Disrespect of the Flag and National Anthem

There’s a recent proposal to change the lyrics of the Philippine National Anthem. There’s also news about 34 people arrested for “disrespecting the flag” in a Batangas cinema (“34 arrested for disrepecting flag in Batangas cinema,” Politiko, accessed on 7 October 2018), and another moviegoer arrested in Cavite for “flag code violation” (“Moviegoer arrested in Cavite for flag code violation,” Sunstar Manila, accessed on 7 October 2018). Let’s discuss the law which governs both the national anthem and the national flag. 

The flag and the national anthem are separately treated in a single law, Republic Act No. 8491 (known as “Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines;” full text), loosely referred to it as the “flag code” by some.

The penalty for violations of this law may be a public censure by the President, or, worse, imprisonment for not more than one (1) year.

There are specific — very specific — guidelines with respect to the flag. For instance, the blue color shall bear Cable No. 80173; the white color, Cable No. 80001; the red color, Cable No. 80108; and the golden yellow, Cable No. 80068. The flag shall not be raised when the weather is inclement. If already raised, the flag shall not be lowered. The flag, if flown from a flagpole, shall have its blue field on top in time of peace and the red field on top in time of war; if in a hanging position, the blue field shall be to the right (left of the observer) in time of peace, and the red field to the right (left of the observer) in time of war.

There are more provisions relating to the flag under the law. The prohibited acts are:

a) To mutilate, deface, defile, trample on or cast contempt or commit any act or omission casting dishonor or ridicule upon the flag or over its surface;

b) To dip the flag to any person or object by way of compliment or salute;

c) To use the flag:

1. As a drapery, festoon, tablecloth;

2. As covering for ceilings, walls, statues or other objects;

3. As a pennant in the hood, side, back and top of motor vehicles;

4. As a staff or whip;

5. For unveiling monuments or statues; and

6. As trademarks, or for industrial, commercial or agricultural labels or designs.

d) To display the flag:

1. Under any painting or picture;

2. Horizontally face-up. It shall always be hoisted aloft and be allowed to fall freely;

3. Below any platform; or

4. In discotheques, cockpits, night and day clubs, casinos, gambling joints and places of vice or where frivolity prevails.

e) To wear the flag in whole or in part as a costume or uniform;

f) To add any word, figure, mark, picture, design, drawings, advertisement, or imprint of any nature on the flag;

g) To print, paint or attach representation of the flag on handkerchiefs, napkins, cushions, and other articles of merchandise;

h) To display in public any foreign flag, except in embassies and other diplomatic establishments, and in offices of international organizations;

i) To use, display or be part of any advertisement or infomercial; and

j) To display the flag in front of buildings or offices occupied by aliens.

For the national anthem, there are also specific guidelines provided by the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines. For instance, the law specifically provides that it shall be known as “Lupang Hinirang,” not “Bayang Magiliw.”

The National Anthem shall always be sung in the national language within or without the country, with the lyrics provided under this law. The existing proposal is to change the last sentence of the Lupang Hinirang, from “ang mamatay ng dahil sa iyo” (to die for you) to “ang ipaglaban ang kalayaan mo” (to fight for your freedom). The only way to change the lyrics is to amend the law itself, which is the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.

So, if you can’t respect the flag and national anthem by reason of love of country, do it to avoid the penalties.

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