Philippine Laws: April 2010

Of the 17 Republic Acts that were approved or became law in April 2010, almost half were laws separating annexes to their respective national high schools (3 laws) and laws converting various roads, avenues, and highways to national roads (5 laws). Here are summaries of some of the more significant new laws:

1. Republic Act No. 10070 – An Act Establishing An Institutional Mechanism to Ensure the Implementation of Programs and Services for Persons with Disabilities in Every Province, City and Municipality.

This Act was passed by the Senate on January 18, 2010, and by the House of Representatives on January 26, 2010. This Act was approved by the President on April 6, 2010, and was published in two newspapers of general circulation on April 30, 2010. The Act was to take effect 15 days after its complete publication.

This Act further amends Republic Act No. 7277 (1995) of the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons.

First, the Act replaces the term “disabled persons” with the term “persons with disabilities” or “PWDs”.

Second, local government units are mandated to organize and establish a Persons With Disability Affairs Office (“PDAO”) to, among others, (a) formulate and implement policies, plans and programs for the promotion of the welfare of PWDs, (b) coordinate the implementation of the Magna Carta and the Accessibility Law (Batas Pambasa Blg. 344) and other relevant laws at the local level, (c) represent PWDs in meetings of local development councils and other special bodies, and (d) recommend and enjoin the participation of non-government organizations and people’s organizations in the implementation of all disability-related laws and policies.

For 4th to 6th class municipalities, local chief executives may, in lieu of the creation of PDAO, designate a Focal Person who shall perform the functions of the PDAO.

Third, the National Government, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, shall ensure that the annual budget shall include provisions to fund programs and provide support for PWDs.

2. Republic Act No. 10071 – An Act Strengthening and Rationalizing the National Prosecution Service.

The Prosecution Service Act of 2010 was passed by the Senate on August 24, 2009, and by the House of Representatives on January 26, 2010. This Act lapsed into law without the approval of the President on April 8, 2010. The Act was to take effect 15 days after its publication in at least 2 newspapers of general circulation or the Official Gazette.

The Act created and established a National Prosecution Service composed of (a) the Prosecution Staff of the Office of the Secretary of Justice, and (b) the Regional, Provincial, and City Prosecution Offices under the supervision of the Secretary of Justice.

The Office of the Secretary of Justice may act directly on any matter involving national security or probable miscarriage of justice, and to act on an appeal or petition for review final judgments or orders of the Prosecutor General, and the Regional, Provincial and City Prosecutors.

The Prosecution Staff of the Office of the Secretary of Justice shall, among others, (a) assist the Secretary of Justice in the exercise of his appellate jurisdiction, (b) conduct preliminary investigation and prosecute criminal cases involving national security, those for which task forces have been created, and criminal cases whose venues have been transferred to avoid a miscarriage of justice, and (c) act as counsel for the People of the Philippines in any case involving or arising from any criminal complaint investigated by any of its prosecutors and pending before any trial court. The Prosecution Staff shall be headed by the Prosecutor General, who shall be assisted by 5 Senior Deputy State Prosecutors, 5 Deputy State Prosecutors, 35 Senior Assistant State Prosecutors, 80 Assistant State Prosecutors, and 20 Prosecuting Attorneys.

There shall be a Regional Prosecution Office in each administrative region, except the National Capital Judicial Region. It shall be headed by the Regional Prosecutor, who shall be assisted by 1 Deputy Regional Prosecutor, 1 Senior Assistant Regional Prosecutor, 3 Assistant Regional Prosecutors, and 1 Prosecution Attorney. The Regional Prosecution Office shall, among others (i) prosecute any case arising within the region, and (ii) when delegated by the Secretary of Justice, resolve with finality any appeal or petition for review judgements or orders of the provincial or city prosecutors within the region where offenses charged are cognizable by the municipal trial courts.

