Philippines Still in Dog House

Philippines Still in Dog House for Pulling Troops From Iraq: is my Arab News column for today.

Amend the flag law – is my PDI column for today. This column makes reference to Republic Act 8491 or the “Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines,” which I often use as an example of a badly, and ignorantly, written law.

Section 2 of the law contains the following as the objective of the law: SECTION 2. Declaration of policy. – Reverence and respect shall at all times be accorded the flag, the anthem, and other national symbols which embody the national ideals and traditions and which express the principles of sovereignty and national solidarity. The heraldic items and devices shall seek to manifest the national virtues and to inculcate in the minds and hearts of our people a just pride in their native land, fitting respect and affection for the national flag and anthem, and the proper use of the national motto, coat-of-arms and other heraldic items and devices.

Chapter I, B, Sec. SECTION 14. says, A flag worn out through wear and tear, shall not be thrown away. It shall be solemnly burned to avoid misuse or desecration. The flag shall be replaced immediately when it begins to show signs of wear and tear.


SECTION 15. The flag shall be raised at sunrise and lowered at sunset. It shall be on the mast at the start of official office hours, shall remain flying throughout the day.

As I point out in my column, the mass display of the flag around the presidential palace, on Manila’s bridges, and in various offices makes the following and enforcement of these provisions absolutely impossible.

The law even has contradictions, such as the following:

Chapter 1, C, SECTION 18. All government offices and educational institutions shall henceforth observe the flag-raising ceremony every Monday morning and the flag lowering ceremony every Friday afternoon. The ceremony shall be simple and dignified and shall include the playing or singing of the Philippine National Anthem.

But then CHAPTER II THE NATIONAL ANTHEM, in SECTION 36. The National Anthem shall always be sung in the national language within or without the country…

SECTION 37. The rendition of the National Anthem, whether played or sung, shall be in accordance with the musical arrangement and composition of Julian Felipe.

SECTION 38. When the National Anthem is played at a public gathering, whether by a band or by singing or both, or reproduced by any means, the attending public shall sing the anthem. The singing must be done with fervor…

SECTION 39. All officials and employees of the national and local government, and any agency or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations, privately-owned entities or offices displaying the national flag and government institutions of learning are hereby directed to comply strictly with the rules prescribed for the rendition of the anthem. Failure to observe the rules shall be a ground for administrative discipline.

An example of how sloppily the law was written is that it has been the law of the land that only the Julian Felipe is authorized since the Commonwealth. It was one of the earlier Commonwealth Acts enacted by the National Assembly.

What are the contradictions here? The national anthem must be sung, and only sung “with fervor” ( how do you enforce that?), yet there are provisions for the playing of the anthem, that is, to perform it in its original instrumental version. So which is it? Since the government can only regulate public occasions and performances, obviously the law applies to public events, which means there is no optional instrumental playing of the anthem only, is there? And yet in its confused and confusing provisions, the law goes into detail as to how instrumental performances should be done.

As for my criticisms of the lack of enforcement of standards for the manufacture of the flag, here are the relevant provisions:

H. Specifications of the National Flag

SECTION 27. The flag shall have the following proportions. The width of the flag, 1; the length of the flag, 2; and the sides of the white triangle, 1.

SECTION 28. The technical specifications shall be as follows: The blue color shall bear Cable No. 80173; the white color, Cable No. 80001; the red color, Cable No. 80108; and the golden yellow, Cable No. 80068.

SECTION 29. In order to establish uniform criteria in the making of our national flag and to guarantee its durability by the use of quality materials, the following standards and procedures shall be observed:

a) All requisitions for the purchase of the Philippine National Flag must be based on strict compliance with the design, color, craftsmanship and material requirements of the Government;

b) All submitted samples of flags by accredited suppliers offered for purchase for government use shall be evaluated as to design, color and craftsmanship specifications by the Institute, through its Heraldry and Display Section, which shall stamp its approval or disapproval on the canvass reinforcement of the flag sample submitted. The samples shall be sent to the Institute by the requisitioning office, not by the flag supplier; and

c) The Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) or the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) shall evaluate the quality of material of all flag samples and certify whether the fabric for the blue, white, red and golden yellow colors, including the canvas submitted, conforms to government requirement as to quality of the material. The samples shall be sent annually to the ITDI/PTRI by the manufacturer. The laboratory test results shall be submitted by the said office to the Institute.

SECTION 30. All deliveries of the flags requisitioned by the government shall be inspected by the requisitioning agency’s internal inspector and by the Commission on Audit (COA) using the flag stamped approved by the Institute as reference.

