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Attorneys of the Philippines Legal News

Welcome to our legal news pages. Here is where we provide updates about what's happening in Philippines legal news, and publish helpful articles and tips for Pinoys researching legal matters.

Strange Laws You Never Knew Existed: Part 5 of 15 Bank Secrecy Law

The Bank Secrecy Law really rings a bell and it is just a great reminder of the significant event  that ousted one of the Philippine presidents from his office in 2001. People clamored and took their turmoil to the streets of EDSA, hence EDSA 2 came to existence. The Filipino people were compared to a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode due to the refusal of the former president to open "the envelope". 

The refusal was enough to create social mayhem and endless outburst, which were appeased when the impeachment trial finally pushed through. Former President Joseph "Erap" Estrada was charged with plunder and perjury. While he was not guilty of perjury, he was found guilty of plunder and was sentenced to reclusion perpetua. Well, being an actor and protagonist that he was, there was not even the slightest element of surprise when the "plot" worked in his favor, placing him on house arrest. 

Juan dela Cruz should not wonder when a politician charged of a crime, suddenly becomes ill. When politicians are plagued with diseases after being found guilty of a crime,  you know what is going to happen next: the politician will be sent home on vacation or words to that effect. 

Under Section 2 of the Republic Act No. 1405 or An Act Of Prohibiting Disclosure Of Or Inquiry Into, Deposits With Any Banking Institution And Providing Penalty Therefor, "all deposits of whatever nature with banks or banking institutions in the Philippines including investments in bonds issued by the Government of the Philippines, its political subdivisions and its instrumentalities, are hereby considered as of an absolutely confidential nature and may not be examined, inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office, except upon written permission of depositor, or in cases of impeachment or upon order of a competent court..."

Under Section 2 of the Republic Act No. 6426 or An Act Instituting Foreign Currency Deposit System In The Philippines, And For Other Purposes, "any person, natural or juridical, may, in accordance with the provisions of this Act, deposit with such Philippine banks in good standing, as may, upon application, be designated by the Central Bank for the purpose, foreign currencies which are acceptable as part of the international reserve, except those which are required by the Central Bank..."

With this law, any politician accused of plunder or perjury stands a chance of getting out of this situation scot-free. They can simply put up a facade as though nothing happened and after which, they are back to business. 

Bureau Of Customs And The Tighter Rules Being Imposed On Balikbayan Boxes

For Pinoys who have family members or relatives abroad, balikbayan boxes make up for the absence of the person working abroad. It takes months before the boxes can be filled with the family member’s favorite things. Without a doubt, the balikbayan boxes are a tangible sign of the Overseas Filipino Workers’ love for the family members. With the most recent announcement on the stricter rules and regulations imposed by Bureau of Customs, OFWs and their families could not help but go ballistic on the revised rules.

The BOC’s rules and regulations subject balikbayan boxes to 100% physical examination. However, not all balikbayan boxes will be placed under alert. The boxes that have been deemed to have violated the law on importing articles will be brought to the authorized area for examination or inspection. 

Under Section 105 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP), the following items cannot be brought into the Philippines:

• Coffee

• Used clothing and rags

• Toy guns

• Onions, potatoes, cabbages, garlic

The following commodities are prohibited to be brought into the Philippines:

• Marijuana, opium or any type of synthetic drugs or narcotics;

• Roulette wheels, loaded dice, marked cards, gambling outfits, apparatus, machines or mechanical devices used in gambling;

• Opium pipes;

• Tickets for lottery and sweepstakes except those authorized by the Philippines government, advertisement thereof, and list of drawings therein;

• Dynamite, ammunition, gunpowder and other explosives such as fire-arms and weapons of war, and parts thereof, except when they are authorised by law;

• Articles, drugs, instruments, substances designed, intended or adapted for producing unlawful abortion, or any printed matter which describes or advertises or gives directly or indirectly information regarding where, how or by whom unlawful abortion produced;

• Written or printed articles in any form containing any matter advocating or inciting treason, or rebellion, insurrection, sedition or subversion against the government of the Philippines, or forcible resistance to any law of the Philippines;

• Written or printed articles, negatives or cinematographic film, photographs, engravings, lithographs, paintings, objects, drawings or other representation of an obscene or immoral character;

• All other articles or part thereof, the importation of which is prohibited by law or rules and regulation issued by competent authority.