There shall be a Provincial or City Prosecution Office in each city or province. It shall be headed by the Provincial or City Prosecutor, who shall be assisted by 1 Deputy Provincial or City Prosecutor, and such number of Assistant and Associate Prosecutors as provided in the Act. For any new province or city is created, there shall be a provincial or city prosecutor, a deputy provincial or city prosecutor, and such number of assistant and associate prosecutors as there are court branches at the ratio of 2 prosecutors for each regional trial court branch, 1 prosecutor for each metropolitan trial court branch or municipal trial court branch in cities, and 1 prosecutor for every 2 municipal trial court branches in municipalities or municipal circuit trial court branches. Whenever new courts or branches are created, there shall automatically be created positions of assistant and associate prosecutors in the same ratio as above. After the Act, there shall be 1 deputy provincial or city prosecutor for every 25 prosecutors or a fraction thereof. The Provincial or City Prosecution Office shall, among others (a) investigate all charges of crimes, misdemeanors, and violations of penal laws and ordinances within their respective jurisdictions, and prepare and file the necessary information or complaint against the persons accused, and (b) prosecute all crimes, misdemeanors, and violations of city or municipal ordinances in the courts at the province or city.

The Act also provides for the qualifications, rank, category, prerogatives, salary grade and salaries, allowances, emoluments, and other privileges, as well as inhibitions and disqualifications, of the Prosecutor General and the prosecutors in the National Prosecution Service. The salaries and allowances of the members of the Regional, Provincial and City Prosecution Offices shall be paid entirely out of national funds and included in the annual appropriations of the Department of Justice. This is without prejudice to the grant of allowances to the prosecutors by their respective local governments in amounts not exceeding 50% of their basic salaries.

The Act provides for the continuation in service of incumbent prosecutors. Nothing in the Act shall be construed to demote or diminish the salary, nor to allow the permanent transfer or undermine the security of tenure, of incumbent prosecutors.

The Act grants a retirement pension to a prosecutor who has rendered at least 15 years of service in the National Prosecution Service or in any branch of the government, and (i) who retires for having attained 65 years of age, or (ii) who resigns by reason of incapacity, or (iii) who retires after having attained 60 years of age provided that the last 5 years of service were continuously rendered in the National Prosecution Service. All pension benefits of retired prosecutors shall be automatically increased whenever there is an increase in salary or allowance of the same position from which he/she retired.

3. Republic Act No. 10072 – An Act Recognizing the Philippine National Red Cross as An Independent, Autonomous, Nongovernmental Organization Auxiliary to the Authorities of the Republic of the Philippines in the Humanitarian Field.

The Philippine Red Cross Act of 2009 was passed by the Senate on November 17, 2009, and by the House of Representatives on February 1, 2010. This Act was approved by the President on April 20, 2010. The Act was to take effect 15 days after its publication in at least 2 newspapers of general circulation or the Official Gazette.

The Act declares that the Philippine Red Cross shall assist the Philippine authorities in the humanitarian field to discharge obligations under the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, to provide humanitarian relief in times of peace and armed conflict. To allow the Philippine Red Cross to fully realize its mandate, the Act grants it several privileges, among others, tax exemption from all direct and indirect taxes, including value added tax, on all income from its operations, including the use, lease and sale of real properties and provision of services, and on importations and purchases for its exclusive use. Also, all donations, legacies and gifts to the Philippine Red Cross shall be exempt from donor’s tax and shall be deductible from the donor’s gross income for income tax purposes or from the donor-decedent’s gross estate for estate tax purposes. The Philippine Red Cross shall also be exempt from real property taxes on all real properties owned by it. The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes shall allot at least one lottery draw for the support of the Philippine Red Cross’s disaster relief operations.

The central body of the Philippine Red Cross shall be a Board of Governors composed of 30 members—6 members of which shall be appointed by the President, 18 to be elected by chapter delegates in biennial conventions, and the remaining 6 to be elected by the 24 members already chosen. The President shall be the Honorary President of the Philippine Red Cross.

The Act prohibits persons from (a) soliciting, collecting, or receiving moneys, materials and properties, by falsely representing himself as a member, agent or representative of the Philippine Red Cross, (b) using the words red cross or Geneva Cross, or the emblem of the Red Greek Cross on a white background, or any designation, sign, or insignia constituting any imitation thereof. Each violation shall be punished with a fine not less than P50 thousand, or imprisonment of not more than 1 year, or both.

The Act expressly repeals Republic Act No. 95 as amended.

4. Republic Act No. 10073 – An Act Instituting the New Girl Scouts of the Philippines Charter, Penalizing Violations Therefor and for Other Purposes.

