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Laws You Should Know About

There are several laws you should know about in the Philippines that likely differ from laws your home country. Many of expat have found themselves in legal trouble (both criminal and civil) because of their ignorance from the law. Here is a list of laws that a person should know before relocating to the Philippines. Some of these are not heavily enforced but you should still take note as they could be used against you if you get on someone’s bad side.
Philippine Law

Foreigners Cannot Own Land

Under most situations, foreigners cannot own land or most businesses. There are exceptions to this (owning condos under R.A 4726 – Condominium Act) but the general rule is that a foreigner simply cannot own land. You might have heard of expats saying they own land in the Philippines but the most likely scenario is that they have put it under their wives name and have little say what happens to the property after they have paid for it. There are ways to protect your “investment” but you will need to hire a lawyer to have the process explained and the paperwork drawn out.

Source: R.A. 8179

As for businesses: You will need to check the Philippine Investment Negative List to see what you can own or partially own. Note: There isn’t much you can fully own.

Age of Majority is…..?

Sometimes 18, sometimes 21 and other times 23.

Family is big in the Philippines. No, that’s an understatement; family is everything in the Philippines. R.A 386 (Civil Code of the Philippines) covers what is expected, and required, from families in great detail. If you think you are going to come to the Philippines and immediately marry your on-line love, well, that might not going to happen. If the young lady is under the age of 23 she must have permission from her parents to even leave the house. On top of that they must agree to the wedding or you will be waiting around for 3 months.

Article 403 of the Civil Code of the Philippines:

“…females above eighteen but under twenty-three years of age, shall be obliged to ask their parents or guardian for advice upon the intended marriage. If they do not obtain such advice, or if it be unfavorable, the marriage shall not take place till after three months following the completion of the publication of the application for marriage license.”

But we wouldn’t be rushing into such a huge commitment in the first place now would we?

They Might Not Let You In

There is a long list of people who can be denied entry to the Philippines. I have personally never been asked these types of questions when going through immigration but it is the law and I suppose it could be used against you if you had a bad attitude coming through the gates. The ones that catch my eye are:

  1. People who are or who have been previously declared clinically insane.
  2. People with epilepsy.
  3. People coming with “immoral purposes”.
  4. People who practice or even think that polygamy is OK.
  5. Anyone advocating the overthrow of the government.
  6. People who are illiterate.
  7. Idiots (This is a great idea in my opinion! Ha.)
  8. Unskilled laborers looking to work.

Section 29 of Commonwealth Act No. 613

It is important to note that an immigration office can deny you entry into the country for any reason they see fit. As with most things in the Philippines, smile and be polite and you will have few problems.

There Is No Divorce

There is no divorce in the Philippines. It is possible to end a marriage with an annulment but this is very expensive and both parties must agree to it. On top of that, one of the parties must have a doctor verify that they are mentally unfit (and who wants to do that?). After that you must have a judge sign off on the paperwork. You had better hope that the judge is not a devout Catholic (he probably is) if you want his signature on that paperwork.

Article XV, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution:

“Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.”

If you get married in the Philippines there aren’t many ways out of it. Better make sure you are truly in love before you tie the knot. Keeping this in mind…..

Adultery and Concubinage Are Illegal

You could face time in prison if you get caught messing around with a married woman.

Article 333 of the Revised Penal Code:

“Adultery is committed by any married woman who shall have sexual intercourse with a man not her husband and by the man who has carnal knowledge of her knowing her to be married, even if the marriage be subsequently declared void. Adultery shall be punished by prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods.”

Note: that both the woman and the man who committed the act are guilty. If you knew she was married or not….well, prove that in court. Just saying.

Married men on the other hand are free to commit adultery so long as they are not financially supporting their mistress:

Article 334 of the Revised Penal Code:

“Any husband who shall keep a mistress in the conjugal dwelling, or shall have sexual intercourse, under scandalous circumstances, with a woman who is not his wife, or shall cohabit with her in any other place, shall be punished by prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods.”

This guy made that mistake and almost lost his freedom and life for it.

Being Annoying Is Illegal

Are you and your neighbor having a quarrel?

Article 287 of the Revised Penal Code:

“Light coercions. — Any person who, by means of violence, shall seize anything belonging to his debtor for the purpose of applying the same to the payment of the debt, shall suffer the penalty of arresto mayor in its minimum period and a fine equivalent to the value of the thing, but in no case less than 75 pesos.

Any other coercions or unjust vexations shall be punished by arresto menor or a fine ranging from 5 pesos to 200 pesos, or both.

I have never heard of this one being used against anyone but it could cause a pretty big headache if someone was so inclined to go this route.

Illegal To Offend Religious Beliefs

It’s not wise to be a vocal Atheist in the Philippines.

Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code

“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.”

You will be exposed to religion in the Philippines and there is a good chance you will, at some point, be asked about your beliefs. It is best you keep the religious debates private.

Libel Has A Broad Definition

Libel is a big one in the Philippines. You need to be very careful with what you say in the Philippines. The freedom of speech you might enjoy in your home country does not apply in the Philippines.

Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code:

“A libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.”

Even if something you said is true about a person (or place) you can still be found guilty of libel if your intent was to tarnish the image of a person.

Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code:

“Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown”

Even in cases where libel isn’t being committed, a city government can declare you a persona non grata and report your status to the local Immigration Office to have you declared an undesirable alien. Remember that you are considered a guest in their country regardless of your immigration status.

There have been several occasions where expats with good intentions have been arrested for accompanying a minor without relatives being preset. One example is this guy.

Article III, Section 6 of R.A. 7610:

“There is an attempt to commit child prostitution under Section 5, paragraph (a) hereof when any person who, not being a relative of a child, is found alone with the said child inside the room or cubicle of a house, an inn, hotel, motel, pension house, apartelle or other similar establishments, vessel, vehicle or any other hidden or secluded area under circumstances which would lead a reasonable person to believe that the child is about to be exploited in prostitution and other sexual abuse.”

Best practice is just to avoid being alone with any minor not related to you by blood or marriage regardless of your intentions. The prison sentences are quite lengthy and the fines can be quite large.

These are just a few examples of how laws can differ from your home country. In researching these laws above I found many other little quirks that would be foreign to most expats but left them out because of their obscurity and for brevity. As an expat, complaining about them publicly won’t get you anywhere but in trouble. The only thing you can do is be aware of them and adapt to them. Remember that you are considered a guest in their country and it is on you to conform to their rules.

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