Some of these archaic laws in the Philippines date back to the Spanish occupation
Plenty of local laws are derived from foreign sources, with some dating as far back as the Spanish occupation. Here are some of the most archaic laws in the Philippines that are still enforceable today:
Castration has a heavier penalty than homicide
A person who intentionally mutilated another’s reproductive organs can be jailed for up to 30 years. Experts note that the severity of the punishment is based on the fact that the perpetrator has deprived the victim of the capacity to procreate.
This law is based on the Spanish Penal Code of 1887 and was adopted into our penal code in 1930. It has not been revised since.
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Sexual infidelity is illegal (and discriminates against women)
Married women, beware: a single sexual act with a man who is not your husband is enough to land you in jail for up to eight years. Under our law, a woman can be prosecuted for adultery even if she has been abandoned by her husband.
On the other hand, a married man can indulge in extra-marital affairs as long as he does not cohabit with his mistress or have sexual relations with her “under scandalous circumstances.” There have been attempts to do away with this distinction between adultery and concubinage in the Senate, but none of these bills have been passed into law.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines and Taiwan are the only countries that still consider adultery and concubinage as criminal offenses. Japan abolished adultery as a crime as early as 1947, while South Korea abolished its adultery law in 2015 and held that it violates an individual’s right to privacy.
Engaging in duel
This isn’t the Wild West, but engaging in a duel is still illegal under our law. Challenging another person to a duel can land you in prison for up to two years and four months. Even if both parties fail to injure each other, they can still be jailed for up to six months. Similar to castration, this law traces its roots to the Spanish Penal Code of 1887.
Marrying your rapist equals forgiveness
In case of rape, one of the archaic laws in the Philippines, the marriage of the offender with the offended party shall extinguish the criminal case or revoke the penalty already imposed on him. Surprisingly, this does happen in real life: In 2010, the Supreme Court absolved a convicted rapist after his victim decided to marry him. Their wedding was conducted at the Bureau of Corrections and the newlyweds presented their photos to the Court to secure the man’s release.
The minimum age of consensual sex is 12 years old
Contrary to popular belief, consensual sex with a minor above 12 but under 18 is not statutory rape. The Anti-Rape Law of 1997 provides that sexual intercourse with a woman under the age of 12 is considered rape under all circumstances. Unfortunately, having consensual sexual relations with a minor above 12 and under 18 is currently legal.
Sex with a minor above 12 becomes illegal if the child’s consent was obtained through deceit or if the other party is entrusted with the education or custody of the woman involved, such as a guardian, teacher or priest. Having sexual intercourse with a trafficked child is also against the law.
The Philippines is second only to Nigeria in terms of having the lowest age of consent. Granted, several Middle Eastern and African countries have no legal age of consent but prohibit all sexual relations outside marriage.
In 2018, Senator Leila De Lima filed a bill to raise the age of consent to 18 years old. The bill is still pending in the Committee of Justice and Human Rights.
Abortion is illegal under all circumstances
Intentionally terminating a pregnancy is absolutely prohibited under our penal code. Interestingly, our laws provide different penalties for various types of abortion: intentional abortion is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, while unintentional abortion is penalized by up to six years in prison. Meanwhile, a woman who terminates a pregnancy to “conceal her dishonor” may also be jailed for up to six years.
In ASEAN, only the Philippines and Laos prohibit all types of abortion. In Brunei, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia, abortion is allowed in order to save a woman’s life or preserve her physical and mental health. Meanwhile, abortion is legal in Cambodia, Vietnam and Singapore.
Offending religious feelings
A person who performs “notoriously offensive” acts in a place of worship can get jailed for up to one year and eight months.
In 2018, tour guide Carlos Celdran was convicted for offending religious feelings for his infamous Damaso stunt in 2010; the case is still on appeal. However, the Office of the Solicitor General has sided with Celdran and manifested that the law is unconstitutional for restraining free speech.
These are just a few of our many laws which need to be improved and updated. Laws are a product of their time and many of laws clearly reflect a different era.
Words Aian Estioco
Art Alexandra Lara