The Girl Scouts of the Philippine Charter of 2009 was passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives on January 26, 2010. This Act was approved by the President on April 20, 2010. The Act was to take effect 15 days after its publication in at least 2 newspapers of general circulation or the Official Gazette.

The Girl Scout of the Philippines (“GSP”) was recognized and known as the body corporate as originally and duly created by Commonwealth Act 542. The Act sets out its corporate powers, its vision and mission, and its nature and purpose. The GSP envisions the Filipino girl and young woman as God-loving, patriotic, progressive, dynamic and pro-active. Its mission is to help girls and young women realize the ideals of womanhood, and prepare themselves for their responsibilities in the home, the nation, and the world community. The governing body of the GSP shall be the Central Board, with 37 to 47 members, including 8 Charter Life members, Regional Chairpersons, the National President of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, the immediate Past President of the GSP, a senior Girl Scout or Cadet from each Girl Scouts Region, and members elected by the National Council. The Central Board shall elect among themselves the national officers of the GSP. The woman Philippine President or First Lady shall be the Chief Girl Scout. All the officers and chairpersons of standing committees shall form the National Executive Council which shall implement the policies and decisions of the National Council and the Central Board.

The GSP received fiscal incentives similar to those granted to the Philippine Red Cross, including, among others, (a) exemption from all direct and indirect taxes, including value added tax, on all income from its operations, including the use, lease and sale of real properties and provision of services, and on importations and purchases for its exclusive use. (b) exemption from donor’s tax for all donations, legacies and gifts to the GSP, and deductibility of the latter from the donor’s gross income for income tax purposes or from the donor-decedent’s gross estate for estate tax purposes, and (c) exemption from real property taxes on all real properties owned by it. In addition, the GSP was granted (i) tax and/or duty exemption for donations from foreign countries, and (ii) exemption from payment of all other taxes, duties, imposts and charges.

The Act prohibits persons from (a) falsely and fraudulently calling or representing herself as a member or agent of the GSP (punishable with prision correccional (i.e., 6 months 1 day to 6 years) in its minimum period, or a fine not exceeding P20 thousand, or both), (b) manufacturing, selling, distributing, using, applying, featuring or portraying, or causing to do such, fraudulently, or without the knowledge and approval of the Central Board of the GSP, badges, uniforms, insignias or scouting paraphernalias, photos or visuals of a Girl Scout or a Girl Scout uniform, or the logo, seal or corporate name of the GSP, or to use the name of the GSP for any illegal purpose or personal gain (punishable with prision correccional, or a fine from P50 thousand to P300 thousand, or both). These shall be without prejudice to civil damages, as well as penalties for violations of the intellectual property rights of the GSP.

The Act expressly repeals Republic Act No. 542 as amended.

5. Republic Act No. 10067 – An Act Establishing the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the Province of Palawan as a Protected Area Under the Nipas Act (R.A. 7586) and the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) for Palawan.

The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009 was passed by the Senate on December 16, 2009, and by the House of Representatives on January 18, 2010. This Act was approved by the President on April 6, 2010, and was published in two newspapers of general circulation on April 9, 2010. The Act was to take effect immediately after its complete publication.

The Act is intended (a) to ensure the protection and conservation of the Tubbataha Reefs (“Reefs”) into perpetuity, for the enjoyment of present and future generations, (b) to promote the Reefs to foster widespread awareness and concern for it, and (c) to encourage the participation of the private sector and the local government units in the protection, preservation and promotion of the Reefs.

The Act expressly declares that the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (“TRNP” or the “Park”), which is approximately 97,030 hectares and whose metes and bounds are defined in the law, is a protected area. A buffer zone, of approximately 10 nautical miles from the Park, was also created. The administration and management of the Park was vested with the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (the “Board”), which shall be the sole policy-making and permit-granting body of the Park. There shall be a Tubbataha Management Office, headed by the Park’s Protected Area Superintendent who shall serve as the chief operating officer of the Park. The local government units of Palawan and Cagayancillo shall participate in the management of the Park through their representatives in the Board.

