Philippine Laws: May 2010

President GMA appears to have been very productive in signing laws during the penultimate month of her term, approving about 37 new laws.  She signed laws that established 15 national high schools (see, Republic Acts Nos. [RA] 10106 to 10120) and a state college (see, RA 10085), converted 15 local roads to national roads (see, RA 10091 to 10105), established a 25-bed municipal hospital (see, RA 10090), and changed the name of the “Bureau of Public Libraries” to the “National Library” (see, RA 10087).

The other new laws she approved include the following:

1.     RA 10088, the Anti-Camcording Act of 2010, was passed by the Senate on January 18, 2010 and the House of Representatives on January 27, 2010, and approved by the President on May 13, 2010. The Act declares unlawful the following acts committed when a copyright exists in a cinematographic film or other audiovisual work or its soundtrack, without the authorization of the copyright owner or exclusive licensee: (a) use or attempt to use an audiovisual recording device to transmit or make a copy of any performance in an exhibition facility; (b) to possess an audiovisual recording device in an exhibition facility, with the intent of using or attempting to use the same to transmit or make a copy of the performance; and (c) aid, abet or connive in the commission of these prohibited acts.  These shall be punished by a fine from P50 thousand to P750 thousand, and imprisonment of 6 months and 1 day to 6 years and 1 day.  If the purpose of the acts is the sale, rental or other commercial distribution of a copy, the penalty shall be imposed in the maximum.  If the offender is an alien, he shall be deported immediately after payment of the fine and imprisonment, and shall thereafter be refused entry into the country.

The Act provides for presumptions on the subsistence of copyright and/or ownership of copyright.  It shall not be a defense that the transmission or the making of a copy is for private or domestic purposes, or in connection with a fair use deal.

All exhibition facilities, cinemas or theatres are required to conspicuously post notices or signages warning against the bringing in of audiovisual recording devices into the screening/exhibition area.  The management/operator who fails to post these required notices shall be fined P50 thousand.

Members of the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation are given the power to enter and search an exhibition facility, without a warrant and without payment of admission fee or other charge, when he has reasonable grounds to believe that a violation of this Act has been or is being committed.  These authorized persons may also, under the same circumstances, (i) search any person who has any audiovisual recording device by which an offense has been, or is being, committed; (ii) seize, remove, or detain any audiovisual recording device or other object which appear to contain, or likely to contain, evidence of an offense; (iii) use reasonable force to remove any person or object obstructing them in the exercise of any of their powers under the Act; (iv) detain any person, within a reasonable time not exceeding 18 hours, found in the exhibition facility and is reasonably believed to be connected to the subject of the search, when detention is necessary to adequately perform the search; and (v) require the operator or other responsible person of the exhibition facility to give information or render assistance that may be necessary to enable the authorized persons to carry out their functions under this Act.

Regardless of the conviction of the accused, the courts may order any copy of a cinematographic film or other audiovisual work, which the court believes to be an unauthorized copy, and any audiovisual recording device or other equipment that was in the possession of the accused, be destroyed or delivered to the owner or exclusive licensee of the copyright.

(The broad definition of “audiovisual recording device” though may pose problems in the implementation of the Act.  Being defined as “digital or analog photographic or video camera, or any other technology or device capable of enabling the recording or transmission of cinematographic film or other audiovisual work, or any part thereof, regardless of whether audiovisual recording is the sole or primary purpose of the device”, “audiovisual recording device” may include most of the cellular phones in the market today.)

2.   RA 10089, the Philippine Rubber Research Institute Act of 2010, was passed by the Senate on February 1, 2010 and the House of Representatives on February 3, 2010, and was approved by the President on May 13, 2010.  The Act created the Philippine Rubber Research Institute (PRRI) from the main institute for rubber at the Mindanao Statue University, and placed under the control and supervision of the Department of Agriculture (DA).  The PRRI’s mandate is to initiate and administer research and development programs to improve the quality and increase the productivity of rubber, especially for the benefit of smallholder rubber producers and processors.  To this end, the PRRI shall, among others: (a) propagate and promote the planting, maintenance, and wise utilization of rubber trees as source of latex and finished rubber products; (b)  enable rubber producers and processors to have access to quality rubber tree seedlings, modern production techniques, and other support services from production to marketing of rubber products; (c) undertake training and capacity-building programs for rubber produces, processors and cooperatives, to increase production of quality rubber and raise level of income; and (d) aid in the establishment of village-based rubber enterprises to generate livelihood opportunities and improve general well-being of the workforce in agricultural communities.  The PRRI shall be headed by an Executive Director appointed by the Philippine President (upon recommendation of the DA) for a 3-year term.

