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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.

Free Tertiary Education Now A Law

Not all parents can send their children to college due to lack of funds. This is why when President Rodrigo Duterte signed a bill granting free tertiary education in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and local universities and colleges (LUCs), most students are ecstatic about the good news.

Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act shoulders tuition and other school fees. However, there are qualifications that must be met to ensure that free college tuition is only given to deserving students. 

Under section 6 of RA 10931, the following students are ineligible to avail of the free tertiary education: 

a) In SUCs and LUCs

1. Students who have already attained a bachelor's degree or comparable undergraduate degree from any HEI whether public or private; 

2. Students who fail to comply with the admission and retention policies of the SUC or LUC;

3. Students who fail to complete their bachelor's degree or comparable undergraduate degree within a year after the period prescribed in their program. and

b) In State-Run TVIs:

1. Students who have obtained a bachelor's degree, as well as those who have received a certificate or diploma for technical-vocational course equivalent to at least National Certificate III and above. 

2. Students who fail in any course enrolled in during the course of the program. 

Students ineligible to avail of the free tertiary education shall be charged the tuition and other school fees, as determined by the respective boards of the SUCs and LUCs and in the case of the state-run TVIs, to be determined by the TESDA. 

Students loan programs will also be available alongside free tuition law to cover the cost of tertiary education. 

Section 8 states that "repayment shall be effected by incorporating a portion of the loan amount or a percentage thereof in the employee's monthly Social Security System (SSS) or Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) contribution, as the case may be, based on a reasonable schedule of repayment and interest rates, as may be formulated by the UniFAST Board.  

Payment of the loan amount will commence once the beneficiary secures any gainful employment with compensation, remuneration or earnings that reach the Compulsory Repayment Threshold (CRT). For purposes of this ACT, the CRT shall be set and reviewed by the UniFAST Board, and adjusted when necessary. 

Longer Maternity Leave For Women

Under Republic Act 1161 or the Social Security Act of 1997, women workers are only granted 60-day maternity leave for normal childbirth and 78-day maternity leave for caesarean. Senator Risa Hontiveros seeks to revise this law by expanding maternity leave. She authored Senate Bill 1305 or the Expanded Maternity Leave Act, which aims to grant longer leaves for working women and solo mothers. Instead of 60 days, working women will be given 120 days of maternity leave while solo mothers will be granted 150 days. 

SEC. 14-A. Maternity Leave Benefit.

- A female member who has paid at least three (3) monthly contributions in the twelve-month period immediately preceding the semester of her childbirth or miscarriage shall be paid a daily maternity benefit equivalent to one hundred percent (100%) of her average daily salary credit for sixty (60) days or seventy-eight (78) days in case of caesarian delivery, subject to the following conditions:

"(a) That the employee shall have notified her employer of her pregnancy and the probable date of her childbirth, which notice shall be transmitted to the SSS in accordance with the rules and regulations it may provide;

"(b) The full payment shall be advanced by the employer within thirty (30) days from the filing of the maternity leave application;

"(c) That payment of daily maternity benefits shall be a bar to the recovery of sickness benefits provided by this Act for the same period for which daily maternity benefits have been received;

"(d) That the maternity benefits provided under this section shall be paid only for the first four (4) deliveries or miscarriages;

"(e) That the SSS shall immediately reimburse the employer of one hundred percent (100%) of the amount of maternity benefits advanced to the employee by the employer upon receipt of satisfactory proof of such payment and legality thereof; and

"(f) That if an employee member should give birth or suffer miscarriage without the required contributions having been remitted for her by her employer to the SSS, or without the latter having been previously notified by the employer of the time of the pregnancy, the employer shall pay to the SSS damages equivalent to the benefits which said employee member would otherwise have been entitled to.

The bill is not only intended to working mothers as the father can also benefit from it when 30 days of the leave credits are allocated to them. The co-authors of the bill include Manny Pacquiao, Antonio Trillanes IV, Francis Pangilinan, Loren Legarda, Sonny Angara and Nancy Binay. The Senate approves the bill on its 3rd and final reading with a vote of 22-0.

Catcalling And Wolf-whistling Can Land You In Jail

A tepid cup of coffee and news just blend well. Whenever there's bad news, the kick I get from caffeine just calms my senses. I was browsing through some interesting online news on a typical Wednesday and one headline caught my eye "Senator files bill penalizing wolf-whistling and catcalling". People who are out on the streets are sometimes infested by fear and paranoia especially the female of the species and the members of the LGBTQ community. Catcalling and wolf-whistling have been a form of entertainment for bystanders. Women have been enveloped by fear because of catcallers on the streets. 

