Philippines bill proposes jail time for unenthusiastic anthem singers

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte (center) before the start of the presidential debate before his election in April 2016. Photo via

By Janie Octia and Joshua Berlinger/CNN – Philippines citizens may need to start exercising their vocal chords.

The country’s House of Representatives has approved a bill requiring members of the public to sing the country’s national anthem, Lupang Hinirang, “with fervor” whenever it is played publicly.

Those who are convicted of violating the proposed law could face public censure, fines between $1,000 to $2,000 and up to a year in prison.

The measure did not define how it would qualify whether or not a citizen sang the anthem with enough fervor.

Some other stipulations in the bill:

All students at public and private schools would be required to memorize the anthem

It should be played in accordance with its original composition, a 2/4 time signature when played instrumentally and a 4/4 time signature when sang. It should be played at a temp between 100 and 120 beats per minute

All people are required to stand and face the flag during the anthem, or the band and conductor if there is no flag.

Casting contempt, dishonor or ridicule upon the national anthem is considered a violation of the law.

The bill, which has to be approved by the Philippines Senate and President before becoming law, does provide a stipulation for those “whose faith or religious beliefs prohibit them from singing the national anthem”: They must “show full respect” and stand at attention.
The goal of the bill is to instill patriotism and respect, Marlyn Alonte, one of the bill’s sponsors, told CNN.

“Some Filipinos don’t even know all the words to the national anthem, Alonte said.
When asked about the penalties, Alonte noted that some of the bill’s provisions — including punishments — could change.

Analysts say that the measure is intended to help stir a sense of nationalism and patriotism. The Philippines is currently mired in a bloody drug war as well as an ongoing battle with ISIS-aligned militants in the south of the country.

Alonte, however, denied that the timing of the bill was relevant.

Other Asian governments have passed similar anthem-related measures in recent years.
India’s Supreme Court ruled last year that movie theaters must play the national anthem before every film, a decision that came shortly after an uptick in violence in Kashmir fueled tensions with longtime adversary Pakistan.

China’s government decreed in 2014 that its national anthem can’t be played at events with an “inappropriate atmosphere” and must be sung in full, with no-one is permitted to start or stop singing midway. Altering the melody, lyrics or musical arrangement is also forbidden.

‘Real problems’

Some Philippines nationals responded with ridicule to the proposed measure on social media.
“Instead of focusing on the Lupang Hinirang (the anthem) and unli rice (unlimited rice at restaurants — a Philippines senator is trying to ban it), why don’t our politicians try to fix real problems like the Metro Manila traffic?” said Julian Mauricio, a resident of Quezon City.

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