7 Things about Philippine Law you Thought were True

The words of the law are known for being lengthy, verbose, and at times unnecessarily complicated. Take this excerpt from our own Constitution –

“The State shall provide the policy environment for the full development of Filipino capability and the emergence of communication structures suitable to the needs and aspirations of the nation and the balanced flow of information into, out of, and across the country, in accordance with a policy that respects the freedom of speech and of the press.”

Wait.. whut?

Some provisions on the other hand are short and concise, yet hide their real meaning. Let’s take another excerpt from the Constitution –

“The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.”

You might take this to mean that the Philippine government cannot interfere with the affairs of any religious group yet its true meaning is far more complex than what it appears to be, but that’s a story for some other time.

As each person makes up his own interpretation about the law, misconceptions are bound to proliferate. With a lack of proper information about these laws, anybody can form their own opinion about the law based on their plain and literal meaning. A little knowledge is in fact a dangerous thing.

  1. It’s not Libel or Slander because it’s true.


Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.” For business magnates such as Mr. Buffet, their reputation is as valuable as their money or their assets, if not priceless.  It was the value of one’s reputation which made any attack on it, regardless of its truth, punishable by law. Whether it be driven by spite, animosity, or just a natural inclination to gossip, one cannot justify an attack on another’s reputation under the guise of truth alone. As a rule, truth alone will not relieve you of your liability for committing libel or slander. There must be good motives and justifiable reasons behind it.

So the next time you feel the urge of posting something on social media specifically about another person, you might want to re-think your actions because #lawsuit.

Source: Art. 361, Revised Penal Code

  1. There’s no contract if it’s not in writing.

Contracts are as ubiquitous as air. In fact, you probably entered into a contract seconds before reading this article without knowing it. Did you just order fast food take out? That’s technically a contract. You offer to buy their food and they accept it and deliver it to you for your consumption for a price. Did you and your friends agree to drop by on a Tuesday night at that bar for quiz night? Your flaky friend might want to reconsider bailing out on your #squad when you point out how many contracts like this he has violated.

Can you imagine how awkward and slow our society would be if every contract had to be made in writing?


Cashier: “Welcome to Goodburger, home of the goodburger, can I take your order?”

You: “Yeah, i’d want a large goodburger and make that to go.”

Cashier: “Okay sir, kindly fill out this form and sign along the dotted line, please.”

While not all contracts are required to be in writing, certain contracts do and choosing not to put it in writing is risky and would have disastrous consequences. Do your research before comfortably agreeing on a specific subject matter especially if it concerns buying or selling land or contracts involving huge business deals. Some research goes a long way in keeping yourself protected.

Source: Article 1356, Civil Code of the Philippines.

  1. Special protocol license plates have traffic law immunity.


There was a point in time in the late 2000s that license plates bearing the number “8” proliferated among motorists who thought displaying them in their cars would give them some sort of privilege on the road under the pretense that their vehicle belongs to a Congressman. Truth is, protocol plates issued to high ranking government officials such as the number “8” license plate do not give any kind of immunity to the vehicle or to the person riding it from obeying traffic laws or ordinances. It IS subject to traffic laws such as the coding scheme and the rider will be penalized for it should they commit a violation.

While it may be true that these protocol license plates do not give any privilege or immunity to the vehicle or its assigned official, it would be wise to yield and give way upon seeing these vehicles. A little show of courtesy to the public servants riding these vehicles goes a long way to the betterment of our country.

Para sa ekonomiya!

Sources: Executive Order 400 and 400-A, and DOTC D.O. NO. 2014-004 or the “Guidelines on the Issuance and Use of Protocol Plates”.

  1. If the sign says so, it’s true.


Ever seen those signs littered in a parking lot that says something like, “The management shall not be responsible for the loss of items inside your car.”  Signs like that were meant to discourage the public rather than give true information. Should your hard earned precious iPads or gadgets get stolen, or even worse your car itself – who is to be blamed?

