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Legal experts divided on stricter Lupang Hinirang bill

The proposed changes to the law on extending reverence and respect to national symbols and the proper rendition of the national anthem is a way to ensure that patriotism is instilled in all citizens, says a legal expert.

Another law expert, on the other hand, says love for country cannot be legislated and that the people cannot be forced to follow the law for fear of being penalized and fined.

Dean Nilo Divina of the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law said the bill is a valid exercise of the police power of the government.

The police power of the government is the power to promote public welfare by restraining and regulating the use of both liberty and property of the people.

"The bill does not violate any of the provisions of the Constitution," he told GMA News Online in a text message.

"It is a valid exercise of police power to instill patriotism in our citizens and foster respect for signs and symbols associated with our country," he added.

Divina was referring to House Bill 5224 recently approved on third and final reading which mandates stricter compliance to the rules on the use and display of the Philippine flag and other national symbols and the proper rendition of the national anthem.

National Union of Peoples' Lawyers president Edre Olalia said, "On its face, the bill's objectives are salutary."

"Yet patriotism, love of country and respect for national symbols cannot ultimately be legislated or merely measured by a modulated singing with a calibrated tempo or tone or a mandatory robotic uniform gesture under pain of sanction," Olalia told GMA News Online in a text message.

Olalia added that "appropriate behavior are preferably encouraged and engendered by social standards and existing mores."

Under the bill, or the proposed “Revised Flag and Heraldic Code,” the attending public is mandated to sing "with fervor" the national anthem "Lupang Hinirang" whenever it is played.

They should also stand at attention facing the flag if it is displayed, or face the band or the conductor if not. Those whose religious beliefs prohibit the singing of the national anthem must also show full respect by standing at attention when the anthem is being sung.

Aside from this, the rendition of the "Lupang Hinirang" should also follow the musical arrangement and composition of Julian Felipe --- in 2/4 beat when played and within the range of 100 to 120 metronomes, and in 4/4 beat when sung.

The bill also declared that respect for the Philippine flag and other national symbols should be observed at all times, stating when and where the flag should be raised.

It also declared unlawful "to mutilate, deface, defile, trample on or cast contempt, dishonor or ridicule upon the flag, anthem, seal, motto, coat-of-arms, and other heraldic items and devices."

Violators of "any of the provisions" of the act may be slapped with a fine of from P50,000 to P100,000 or a jail sentence of no more than one year, or both.

Olalia argued that there are other pieces of legislation that need more attention than this bill.

"Amidst all the crucial and urgent necessary legislation that should concretely benefit the people's economic and social interests as well as the protection and promotion of their basic rights as citizens that are more time-sensitive and imperative, such seemingly mundane no-brainer pieces of legislation should not merit inordinate attention and resources," he said.

"More meaningful, imperative and relevant legislation deserve more attention and synchronized voices," he added.

The provision of the bill regarding the defacing of the flag likewise does not adhere to liberal views, Olalia noted.

"The bill's prohibition with respect to acts 'to mutilate, deface, defile, trample or cast contempt or commit any act or omission casting dishonor or ridicule upon the flag in particular is not in sync with liberal views that make flag burning a form of protest and thus protected speech in even jingoistic countries like the US," he said.

With its approval in the Lower House, the Senate is expected to submit its version of the proposal next. — BAP/KVD, GMA News