While there is an existing law against sexual harassment, Sen. Risa Hontiveros filed the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act of 2017 to ensure women and LGBTQ community can walk the streets without feeling unsafe and violated. 

The penalties that will be imposed will depend on the seriousness of the violation.

This bill, if enacted into a law will be in conjunction with Republic Act 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995.

SECTION 3. Work, Education or Training -Related, Sexual Harassment Defined. - Work, education or  training-related sexual harassment is committed by an employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor, or any other  person who, having authority, influence or moral ascendancy  over another in a work or training or education environment, demands, requests or otherwise requires any sexual favor  from the other, regardless of whether the demand, request or  requirement for submission is accepted by the object of said Act.

      (a) In a work-related or employment environment, sexual  harassment is committed when:

                  (1) The sexual favor is made as a condition in the hiring or  in the employment, re-employment or continued employment  of said individual, or in granting said individual favorable compensation, terms of conditions, promotions, or privileges;  or the refusal to grant the sexual favor results in limiting, segregating or classifying the employee which in any way  would discriminate, deprive ordiminish employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect said employee;         

                  (2) The above acts would impair the employee's rights or  privileges under existing labor laws; or            

                  (3) The above acts would result in an intimidating, hostile,  or offensive environment for the employee.

       (b) In an education or training environment, sexual harassment is committed:      

                (1) Against one who is under the care, custody or supervision of the offender;  

                (2) Against one whose education, training, apprenticeship  or tutorship is entrusted to the offender;    

                (3) When the sexual favor is made a condition to the giving  of a passing grade, or the granting of honors and scholarships,  or the payment of a stipend, allowance or other benefits,  privileges, or consideration; or           

                (4) When the sexual advances result in an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for the student, trainee or  apprentice.

Any person who directs or induces another to commit any  act of sexual harassment as herein defined, or who cooperates  in the commission thereof by another without which it would  not have been committed, shall also be held liable under this  Act.

Is It Time For Freedom Of Information Bill To Be Enacted Into A Law?

Corruption is a political cancer that the country has not yet found a viable solution for. Many anti-corruption advocates are aiming for good governance free of corruption, but some government agencies continue to mar the country with graft and corruption, stashing away millions and getting away with the crimes they committed scot-free. The proposed Freedom of Information Bill aims to mandate public documents’ disclosure and once this bill is enacted into a law, all government agencies are required to make information pertaining to transactions, official acts, or decisions available to the public.

“1.   Official acts of public officers done in the pursuit of their official functions;

2.    Judicial or quasi-judicial decisions or orders as well as records of court cases in whatever stage, and policy decisions of public officers, boards, commissions or tribunals;

3.    Transactions, contracts and agreements, whether the government is a nominal or active contracting or counter-party, including negotiations or definite propositions of the government leading to the consummation of the transactions, contracts and agreements;

4.    Government research data used as basis for policy development, enactment of statutes, rules and regulations, and execution of transactions, contracts and agreements, whether the government is a nominal or active contracting or counter-party, including negotiations or definite propositions of the government leading to the consummation of the transactions, contracts and agreements;

5.    Laws, policies, rules and procedure, work programs, projects and performance targets, performance reports;

6.    Public and private writings coming into the hands of public officers in connection with their official functions;

7.    Books of account, ledgers, and other documents of whatever nature or character used as basis for applications, reports or returns or other documents regardless of nature or character submitted to the government; and

8.    All other information required by law to be accessible to the public.”

Aside from minimizing graft and corruption, the bill gives citizens a chance to participate in matters related to the government. Although the bill has a good purpose especially when it comes to granting access to the public so they too can obtain necessary information, the bill has yet to undergo long process. Is this bill going to die a natural death? Is there still hope for the bill to become a law eventually? While the corrupt and powerful continues to sit on a throne and this bill has not yet win sustainable nods, the country’s fight against corruption will become a useless battle. The dream of a country free of corruption is probably dead and the hopes of openness and transparency may have also died along with it.

