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Just like the rest of the world, the Philippines also has its very own set of laws that are strange, outdated or just sound outright wrong to modern ears.
While some of these laws are pretty self-explanatory, a good chunk requires more than just a cursory glance for one to understand them.
It’s even more surprising to know that most, if not all, of the laws listed below are still in effect today, so it’s probably a good idea to get to know more about them, lest you end up inadvertently breaking one.
After all, ignorance of the law excuses no one.
Related Article: How to Become a Lawyer in the Philippines: A Definitive Guide
Table of Contents
- 15. Marriage extinguishes criminal liability of rape.
- 14. Adults ( 21 – 25-year-olds) still need advice from their parents before getting married.
- 13. An election tie will have to be broken by drawing of lots.
- 12. You can still get jailed “for offending religious feelings.”
- 11. Widows must observe “301-day rule” before marrying again.
- 10. You cannot own a deadly “pana.”
- 9. Your family members and in-laws who commit theft, swindling, and malicious mischief against you are not criminally liable.
- 8. Squatting is not a crime.
- 7. Metro Manila has a convoluted traffic scheme.
- 6. Our immigration laws are ridiculously ancient.
- 5. Women get charged with adultery, men get charged with concubinage.
- 4. Annoying people can be charged for being merely annoying.
- 3. The State will do its darndest to get a couple to stay married.
- 2. We still dole out excessive penalties for libel.
- 1. You can “legally” kill people.
Republic Act 8353 (The Anti-Rape Law of 1997), which was a huge leap forward in the country’s drive against rapists, unfortunately, had a tiny setback, specifically Article 266 Section C which states:
“The subsequent valid marriage between the offended party shall extinguish the criminal action or the penalty imposed. In case it is the legal husband who is the offender, the subsequent forgiveness by the wife as the offended party shall extinguish the criminal action or the penalty: Provided, that the crime shall not be extinguished or the penalty shall not be abated if the marriage is void ab initio.”
The offender being free from criminal liability after marrying the victim is tied closely to a Spanish-era provision in the Revised Penal Code, specifically Article 344 which states “in cases of seduction, abduction, acts of lasciviousness and rape, the marriage of the offender with the offended party shall extinguish the criminal action or remit the penalty already imposed upon him.”
As to the forgiveness thing, the rationale behind it is to afford the offending husband a chance to start anew with his wife.
14. Adults ( 21 – 25-year-olds) still need advice from their parents before getting married.
For couples of this particular age category, Article 15 of the Family Code states that:
“Any contracting party between the age of twenty-one and twenty-five shall be obliged to ask their parents or guardian for advice upon the intended marriage. If they do not obtain such advice, or it be unfavorable, the marriage license shall not be issued until after three months following the completion of the publication of the application.
A sworn statement by the contracting parties to the effect that such advice has been sought, together with the written advice given, if any, shall be attached to the application for marriage license. Should the parents or guardian refuse to give any advice, this fact shall be stated in the sworn statement.”
Although technically it doesn’t bar the applicants from marrying, the “90-day rule” on the issuance of the marriage license means the couple who did not get positive parental advice (not unfavorable) would have to wait another three months before getting the marriage license, a formal prerequisite to getting hitched.
The rule is meant to give them time to change the opposing parent’s mind as well as provide them a period to decide if they want to go through with the marriage or not.
During the last 2013 general elections, two candidates literally tossed a coin for the mayorship of the town of San Teodoro, Oriental Mindoro after both men wound up tied in the race.
While the whole method may look whimsical, it’s actually covered by the Omnibus Election Code which states that “the board of canvassers shall proceed to the drawing of lots of the candidates who have tied and shall proclaim as elected the candidates who may be favored by luck…”
It’s also supported by Comelec Resolution No. 9648 wherein “the Board immediately notify the said candidates to appear before them for the drawing of lots to break the tie. The drawing of lots should be conducted within one (1) hour after issuance of notice by the Board to the candidates concerned.”
Apparently, drawing of lots is not unique to our electoral system—several states in the US use the method as well.
12. You can still get jailed “for offending religious feelings.”
This obscure penal law, which dates back to the religiously fervent Spanish era and which was the main charge against Carlos Celdran, states that “the penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony, shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”
It can be found in Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code.
Section 351 of the Revised Penal Code states that “any widow who shall marry within three hundred and one day from the date of the death of her husband, or before having delivered if she shall have been pregnant at the time of his death, shall be punished by arresto mayor and a fine not exceeding 500 pesos.”
The rationale behind this was to “prevent confusion as to the paternity and filiation of the child,” in effect making this also an “enforced mourning period” for women according to its critics who say that the advent of modern technology which makes paternity testing readily available has rendered this law obsolete.
Senator Nancy Binay currently has a bill trying to repeal it.
One of the more obscure laws made during the 1960s was Republic Act No. 3553, or the “Anti-Pana Law”.
Under this law, “anyone who possesses a deadly arrow or ‘pana’ without a permit from a city, municipal, or municipal district mayor, shall be punished by imprisonment for a period of not less than thirty days nor more than six months.
The phrase ‘deadly arrow’ or ‘pana’ as used in this Act means any arrow or dart that when shot from a blow or slingshot can cause injury or death of a person.”