The physical examination of balikbayan boxes are in accordance with Section 3604 of the TCCP. The revised rules and regulations are also said to put a lid on violations made by individuals who use balikbayan boxes to break the law such as bringing thousands of anti-anxiety drugs, misdeclared as food supplements into the Philippines. 

All boxes are expected to undergo mandatory x-ray and K-9 examination at no cost to the person who sent it. Once there are derogatory findings, the physical inspection of goods will be considered. 

Strange Laws You Never Knew Existed: Part 3 Of 15 Cybercrime Prevention Act

The modern technology provides us a much easier way to rave and rant or so we thought. While turmoil and discontentment can be expressed in more ways than one, taking everything to social media may not be a good idea due to the existence of cybercrime prevention law or the Republic Act No. 10175. 

Social networking sites are now the modern avenue for expressions. Views and opinions can spread like wild fire, thanks to the ‘share’ button of an immensely popular social networking site. However, you may need to think before you click because there are corresponding penalties for people who break rules and cross lines. 

The penalties are outlined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code. This is quite interesting because the provision has been ruled out since the Spanish era. While critics were apprehensive about the degree of penalty, the government officials rejoiced. Need I say more?

Let’s have a look at what the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 is all about.

As highlighted in Sec. 4 of the Republic Act No. 10175, the following acts are considered punishable:

a. Offenses made against the integrity, availability and confidentiality of computer systems and data:

• Data Interference: When a person deletes or damages computer data, or electronic data message, without permission including transmission or introduction of viruses, he or she is guilty of committing data interference. Reckless alteration and deterioration of computer data also fall under this category.

• Illegal Access: An unauthorized access to the whole or any part of a computer system.

• Illegal Interception: If an interception is made without right of any non-public transmission of computer data to, from, or within a computer system, a person commits illegal interception. 

• Misuse of Devices: A person violates the law if devices are sold, distributed, imported or made available without right. These devices include computer program, access code and computer password.

• System Interference: Any intentional alteration or reckless interference or hindering with the functioning of a computer network or a computer by damaging, inputting, deleting, deteriorating or altering computer program or data are considered system interference. This also includes transmission or introduction of viruses.

• Cyber-squatting: If a domain name is acquired over the internet to mislead, profit, deprive others from registering the same domain name and destroying reputation, the crime of cyber-squatting is committed. Some examples include identical or existing trademark, the name is similar or identical with a person other than the registrant and domain name acquired without permission or right. 

b. Computer-related Offenses:

• Computer-related forgery: This includes deletion, input or alteration of any computer data without permission resulting in inauthentic data with the intent of making them available for legal purposes as if it were authentic. Dishonest and fraudulent designs are also considered computer-related forgery.

• Computer-related fraud: This crime refers to the unauthorized alteration, deletion or input of computer program or data which cause interference in the functioning of a computer system  or damage.

• Computer-related identity theft: If a person intentionally acquire, transfer, use, misuse, alter, possess or delete identifying information belonging to another, whether judicial or natural without permission or right, he or she commits the crime.

c. Content-related Offenses

• Cybersex: The control, operation, maintenance or willful engagement directly or indirectly of any lascivious exhibition of sexual activity or sexual organs with the help of a computer system in exchange of consideration or favor.

• Child Pornography: The prohibited or unlawful acts, which are also punishable by RA No. 9775 or also known as the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, committed with the use of a computer system.

• Unsolicited Commercial Communications: The offense refers to transmission of commercial electronic communication using a computer system, which seek to sell, advertise or offer for sale services and products without consent.

• Libel: As defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, libel can be committed through a computer system or any other similar means. 

The Cybercrime Law has a broad scope and the hopes are still high that it will soon be abolished. While this law is still at work, make sure you don’t commit any of these offenses.

