weekend.
Bayle Einstein Gonzales was arrested yesterday in Clark, Pampanga province, after being busted by a diplomat who just happened to be in the same auditorium.
The Philippine national anthem, Lupang Hinirang (Land of the Morning), is usually played before the last screening of the day at Philippine cinemas.
The Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines imposes criminal punishment for those who “disrespect” the national flag and anthem. House Bill 5224, a proposed amendment to this law seeking to strengthen the code and increase punishment, was passed by the House of Representatives in July.
While hardly anyone ever gets punished for violating the Heraldic Code, Gonzales was unlucky enough to be watching the film in the same theater as Philippine diplomat Elmer Cato, the country’s Charges d’Affaires to Iraq.
“I’ve never had an outburst like this before, but I just had to confront this guy in front of me here at the IMAX at SM Clark who didn’t bother to rise for the national anthem, while all the rest did including my American brother-in-law and other foreigners watching Justice League with us,” Cato said in a Facebook post.
He told police he had instructed Gonzales to stand up twice, but he “refused” and continued to eat his popcorn.
“I just could not let this disrespect pass. My blood still boiling.”
Apparently he was able to control the boiling of his blood for two-plus hours, because he sat through the entirety of the latest poorly reviewed DC effort before then going to police and having Gonzales arrested.
According to GMA News report, Gonzales denied Cato’s accusations.
If Gonzales is convicted of disrespecting the national anthem, he could be fined from PHP5,000 to PHP20,000 (US$100 to US$400) and sentenced up to a year in prison.
Cato was previously the Consul General to the Philippine Embassy in Washington before being assigned to Iraq. He was also a journalist in Manila during the 1990s.