The management of a parking lot is responsible should their own direct hired employees be the cause of the loss or damage to the parked vehicles. Take note, however, in case of security guards assigned to establishments supplied by security agencies, the responsibility for the wrongful actions of its security guards falls on the security agency who supplied the security personnel to guard the parking lot, and not the management of the establishment.* In cases of valet parking specifically by hotels or inns, the responsibility falls on the management of the respective hotel or inn itself.**


*Spouses Mamaril v. The Boy Scouts of The Philippines, G.R. No. 179382, January 14, 2013.

**Durban Apartments v. Pioneer Insurance, G.R. No. 179419, January 12, 2011

  1. Married women must use their husband’s surname.



One interesting story of how the tradition of a woman taking her husband’s family name after marriage traces its roots in English culture.  Back then, it was assumed that the husband would buy a house for their family. The last name of the husband would then become the name of their house.


In the Philippines, a woman takes the family name of her husband. While customary, there is no law requiring the wife to do so. In fact, the bride to be has the absolute choice on this matter. The law gives the wife three (3) choices on how she wants to go about her name upon getting married. The first choice is to drop her surname altogether and replace it with that of her husband’s surname. That’s the common practice. Let’s use the name “Marge Bouvier” as an example. When she marries Homer Simpson, her name will become “Marge Simpson.”

The second choice is by retaining her surname, but adding the surname of her husband to it by a hyphen (-). So the name “Marge Bouvier” will become “Marge Bouvier-Simpson.

The last choice is rarely used, but is allowed by law. The married woman may choose to drop her entire first and last name, and use “Mrs.” and then followed by the complete name of her husband.  So in this case, “Marge Bouvier” will become Mrs. Homer Simpson.”

Source: Articles 370 and 371 of the New Civil Code

  1. You own your passport


A Passport is commonly known to be a document that allows a person wishing to travel outside the country to be allowed entry into another. But did you know that your passport has other purposes too?

Other than being an official document of identity and nationality for purposes of travelling to other countries, your passport is also a request from the Philippine Government to the country of destination to allow the holder to pass safely and freely in their country AND give its holder aid and protection in case of emergency. Your passport is also the king of identification cards. It is declared by law that it is superior to all other official documents. So in the hierarchy of official documents, the passport is essentially king.

But the least known fact about your passport is that it does not belong to you.  The law explicitly states that a Philippine passport remains at all times the property of the Government, and the person to whom it is issued is a mere holder of it.*

Source: Sec. 11, Republic Act No. 8239 or the “Philippine Passport Act of 1996.”

  1. You can pay large bills.. in coins!


This is more of a thought experiment than a misconception.

Have you ever wondered if you can pay for something entirely in coins? Ever thought of sending jars of coins to pay your internet service provider for giving you unacceptable and ridiculously slow internet speeds? Well, the law says you technically can, but to some limit.

There is term for the limit for which you can legally use your coins for payment and it is called “legal tender power.”

Legal tender power essentially means that when money is offered in payment of a debt, the same must be accepted. In other words, it is the maximum amount of coins to be considered as legal tender at any given transaction. Anything beyond the limit for each coin cannot be considered as “legal tender” and the payee is justified in not accepting it.

So, what is the legal tender power of each coin in the Philippines?

Below is a complete list of coins and its corresponding legal tender power –

Currency Legal tender power
P1 cent P100

or 10,000 pieces of P1 cent coins

P5 cents P100

or 2,000 pieces of P5 cent coins


P10 cents P100

or 1,000 pieces of P10 cent coins

P25 cents P100

or 400 pieces of P25 cent coins

P1 peso P1000
P5 peso P1000

or 200 pieces of P5 peso coins

P10 peso P1000

or 100 pieces of P10 peso coins


Just don’t attempt giving manong sorbetero a jar of 25 cents worth P10 pesos to buy a cone of dirty ice cream. Give the guy a decent bill.

Source: Section 52 of Republic Act No. 7653, Monetary Board Resolution No. 862       dated 6 July 2006, and BSP Circular No. 537 series of 2006.

About the author:

Joel Enrico Santos is a litigation lawyer handling Civil, Criminal, Labor, Immigration, Transportation, Corporate, and Land Registration cases. He is an Attorney working for a Makati based lawfirm and is a solo practitioner handling cases on his own since April, 2013. He is secretly saving up for his own Ghostbusters Proton pack.

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