However, anyone who uses the “pana” for his livelihood can still apply for a permit from his/her mayor. We’re guessing the increasing number of “pana” incidents spurred the creation of this law.
9. Your family members and in-laws who commit theft, swindling, and malicious mischief against you are not criminally liable.
Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code states that “No criminal, but only civil liability shall result from the commission of the crime of theft, swindling, or malicious mischief committed or caused mutually by the following persons:
1. Spouses, ascendants, and descendants, or relatives by affinity in the same line.
2. The widowed spouse with respect to the property which belonged to the deceased spouse before the same shall have passed into the possession of another.
3. Brothers and sisters and brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, if living together.
As to why the offended party cannot pursue criminal charges, it is on the ground of preserving family harmony and solidarity.
8. Squatting is not a crime.
Republic Act 8368 or the “Anti-Squatting Law Repeal Act of 1997” repealed former President Marcos’ Presidential Decree No. 772 which penalized squatting, technically making it a non-crime as of today on the basis that squatters are also victims of an unequal justice and social system.
As a small consolation to the hapless property owners, however, the act still penalizes “professional squatters and syndicates” according to the provisions of another controversial law, Republic Act 7279, which is better known as the Lina Law.
7. Metro Manila has a convoluted traffic scheme.
First implemented by the MMDA in 1995, the Unified Vehicle Volume Reduction Program’s original purpose was to decrease traffic congestion in the metropolis through a number coding scheme.
Vehicles with license plates ending in a certain number were not allowed on the streets in a particular day. Since then, however, motorists have often complained about the confusion brought on by cities implementing their own variations (color-coding included) of the scheme.
6. Our immigration laws are ridiculously ancient.
Commonwealth Act No. 613 or the immigration law reeks of antiquity, considering it was made and implemented in 1940.
Among the many outdated sections include Section 29-A which denies entry to foreigners suffering from insanity, loathsome or dangerous contagious diseases, or epilepsy. It also excludes paupers, vagrants, beggars, or persons who practice polygamy or who believe in or advocate the practice of polygamy.
A bill right now is being pushed to update this decades-old law.
One look at Article 333 and 334 of the Revised Penal Code and you can see why the law tends to be stacked against women.
Charging a husband for an extra-marital affair in court is infinitely harder to prove since the woman has to prove any or all of the following:
a. He has kept a mistress in the conjugal dwelling.
b. He shall have sexual intercourse with a woman who is not his wife under scandalous circumstances.
c. He shall cohabit with her in any other place.
And even when the husband is convicted, he will at most serve a sentence of only six months to four years while his mistress would only be slapped with destierro or banishment.
On the other hand, proof of sexual intercourse between his wife and another man is all a husband needs to charge them both with adultery which can carry a penalty of two to six years.
As to why the penalty for adultery is heavier, it is argued that an illicit affair between a wife and her paramour could result in an illegitimate child who would become the unknowing husband’s spurious heir.
4. Annoying people can be charged for being merely annoying.
The second paragraph of Article 287 states that “any other coercion or unjust vexations shall be punished by arresto menor or a fine ranging from 5 pesos to 200 pesos, or both.”
Both legal experts and laymen have condemned unjust vexation as an ambiguous catch-all provision with no specific meaning, merely something to charge annoying people with.
Ever wonder why, Catholic culture notwithstanding, it’s so hard for couples to get away from loveless or hopeless marriages in the Philippines?
It is because the State is mandated to do so according to Section 2, Article XV of the 1987 Constitution which states that “marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.”
A landmark decision by the Supreme Court in 1997 upheld this provision when it stated that “any doubt should be resolved in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage and against its dissolution and nullity.”
In the very same case, the high court also ordered inferior courts to require the appearance of a fiscal and an agent from the Solicitor General’s office as a counsel to represent the State during annulment hearings and write whether he/she approves of the annulment or not.
In other words, the State will always be the third party in any marriage between individuals.
2. We still dole out excessive penalties for libel.
Perhaps no other law of late has garnered as much controversy as Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Law, specifically the part where it punishes libel.
The corresponding penalties can be found in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code. Critics have called it an archaic and outdated provision dating back to the Spanish era where honor was highly prized and duels were often common.
Nowadays it’s being abused by government officials as a shield against criticisms. Even the United Nations Human Rights Council declared the penalties as “excessive” and while there are moves to decriminalize libel, we may have to wait quite a while before it becomes a thing of the past.
1. You can “legally” kill people.
Under Article 247 of the Revised Code, anyone “who having surprised his spouse in the act of committing sexual intercourse with another person, shall kill any of them or both of them in the act or immediately thereafter, or shall inflict upon them any serious physical injury, shall suffer the penalty of destierro.”
Likewise, the article also applies to parents “with respect to their daughters under eighteen years of age, and their seducer, while the daughters are living with their parents.”
The expected overwhelming outrage and the need to vindicate one’s honor would form the rationale of why killing is allowed under these circumstances. On the other hand, destierro or mere banishment of the killer would be to prevent the deceased’s family from retaliating against him.
References: Revised Penal Code, New Civil Code, New Family Code, Omnibus Election Code, The 1987 Constitution, Philippine Commission on Women.