The Criminal Law On Abortion

In a country where moral standards are high, the mere mention of abortion is considered a taboo topic. There are mixed views on abortion, but most of which are against the idea of legalizing the act. If a medical practitioner is found guilty of carrying out abortion, he or she has to face criminal charges. 

Not only does the Philippine law deter women from considering abortion but religious sectors as well. Is it really about time law makers consider the merits of legalizing abortion? 

There are countries that are still not open to the legalization of abortion, and Philippines is one of them. Due to the social stigma, women resort to self-induced abortion, which is considered unsafe and dangerous. 

There are cases when abortion is considered necessary especially if the pregnant woman’s health is at risk. For instance, ectopic pregnancy requires surgery as a means of saving a woman’s life. So long as therapeutic abortion is banned in the country, more and more women continue to subject themselves to dangerous measures. 

For instance, pregnant women who are well aware of the criminal law on abortion refuse to be hospitalized for the fear of getting imprisoned if found that they have undergone unsafe abortion. This is why there is a dramatic increase in the number of women who choose to risk their health and lives.

These women continue to receive moral punches and will be stigmatized for the rest of their lives because of the country’s legal and moral boundaries.

Other countries allow therapeutic abortion when:

• pregnancy is the result of incest or rape;

• the pregnant woman suffers from a medical condition that is life or health threatening such as eclampsia, diabetes, hypertension and cancer. 

• pregnancy is at risk of fetal impairment causing the baby to develop mental or physical defects or die after birth.

Under the Philippine law, abortion has been considered a crime since 1930. Whether abortion is intentional or unintentional, anyone who carries out abortion is said to commit the crime. Even physicians and midwives who perform abortions in the Philippines may be charged of a crime, which can result in six years in prison under the Revised Penal Code. They are still going to be subject for criminal punishments. These are also supplemented by separate laws, prescribing sanctions if medical practitioners including doctors, pharmacists and midwives participated in the process of abortion.

Legalizing abortion in the Philippines is far from happening as there are still various factors that need to be taken into consideration. While the country is still firm in banning abortion, women will continue to endure life-threatening pregnancies and resort to measures that deviate from the medical standards.

Can You Be Imprisoned For Non-Payment Of Debt?

Have you been screening your phone calls to avoid collectors who are constantly nagging you to settle your unpaid credit card balance? Have you been threatened to face a lawsuit if you fail to repay a lender? If incessant calls from creditors caused you to be allergic to phone calls, being armed with the basic principles of the consequences for non-payment of debt can give you greater peace of mind. In fact, it can be a whiff of fresh air if you heard the statement that no one will end up in jail for non-payment of debt. 

Before you allow paranoia to feast on you, know more about the laws associated with unsettled debt.

Some common laws that are said to violate the constitutional prohibition against non-imprisonment of debt:

Credit Cards

The Access Devices Regulation Act of 1998 (RA. 8484) states that any person who obtains the money or anything that is valuable with the use of an access device with the sole intent to defraud or with intent to gain and fleeing once motive has been executed will be held liable for a crime punishable with a fine and imprisonment. In addition, a cardholder who intentionally abandons the residence, place of employment or business that was declared on the application or credit card without informing the credit card company of the current place where he could be reached will also be liable for a crime. If during the abandonment, the person has outstanding and unpaid balance which is past due for at least 90 days and is more than P10,000.00, the individual shall be prima facie presumed to have used his access device or credit card with intent to defraud.

Bouncing Checks 

Bouncing Checks Law (BP22) has also been viewed as a violation of constitutional prohibition against non-imprisonment for debt. In the context of this law, the non-payment of an obligation is not its main concern. The law is not designed to force a debtor to settle his debt. The main purpose of the law is to prevent anyone with the gumption to make checks that don’t have any value with the intention of putting them in circulation. Checks have become a substitute for cash and widely accepted as a medium of payment especially in trade and commerce and when the confidence of using these checks are marred due to its misuse, its value and usefulness will also be diminished. 

Trust Receipts

Trust receipts and bouncing checks share the same argument based on the Trust Receipts Law (PD 115), which states, if a person fails to turn over the proceeds of the sale of goods which are considered covered by a trust receipt or if the person fails to return said goods if they have not been sold, penal sanctions shall be imposed. The punishment is due to the abuse of confidence and dishonesty in the handling of goods or money.