DOJ Supports Senate Bills Making Hazing A Crime

Fraternities, sororities and other organizations in and out of the campus consider hazing as an initiation rite. Whoever survives becomes a full-fledged member of an organization. Unfortunately, hazing has affected the lives of neophytes and their families due to the numerous cases of death. The bill, if enacted into a law will impose stiffer penalties against all kinds of hazing activities. Fraternities and sororities will also be closely monitored to ensure that this unacceptable initiation rite will be prevented from taking place. The Department of Justice (DOJ) supports House Bill 5760 and shares the same intention of putting a stop of fraternity violence, which is prevalent in the campus.

If this house bill will be enacted into a law, Republic Act No. 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law will be repealed. The bill will also provide restriction of community-based fraternities and the penal provisions will be more rigid. If the members and officers of the organization have been found guilty of committing a crime of hazing, they will pay a fine of P1 million and serve a sentence of 12 to 20 years in prison.  Members and officers who are under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol will pay a fine of P2 million. Life imprisonment will also be imposed upon them. There will be greater penalties if the hazing rite resulted in the death, mutilation, rape of any individual. There are several proposals related to the regulation of hazing and other forms of initiation rites. Two of which have been proposed by Senator Tito Sotto and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Here’s the summary of the current anti hazing law (R.A. 8049:

“Section 1. Hazing, as used in this Act, is an initiation rite or practice as a prerequisite for admission into membership in a fraternity, sorority or organization by placing the recruit, neophyte or applicant in some embarrassing or humiliating situations such as forcing him to do menial, silly, foolish and other similar tasks or activities or otherwise subjecting him to physical or psychological suffering or injury. 

The term "organization" shall include any club or the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Philippine Military Academy, or officer and cadet corp of the Citizen's Military Training and Citizen's Army Training. The physical, mental and psychological testing and training procedure and practices to determine and enhance the physical, mental and psychological fitness of prospective regular members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police as approved ny the Secretary of National Defense and the National Police Commission duly recommended by the Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Director General of the Philippine National Police shall not be considered as hazing for the purposes of this Act. 

Sec. 2. No hazing or initiation rites in any form or manner by a fraternity, sorority or organization shall be allowed without prior written notice to the school authorities or head of organization seven (7) days before the conduct of such initiation. The written notice shall indicate the period of the initiation activities which shall not exceed three (3) days, shall include the names of those to be subjected to such activities, and shall further contain an undertaking that no physical violence be employed by anybody during such initiation rites. 

Sec. 3. The head of the school or organization or their representatives must assign at least two (2) representatives of the school or organization, as the case may be, to be present during the initiation. It is the duty of such representative to see to it that no physical harm of any kind shall be inflicted upon a recruit, neophyte or applicant.”

It Is The Season For Mudslinging: Online Bashers May Face Legal Liability

If there is one routine that most people are stuck in, it is taking rants to social media at the same rate an individual changes clothes. During a social-media induced hysteria, your fingers seem to have a mind of their own. They think for themselves carrying one sole mission: to win the cyber word war. Online bashing or cyber bullying has become prevalent during the election period. Just visit one of the electoral candidate’s Facebook page and you will realize how a die-hard supporter can dominate the comments section.

Social media users enjoy basking in the glory of anonymity that it becomes an addiction like a druggie to cocaine. Online bashers can easily get out of this situation scot-free because they can create fake accounts and comment as they please. Unfortunately, these internet trolls just do not know when to stop because they know no limitations. They can post rude comments in rapid succession and get away with it.

These social media platforms have become an avenue for no-holds-barred expressions and a passive-aggressive way of venting out. Employees who are against their employer may choose to create a Facebook Group where they can freely express their turmoil and discontentment. These individuals can put up a façade and report to work as though everything is perfectly fine. Cyber bullying comes in many forms, but it yields the same negative result.

A bill that may soon put a stop to cyber bullying has been proposed by Camarines Sur Representative Rolando Andaya. Anti-Cyber Bullying Act of 2015, if enacted into a law cyberbullies will receive a penalty between six months and six years imprisonment. They will also pay a fine of not less than P50,000 to a maximum of 100,000.

The following offenses are considered to be a violation of anti-cyber bullying act of 2015:

“a) Repeatedly sending offensive, rude and insulting message;

b) Distributing derogatory information about the victim;

c) Posting or sending offensive photos of the victim, whether these are digitally altered or not, or were taken with or without consent, with the intention to humiliate and embarrass the victim;

d) Breaking into an email, social networking or any electronic account and using the victim’s virtual identity to send, upload or distribute embarrassing materials to or about others;

e) Sharing the victim’s personal information or any embarrassing information, or tricking the victim into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sharing it to others; and

f) Repeatedly sending messages that include threats of harm or engaging in online activities that cause fear on the victim’s safety.”

