Weird Philippine Laws You Probably Didn’t Know About

Living in a society means that there are certain social rules or norms that you need to abide by in order to keep the peace. In a modern nation-state, these norms are codified into laws. According to the University of Melbourne Southeast Asian Legal Research Guide, the Philippine legal system in particular is a mixture of customary laws, civil laws, Islamic laws, and the Anglo-American system. The main sources of Philippine law are:

  • The 1987 Constitution – the highest law of the land
  • Statutes – Acts of Congress, municipal charters and legislation, court rules, administrative rules and orders, legislative rules, and presidential decrees or issuances
  • Judicial decisions – decisions of the Supreme Court, which are binding in all other courts

Given the Philippines’ rich cultural history, including influences from religious customs, Spanish rule, and American colonization, laws in this country can go from the standard rules that every society needs to function, to some truly wacky regulations. Let’s take a look at some of the laws still in force today that would make anyone reading them do a double-take.

  1. Election ties can be decided by chance

Under the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Resolution No. 10083, also known as the General Instruction for the Board of Canvassers on the Consolidation/Canvass and Transmission of Votes, ties between two competing candidates for a single position can actually be determined by a drawing of lots or coin toss. Specifically, the resolution says, “the Board shall, after recording in its minutes the fact of having candidates receiving the same number of votes for the position, immediately notified the said candidates to appear before the Board for drawing of lots to break the tie.”

You would think that this is an outrageous situation, but actually this has happened several times within the last few years. Coin tosses have become the go-to to break ties during barangay elections, and in 2018 these games of chance were used to determine the “true” winners of elections in five towns in Cebu alone!


  1. Widows can only marry 301 days after the death of their spouse

While there have been concentrated efforts to modernize a lot of our laws, many of them are still holdovers from decades past, and can seem ridiculous or old-fashioned to anybody living in the 21st century. One of these laws was found in Article 351 of the Revised Penal Code, which states that widows can only remarry once the “301 day rule” has passed. The Philippine Commission on Women and other women’s rights groups have said that this article is discriminatory against women. Luckily, it was repealed after former President Aquino signed Republic Act (RA) 10655 into law, which decriminalizes premature marriage.


  1. Family members who steal from you may not actually be criminally liable

To say that family is an integral part of Philippine culture would be an understatement, and that idea is further cemented by Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines. Article 332 states that persons exempt from criminal liability in the event of the crimes of theft, swindling, or malicious mischief include spouses or relatives by affinity in the same line, the widowed spouse with respect to the property which belonged to the deceased spouse, and brothers and sisters or brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law!

This means that if your relatives cheat you out of something, you might not actually be able to bring a solid case against them, which adds new meaning to the phrase “blood is stronger than water.”


  1. Annoying people can actually be charged for being annoying

If your workmate’s whistling gets to be too much, under Philippine law you actually have legal recourse against him. Article 287 of the Revised Penal Code states that “any coercions or unjust vexations shall be punished by arresto menor or a fine ranging from 5 pesos to 200 pesos.”

While this law may seem ridiculous, you’d be surprised to know that it can be enforced! In June of this year, Tempo reported that actor-rapper Frank Magalona received a complaint of unjust vexation by a woman who was working at an upscale bar in Taguig.


  1. You can “legally kill” somebody

Murder is one of the first things you think of when you’re asked to name a crime that should be punishable by law, but under the Revised Penal Code there actually exists a situation where someone who commits an act of murder is exempt from punishment. Article 247 states that any legally married person who surprises his spouse in the act of committing sexual intercourse with another person and kills any or both of them immediately after, or commits serious physical injury, shall suffer the punishment of destierro or banishment only.

However, before you start thinking that all murderers can go unpunished, check out this guide to Article 247 on Abogado Mo for further clarification!

As you can see, even on the legal front, it’s more fun in the Philippines. If you liked this article, check out the rest of our stuff on Daydreaming in Paradise!