The Act established the TRNP Trust Fund for purposes of financing projects of the Park. All income generated from the operation of the Park (e.g., visitor/tourist fees, permits for sale and export of flora and fauna, registration and lease of multiple-use areas, and contributions from industries and facilities directly benefiting from the Park, among others) and the management of wild flora and fauna therein, shall accrue to the Fund. The Board shall have the sole power to decide the use of its funds from whatever source. Donations, grants and endowments to the Park shall be exempt from donor’s tax and shall be considered as allowable deductions from gross income in the computation of the income tax of the donor.

The Act prohibits the following acts within the Park:

a. exploration, exploitation and utilization of non-renewable resources (e.g., mineral, gas, oil), except that energy projects shall be allowed only through acts of Congress;

b. entry, enjoyment and utilization of any portion of the Park and the resources therein, without the prior permission from the Board (punishable with imprisonment from 6 months to 1 year, and a fine from P100 thousand to P300 thousand. If the violator is a commercial fisher/fisherfold, imprisonment shall be from 1 year to 3 years, and the fine shall be P500 thousand.);

c. causing damage to the Reef (punishable with an administrative fine and payment of cost of restoration);

d. enjoyment or utilization of the Park and the resources therein, without the payment of conservation fees imposed by the Board (punishable with the payment of the conservation fee and an administrative fine double the amount of the conservation fee);

e. holding fast or securing a vessel in place using an anchor or by tying on any part of the Reef (punishable with an administrative fine of P50 thousand to P100 thousand);

f. dumping waste, or cleaning and changing oil of vessels (punishable with imprisonment of 1 year to 3 years, a fine of not less than P50 thousand, an administrative fine of P100 thousand to P300 thousand, and cost of clean-up);

g. littering (punishable with an administrative fine of P50 thousand to P100 thousand);

h. conducting bioprospecting without prior permit from the Board and other concerned government agencies (punishable with imprisonment of 1 year to 6 years, fine of P500 thousand to P1 Million, an administrative fine of P500 thousand to P1 Million, and confiscation and forfeiture of the subject resources, equipment, gear and vessel);

i. introduction of exotic species of plants or animals (punishable with imprisonment of 6 months to 6 years, fine of P100 thousand to P1 Million, an administrative fine of P200 thousand to P1 Million, and confiscation and forfeiture of the subject resources, equipment, gear and vessel);

j. actual commission or attempt to hunt, catch, fish, kill, take, gather, remove, destroy, disturb or possess, any living or non-living resource, or products derived from the Park (punishable with imprisonment of 3 years to 20 years, fine of P100 thousand to P1 Million, an administrative fine of P100 thousand to P1 Million, and confiscation and forfeiture of the subject resources, equipment, gear and vessel);

k. fishing, gathering, purchasing or possessing any fishery products by a foreign person, corporation, or entity (punishable with imprisonment of 6 years and 1 day to 12 years, fine of US$100 thousand, an administrative fine of US$50 thousand to US$200 thousand, and confiscation and forfeiture of the fish catch, fishing equipment, and fishing vessel);

l. Violation of laws and rules on Environmental Impact Assessment System (punishable with imprisonment of 3 years to 5 years, fine of P100 thousand for every day the violation subsists, forfeiture of the vessels, structures, effects, materials and equipment used and the products of the violation, an administrative fine of P100 thousand for every day the violation subsists, and rehabilitation of the affected area);

m. Violation of safety and sanitation, and other, standards set by the Board (punishable with an administrative fine of P20 thousand to P50 thousand for every day the violation subsists, and suspension of 3 months to cancellation of the permit to operate); and

n. Evasion, obstruction or hindrance of any law enforcement officer performing his duty (punishable with an administrative fine of P50 thousand, and the cancellation of the registration, permit or license of the vessel and its officers).

Any citizen may file an appropriate civil, criminal or administrative action in the proper court/body, against (i) any person who violates this Act or its implementing rules and regulations, (ii) those mandated to implement and enforce the Act who issues orders, rules and regulations inconsistent with the Act, and (iii) any public officer who, wilfully or with gross negligence, fails to perform his duty under the Act or its implementing rules and regulations, abuses his authority, or in any manner improperly performs his duties under the Act or its implementing rules and regulations.

The interim Board shall convene within 1 month from the effectivity of the Act to ensure that its composition and structure conform to the Act. The Board shall prepare the implementing rules and regulations within 6 months upon the effectivity of the Act.

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