Strange Laws You Never Knew Existed: Part 1 of 15 Violation Of The Freedom Of Religion

Imagine a country without laws. It will surely be a land full of chaos and disarray as people can do as they please. No stern guidelines, no rules to follow, no restrictions etc. However, the laws, no matter the complexities, are considered a chain that binds our sanity so we continue to be law abiding citizens. 

Some laws may not work in our favor as they can be odd in every sense of the word, but they still have that element of surprise and entertainment. Unfortunately, entertaining as they may sound, these laws still come with a caveat. Some laws may appear to be out of the ordinary, but just like other laws, you can still get incarcerated once you are found guilty of violating them.

Sure laws, are rigid and formal, but they can be twisted sometimes. Even in this modern day and age, laws that are weird, wacky and obscure still exist. These strange laws can bring laughter, but can also bring you to court once you break them. Well, color me surprised. Although some of them are already obsolete, it is still worth knowing them. 

Now, let's start with number 1....

1. You can end up in jail for violating religious freedom.

The violation of the freedom of religion is covered in ART 132 and ART 133 of the Revised Penal Code, which states that interruption of religious worship and offending against religious feelings can charge a person of a crime in violation of the freedom of religion. This penal law has been in existence since the Spanish era. 

Can you still vividly remember Carlos Celdran who was dressed as Jose Rizal? Apparently, he was found guilty of violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code. During a mass at the Manila Cathedral, Celdran stood in front while raising a placard bearing the word "DAMASO". Damaso is an oppressive character from Jose Rizal's novel Noli Me Tangere. 

The Iglesia ni Cristo's brouhaha over Justice Secretary Leila de Lima's decision of dealing with the case of serious illegal detention filed against INC leaders recently became the subject of controversy. The issue was taken to social media and there were mixed reactions. To some, it was a violation of INC's religious freedom while others were supportive of the decision and it's not quite surprising that some politicians also came to INC's defense. INC urged De Lima to resign but the Justice Secretary remains unfazed. 

So what's the moral of the story? Stay away from an unfamiliar territory and you'll be fine. 

How To Choose A Criminal Defense Lawyer?

In a situation where you need to seek help from a criminal defense lawyer, setting some criteria will help you bypass the daunting selection process. If you are going to rely on the Internet for some information, you need to be specific with the type of lawyer you are looking for as you will get thousands of search results. While it can be hard to make up your mind, knowing the qualities you need to look for will save you from wasting both your time and money. When you are looking for a criminal defense lawyer, it is important that you take your time. If you are being offered the lowest service cost, you should consider this as a warning sign because the quality of the service might be compromised. Here are some tips you can use for searching for a criminal defense lawyer: 

1. Choose a lawyer with years of experience. 

If you want to increase the chances of gaining a positive outcome of the verdict, you should prioritize lawyers with substantial experience in criminal defense. Make sure the criminal defense lawyer you choose is capable of assisting your needs. If you are charged with a federal crime, you should also choose a lawyer who specializes in federal law. 

2. Get some references in different ways.

You can also obtain some prospects through referrals, courtroom observation, professional organizations and Internet search. List all of your prospects and schedule an interview so you will find out if you have gotten a hold of the right person for the job. 

3. Ask some questions. 

Aside from setting your personal criteria, knowing the questions to ask can get you in the right direction. There are some essential questions you need to ask for you to know if your prospect is really a good fit. You can ask the lawyer’s experience in handling criminal cases, their payment policies or the approaches they use during jury trials. 

4. Verify the information provided by the prospective lawyer.

You might already been told regarding your prospects’ qualification but you have to check on the veracity of their claims. If a lawyer claims to be an expert as a criminal defense lawyer, you need to check several factors such as their track record for winning a case. 

5. Read feedback and reviews. 

You have to find out if the lawyers have a good reputation to his colleagues and previous clients. There are feedback and reviews you can read from various sources. They are helpful in terms of providing background information of your prospective lawyer. 



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