Plot twist: you’ve committed a crime.

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On December 8, 1930, the Philippine congress passed a piece of general legislation which is known as the Revised Penal Code which took effect on January 1, 1932. It was a continuation of the old penal code which had to be revised to fit the existing conditions at that time.

In 1932, society was different. It was a different time, a different place, and a different mind-set.  Most crimes are universal and can never go outdated like Murder or Theft. These crimes date back to the era of the Bible and any debate on whether these are considered crimes are pretty much settled.

Despite it being 83 years in existence, some crimes remained in the code regardless of the changes in society’s norms and customs. Efforts have been made to pass a new Criminal Code to supersede the antiquated Penal Code. In fact, the Department of Justice has created a committee back in April 2011 to draft it. The working draft can be viewed at the DOJ’s website (doj.gov.ph). Until this new Criminal Code is passed by Congress into law, these remnants of an era long gone will still remain, waiting for the next person to commit them.

1. You’re a bum.

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Back in the day, a bum was called a Vagrant. (What a classy term). But it ain’t so classy when a homeless person gets snatched by cops from his cardboard box home in the streets and taken to prison. A Vagrant is defined as one who loiters around public places or wandering the country or streets without visible means of support. And take note of the term “visible”. If you appear to be financially poor to the naked eye, you’re in for a treat. So, if you’re a simple kind of person bereft of the superficialities of this world, then consider yourself a prime target for an arrest! Christopher McCandless would have hated society even more had he been arrested for tramping.

Believe it or not, people were in fact arrested for this crime as late as 2003, where two women were arrested for wandering and loitering around the streets of Davao.*

We sure live in enlightened  times.

Jail time: 2 months to a maximum of 2 years and 4 months.

Source: Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code.

*People of the Philippines v. Evangeline Siton and Krystel Sagarano, G.R. No. 169364, September 18, 2009

2. You’ve challenged someone to a duel.

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Challenging someone to a fist fight may be seen as immature and tasteless these days, but in the past, it was a way of life and honor. A gentleman’s way of settling disputes.

Challenging someone to a duel means that you actually have to challenge somebody to an actual formal duel. Yes, just like ancient times. Think spaghetti Westerns. And take note, it is merely challenging someone to a duel that is considered a crime, regardless if you’ve actually had a duel and regardless if the challenge was accepted.

Jail time: 6 months to over 2 years.

Source: Article 261 of the Revised Penal Code.

3. You were in a riot.

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“A riot,” as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “is the language of the unheard.” But this quote has nothing to do with the kind of riot we’re talking about. We’re not talking about protests gone bad because of the oppression of ethnic and racial minority groups, we’re talking about bar room brawls, random sweaty men, spontaneous fist fights for an ill-mannered singing of “My Way” in a karaoke bar, or a Tuesday afternoon at an Irish Pub. If you find yourself in a spontaneous free for all, get yourself out immediately because when the cops arrive and they can’t identify who killed who or who punched who, everyone who appears to have used any form violence will be arrested. Sure, there’s self defense, but you’ll have to explain that later on after you’re charged with this crime. Imagine the hassle that’s going to be.

Jail time: 2 years, 6 years up to a max of 12 years.

Source: Article 251 of the Revised Penal Code.

4. You’re a widow who marries another guy within three hundred and one days after the death of your husband.

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While most widows would voluntarily abstain from any kind of dating or relationship while their husband’s death is still fresh, some would find new love relatively early, because hey, life goes on right?

Yet, it is still considered a crime for a widow to marry another guy within an exact period of three hundred and one days following the death of their ex-husband. Widowers however are not included in this crime.

The purpose why this was made into a crime was because there were scenarios where widows were left pregnant with their dead husband’s child. Back in 1932, I suppose there was no way of detecting if a woman is pregnant in the early weeks of her pregnancy. If the widow marries and gets pregnant by another guy within 301 days following the death of her husband, who is to say whose baby it is?

This is what Congress wanted  – to prevent confusion in determining the true father of the child in that kind of scenario. Back in 1932, DNA testing did not exist. So this seemed to be the best solution at that time. But now, determining who a child’s father is relatively easy through a simple DNA test.

Jail time: 1 month to 6 months.

Source: Article 351 of the Revised Penal Code.

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