Candidates Who Can Offer Fast Internet Speed Can Win Voters’ Nods

When you have sluggish internet speed like that of a ghost dragging heavy chains, the first thing that comes to mind is to let your internet service lay to rest. Aside from the country’s traffic situation that will make you want to crawl in a big black hole, the slow internet speed is one of the reasons for Pinoy woes. These days, many individuals are relying heavily on internet for business and personal transactions.

Sluggish internet speed can have a negative impact on the economy. However, a strong and effective plan to address internet speed woes has not yet been formulated. Voters are also looking for digital leaders who can do something about the country’s slow internet speed. The internet service is one of the overlooked issues in the country, but little do these leaders know that students and entrepreneurs alike have heavy reliance on the internet.

The Kabataan Party Representative Terry Ridon proposed Free Public Wi-Fi Act or House Bill 5791. This house bill also aims to improve the internet service in the country and since a large number of voters are also turning to social media to get updates on election candidates, a faster internet speed can definitely address such concerns.

It is a sad fact that next to Afghanistan, the Philippines has the second slowest download speed among 22 countries in Asia. This is based on a 2015 study conducted by Ookla, an Internet Performance data provider. On average, the country can only offer 3.64 megabits per second (mbps) and this is not even half the average speed of other countries in the whole world. The cost of the Internet service also gives additional burden to subscribers.

The most number of internet users in the country belongs to young voters. This is why a presidential candidate who has the ability to put an end to the Internet woes of the country can be a good option to consider. Other countries such as Singapore have an average speed of 12.7 mbps and due to the fact that there are 44 million active users of various social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, our country is trailing behind.

Netizens who have long been hoping for a much reliable internet speed will surely breathe a sigh of relief if there is a digital leader who will take a stand and make a change. While pushing for fast internet speed may not be the all and end all of presidential campaigns, it can still make a huge difference.

Tax-Exempt Value For Balikbayan Boxes Raised To 150,000

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) who are trying their luck in other countries to seek greener pasture and to make dreams and aspirations of their family a reality always carry a heavy heart, knowing they are thousand miles away from their loved ones. Aside from taking advantage of modern technologies to speak with their loved ones, another way of showing their love is by means of sending Balikbayan boxes. It takes months to fill these boxes and raising tax-exempt value for these Balikbayan boxes is good news. Senator Ralph Recto authored Bill 2913 and before the bill was approved tax-exempt value only applied to boxes with contents more than P10,000.

OFW can also send two boxes at a time, but they must keep in mind that they can only enjoy this privilege up to three times in a calendar year. If an OFW sends two boxes which are not more than P150,000, these boxes are counted as one. Recto also reminds OFW that the boxes should only contain personal and household effects. They should not be intended for sale or barter.

Here is an overview of the bill’s explanatory note:

“Article XIII, Section 3 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution declared that the State shall afford full protection to labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized, and promote full employment and equality of employment opportunities for all. In recognition of this policy, Congress has enacted laws that  promote, protect and ensure full protection to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). In recognition of the significant contributions of OFWs and other Filipinos residing abroad to the Philippine economy through their foreign exchange remittances, the Government afforded some benefits and privileges to them such as those provided under the Republic Act No. 6768, as amended by Republic Act No. 9174, otherwise known as the "Balikbayan Program." Under the program, the "balikbayans" and their families shall be entitled to tax-exempt maximum purchase in the amount of One Thousand Five Hundred United States dollars (US$ 1,500.00) or its equivalent in Philippine peso and in other foreign currencies at all government-owned and-controlled/operated duty-free shops, and Kabuhayan shopping privilege and additional tax-exempt purchase in the maximum amount of Two Thousand United States dollars (US$ 2,000.00) or its equivalent in Philippine peso and other acceptable foreign currencies, exclusive for the purchase of livelihood tools at all government-owned and controlled/operated duty-free shops.

Section 105 (f) of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP), as amended by Executive Order No. 206, includes in the list of conditionally-free importations the personal and household effects of residents of the Philippines returning from abroad which shall neither be in commercial quantities nor intended for barter, sale or hire and that the total dutiable value of which shall not exceed Ten Thousand Pesos (10,000).”