The Act also created a 7-member PRRI Advisory Board which will develop policies and programs aimed at improving the state of technologies needed for the Philippine rubber industry to meet global standards for competitiveness and product quality.  The Advisory Board shall be composed of (i) the Secretary of the DA, (ii) the Undersecretary of the DA, (iii) the Executive Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Research, (iv) the Executive Director of the Bureau of Plant Industry, (v) the Executive Director of the PRRI; (vi) a representative from the rubber producers, and (vii) a representative from the rubber processors.  The latter two representatives shall also be appointed by the Philippine President (upon the recommendation of the DA) for a 3-year term.

3.     RA 10086, the Strengthening Peoples Nationalism Through Philippine History Act, was passed by the Senate on January 26, 2010, and the House of Representatives on January 27, 2010, and approved by the President on May 12, 2010.  It changed the “National Historical Institute” into the “National Historical Commission of the Philippines” (NHCP), an independent agency attached to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.  The NHCP was declared to be the primary government agency responsible for history and has the authority to determine all factual matters relating to official Philippine history.  In particular, the NHCP shall (a) conduct and support all kinds of research on Philippine national and local history; (b) develop educational materials, implement historical educational activities, and disseminate information regarding Philippine historical events, dates, places, and personages; (c) undertake and prescribe manner of restoration, conservation, and protection of the country’s historical movable and immovable objects; (d) manage, maintain, and administer national shrines, monuments, historical sites, edifices, and landmarks of significant historico-cultural value; and (e) actively engage in the settlement or resolution of controversies or issues relative to historical personages, places, dates and events.

The NHCP shall be managed by a Board composed of 5 distinguished historians appointed by the Philippine President, the Directors of the National Library and the National Museum, and the Executive Directors of the National Archives and the NHCP.  There shall be a Historical Sites and Structures Documentation Center (to survey, identify, document, and recommend for declaration of historic structures and edifices, and to maintain the National Registry of Historic Sites and Structures), the Local Historical Committees Network (to monitor, coordinate, support, and affiliate various local historical bodies, and to record oral histories of towns, cities, provinces, regions and peoples), and the Materials Research Conservation Division (to provide consultancy services to collectors of historical objects, to conduct scientific research on preservation and restoration techniques, and to establish links with international bodies engaged in the scientific preservation of historical and cultural objects).

4.     RA 10084, an Act Granting Survivorship Benefits to the Surviving Legitimate Spouse of a Deceased Retired Member of the Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission, Commission on Elections and the Ombudsman, was passed by the House of Representatives on December 10, 2008 and the Senate on February 1, 2010, and approved by the President on May 5, 2010.  The Act entitles the surviving legitimate spouse, of a deceased retired members of these constitutional commissions and the Ombudsman, to receive on a monthly basis all the retirement benefits that the deceased retiree was receiving at the time of his death, during the surviving spouse’s lifetime or until he/she remarries.   If the surviving spouse is already receiving benefits under existing retirement laws, he/she shall only be entitled to the difference between the amount provided in this Act and the amount he/she is already receiving.

One law, which would interest motorists, was approved by the President as early as March 23, 2010, but appears to have been published only on May 22, 2010, and thus became effective only 15 days after.  This is RA 10054, the Motorcycle Helmet Act of 2009, which was approved by the House of Representatives on November 16, 2009 and the Senate on December 16, 2009.  It mandated that all motorcycle riders, both drivers and back riders, but except tricycle drivers, shall wear standard protective motorcycle helmets, regardless of the length of the drive and the type of the road.  Failure to wear the required helmet shall be punished with a fine ranging from P1,500 for the first offense to P10 thousand for the 4th and succeeding offenses, and the confiscation of the driver’s license in the latter case.

Sellers and dealers of motorcycles are also mandated to make available for purchase a standard motorcycle helmet for each motorcycle unit.  Failure to do so shall be punished with a fine of P10 thousand to P20 thousand.

Finally, a person who uses, sells, and distributes substandard motorcycle helmets, or those which do not bear the required Philippine Standard (PS) mark or Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) certificate, shall be punished with a fine ranging from P3,000 for the first offense to P5,000 for the second offense.  Tampering, alteration, forgery and imitation of the PS mark and ICC certificate shall be punished with a fine from P10 thousand to P20 thousand.  These fines shall be without prejudice to the penalties imposed under the Consumer Act of the Philippines (RA 7394).