Notes & Essays

Philippine Flag Laws You Didn’t Know You Are Breaking

You could go to jail for these violations.
IMAGE WIKIPEDIA
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In 1907, Filipinos lost their right to display, fly, or hoist the Philippine flag. It was a blow to Filipinos, who, at the time were still reeling from their defeat in the Philippine-American War. They had expected to gain independence from Spain — an aspiration bolstered by the Declaration of Independence on June 12, 1898. It was the same date the Philippine flag was first publicly displayed. The Philippine flag did not only become a symbol of the nation; more than a symbol of patriotism, it became the standard that symbolized the fight for independence, and the Americans realized this.

That is why on September 6, 1907, the Philippine Commission, composed of American politicians, outlawed the use and display of the Philippine flag. They passed Act No. 1696, S. 1907, also known as “An Act to Prohibit the Display of Flags, Banners, Emblems, or Devices Used in the Philippine Islands for the Purpose of Rebellion or Insurrection Against the Authority of the United States”. The law also prohibited the display of Katipunan flags, banners, emblems, or devices.

Those Filipinos who were caught displaying the flag or any items related to the Katipunan (such as medallions, symbols, and bandanas) were jailed. Other Filipinos, afraid of severe punishment, just hid or destroyed their Philippine flags and Katipunan contraband.

But the Filipinos did not take the banning of their national flag lightly. From 1908 to 1914, Filipino members of Congress filed fourteen bills and resolutions to repeal the Americans’ Flag Law. The Philippine Assembly passed five of these bills, but the approving body which is the Philippine Commission put them to the backburner.

It was five years later, in 1919 when Filipinos were allowed to use the Philippine flag again, thanks to the efforts of then Senate President Manuel Luis Quezon and House Speaker Sergio Osmeña.

Simultaneous Salute on the Start of Flag Day

In 1998, the Philippine government enacted the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines. It provided the rules on how to display the flag and what appropriate colors it should contain. It also declared May 28 to June 12 as “Flag Days”. During this period, all government offices, businesses, schools, and homes are encouraged to display the flag.

Salute to A Clean Flag, an advocacy started by private citizen Monique Pronove, rallied government agencies and private companies to simultaneously commemorate the start of two-week commemoration of Flag Days. Pronove says her mission is "to reignite love of country through the proper respect for our flag, the symbol of the Filipino nation."

Last May 28, 2019 at exactly 8 a.m., in commemoration of the start of Flag Days, private companies and government institutions simultaneously raised the flag in 600 locations nationwide, while singing the Lupang Hinirang and then reciting the Panunumpa sa Watawat. The simultaneous flag raising ceremony was called “Isang Minuto Lang Para Sa Bayan” (“Just One Minute for the Country”) because it only takes only one minute to sing the national anthem and recite the pledge to the flag.

Nationwide, two minutes before 8 a.m., the Philippine Coastguard blew its foghorns, fire brigades and police sounded their sirens, and all radio stations nationwide played the national anthem. It was the first time that such a widespread simultaneous salute to the flag occurred.

In a Facebook post, Provone explains that Salute to a Clean Flag is about respect for our national flag and love of country. The event also aimed to raise patriotism and awareness on the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines, because a lot of people are taking the use of the Philippine flag very lightly. 

Philippine Flag Laws You Didn’t Realize You Are Breaking

Have you broken any of these rules about the use of the Philippine flag? If you have, know that the penalty for such is a fine of up to P20,000 or imprisonment of up to one year.

1| Adding text, pictures, designs, or marks on the flag or any image of the flag.

This is probably the most common violation of the Flag and Heraldic Code, because there are so many images on the Internet where the Philippine flag is used as a backdrop for texts, pictures, or designs. If you own or are displaying such images on your social media (are you using an edited version of the Philippine flag on your profile photo?), consider taking them down.

2| Wearing the flag on your clothing, especially on shoes.

If you think #1 was overkill, it should come as no surprise that this one is also prohibited. The Philippine flag’s design shall not be used as a base for clothing such as jackets, t-shirts, and shoes.

3| Displaying the flag front of a building or office occupied by foreigners.

We don’t know why this provision was included in the law, but it was probably added to avoid the instance of aliens handling the Philippine flag.

4| Printing, painting, or attaching a representation of the flag on handkerchiefs, napkins, cushions, and similar items.

Handkerchiefs and napkins are used to wipe dirt off the face, while cushions are made to be lay or sat on, which are inappropriate for the flag.

5| Wearing the flag in whole or in part as costume or uniform.

Sports teams are susceptible to committing this mistake. If you belong to any team, remember not to use the Philippine flag as a dominant design for your jackets, jerseys, or other team uniforms and merchandise.

6| Displaying the flag in bars, clubs, and casinos or any place where frivolity prevails.

You don’t have to memorize the places where the flag shall not be displayed. If you are not sure where not to display the flag, just remember not to hang the flag in any place of entertainment, whether it is wholesome or not.

7| Using the flag on your brand or business labels.

Businesses should not make a profit of the image of the Philippine flag by using it as part of their trademark or label, including on business or calling cards. 

8| Displaying the flag under any picture.

If you have to hang the flag on a wall, make sure to hang it ABOVE any painting, picture, frame, or wall hanging.

9| Hanging the flag horizontally on the wall.

The proper way to hang the flag on the wall is vertically with the blue side on the left.

10| Damaging the flag.

This is the most obvious, but apparently needs emphasis: you shall not mutilate, deface, defile, trample, cast any contempt or act of omission that will dishonor the flag.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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