The Aguinaldo Condonation Legal Doctrine

Anti-corruption advocates were quite disappointed when Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr. invoked the Aguinaldo doctrine, questioning his order of suspension last March. The decision was made by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales. The Makati Mayor claimed that he was no longer held responsible nor liable for the construction of Makati Science High School Building (MSHSB) because such liability has already been rendered ineffective by his reelection in 2013.  The same doctrine was used for defending himself against anomalous and shady transaction involved in the construction of the Makati City Hall Parking Building II. Perhaps, the existence of Aguinaldo Doctrine has been misused and abused by politicians who still aspire to run for 2016 elections in spite of pending administrative cases. 

The Aguinaldo doctrine removes the elected officials’ liabilities for administrative offenses that were committed in previous terms once they are reelected. It is so easy for elected officials to evade liabilities so long as they are reelected into office. The doctrine also emphasizes that the law only applies to administrative cases. If elected official has a pending criminal case, the acts will not be pardoned and the judicial processes will push through. Anti-corruption advocates believe that scrapping this doctrine can reduce graft and corruption in the country. 

As stated in the doctrine: “Offenses committed, or acts done, during a previous term are generally held not to furnish cause for removal and this is especially true were the Constitution provides that the penalty in proceeding for removal shall not extend beyond the removal from office, and disqualification from holding office for a term for which the officer was elected or appointed.”

“The Court should ever remove a public officer for acts done prior to his present term of office. To do otherwise would be to deprive the people of their right to elect their officers. When a people have elected a man to office, it must be assumed that they did this with knowledge of his life and character, and that they disregarded or forgave his fault or misconduct, if he had been guilty of any. It is not for the court, by reason of such fault or misconduct, to practically overrule the will of the people. (Lizares v. Hechanova, et al., 17 SCRA 58, 59-60 [1966]) (See also Oliveros v. Villaluz, 57 SCRA 163 [1974])”

“Equally without merit is petitioner's claim that before he could be suspended or removed from office, proof beyond reasonable doubt is required inasmuch as he is charged with a penal offense of disloyalty to the Republic which is defined and penalized under Article 137 of the Revised Penal Code. Petitioner is not being prosecuted criminally under the provisions of the Revised Penal Code, but administratively with the end in view of removing petitioner as the duly elected Governor of Cagayan Province for acts of disloyalty to the Republic where the quantum of proof required is only substantial evidence.”

Should Marijuana Be Legalized In The Philippines

In some States in the US, marijuana has already been legalized. One of the merits for its legalization is its ability to provide relief for various neuropathic diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s. It can also treat epileptic seizures and loss of appetite after a person with AIDS or HIV undergoes chemotherapy or following treatment. 

Selling or using marijuana is a criminal offense under the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. However, it is also highlighted in Section 2 of the Act that:The government shall however aim to achieve a balance in the national drug control program so that people with legitimate medical needs are not prevented from being treated with adequate amounts of appropriate medications, which include the use of dangerous drugs.

It is further declared the policy of the State to provide effective mechanisms or measures to re-integrate into society individuals who have fallen victims to drug abuse or dangerous drug dependence through sustainable programs of treatment and rehabilitation.”

The bill that seeks to legalize the use of cannabis or marijuana for medical treatment is known as the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act. 

Section 2 of this act states thatthe State shall legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis which has been confirmed to have beneficial and therapeutic uses to treat chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe and chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those associated with multiple sclerosis.”

Before marijuana can be prescribed to a patient, it is necessary that a licensed physician provides a complete assessment of the patient’s medical history. The patient’s current medical condition will also be examined and this includes personal physical examination and diagnostic. This is to determine if the patient’s medical condition is debilitating. This is stated on SEC 3 of the Act under Definition of Terms.

The main concern of those who oppose the legalization of marijuana in the Philippines is its ability to provide easy and quick access to those who use and sell it.

The author of this bill has seen this coming. This is why Section 5 outlines the Act’s Power and Functions. One of the powers and functions of this act include: “Approve the recommendation made by the certifying doctor who has a bona fide relationship with the patient that, after completing a medical assessment of the patient’s medical history and current medical condition, including an appropriate personal physical examination, in his professional medical opinion, a patient is suffering from a debilitating medical condition, and is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from the medical use of cannabis.”

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