SECTION 31. In carrying out its responsibilities under Section 4 hereof, the Institute, COA, the ITDI/PTRI shall prepare guidelines to be approved by the Office of the President.

SECTION 32. All government agencies and instrumentalities shall ensure that the requirements under this Act with respect to the standards, requisitions and delivery of the national flag are strictly complied with.

SECTION 33. All departments, agencies, offices, and instrumentalities of the government, government-owned or controlled corporations, local government units, including barangays, shall include in their annual budgets the necessary outlay for the purchase of the national flag.

What are the “cable colors” referred to in Section 28? They are standard color reference samples provided and used by the textile industry, and made by the Textile Color Card Association of the United States. Its various editions contains swatches of colors that are used as references for fabrics. You can see an example of Cable color swatches here. A good summary of the history of such references is here. Today, the Color Association of the United States maintains the publication of standards, the ones relevant to our discussion being in the Color Standards publications.

At the time I worked in government, neither the Department of Trade or Industry, or the Office of the President of the Philippines, had the edition (I believe the 9th or 10th) whose standards were referred to by RA 8491 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations. The National Historical Institute neither confirmed nor denied possessing the book; but what one flag manufacturer did confirm to me verbally was that regardless of the actual colors mandated by Sec. 28, it was impossible to make Philippine flags in those colors in nylon. The DTI claimed jurisdiction on the matter regardless of the provisions of the law placing authority in the hands of both the NHI and the Department of Science and Technology.

What was curious is that the Color Association of the United States specifications don’t seem to be popular among Filipino textile manufacturers or designers, at least this is what I understood from conversations with Patis Tesoro. Graphic designers and printers and people in publishing are more familiar with the Pantone Formula Guide and eventually, this more widely-used “language” for colors is what we had to resort to in efforts to come up with graphic standards (after all: the flag is not just made of cloth, it is reproduced in print and on the world wide web; how should its legally-defined colors be represented in these media?). Flag enthusiasts and experts (Vexillogists) agonize over such things; and it was with their help that a kind of rough approximation for print was arrived at.

The global site for many flag enthusiasts is Flags of the World. The entry on the Philippines is here. In this section you can read of the equivalents we arrived at:

From the document, “Comparative Appearance, Measurements and Color of the Flag of the Philippines” (obtained by Juan Manuel Villascán in the Philippines embassy in Mexico City); Pantone and CMYK values from Album des Pavillons (2000); RGB values from Daniel Broh-Kahn:

Color Blue White Red Golden Yellow
Cable No. 80173 80001 80108 80068
Pantone equivalent 286c n.a. 193c 122c
CMYK values C100-M60-Y0-K5 n.a. C0-M90-Y65-K10 C0-M18-Y85-K0
RGB values 4-28-67 255-255-255 222-22-43 255-48-40

The cable number corresponds to the definitive color defined in America, 10th edition, Color Association of the US. These are the current, 1998 specifications mandated by law…

The above color list is slightly different from the one I arrived at, in consulation with the editor of the Album des Pavillons (a world reference on flags published by the French Navy), who said they made some errors in the first list of colors quoted above. To get an idea of what, most likely, is the proper shade of blue of the flag, look at this image, which shows the presidential seal. This is painted in the closest approximation, in paint, to the real blue of the Philippine flag as mandated by law:

Image is from
These links and facts indicate how complicated and yet how simple the law, its implementation, and its provisions should be, but how they’re complicated by sloppy writing and reading and a lack of knowledge on the part of those putting the law together (who failed to take into account the real world).

There’s more, but that’s for a future column. There is a grave defect in the provision on the national coat of arms, on the great seal of the Republic, and other things.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

6 thoughts on “Philippines Still in Dog House

  1. I’ve also read your column in the Inquriter and I applaud you for your enthusiasm on this
    regard. We seem to have neglected this aspect of our culture and heritage. Yes, I agree totally
    with your observations. The framers of the law have neglected a lot of things to consider before
    writing it down. It is my understanding that to write a law, it should have a teeth by which it
    can be implemented. Who measures the fervor of singing the national anthem for one thing, huh?
    How would it be measured?

  2. Well, exactly. I can’t imagine a national anthem police requiring people to sing “with fervor” and the punishing them if they don’t.

  3. In my monitor, the seal has a greenish tinge. More like a patina. Is that the real blue required for the flag? Or maybe my monitor needs calibration. OC as I can be, but I understand the Pantone colors even more.

    I used to work at ITDI and I pass by PTRI often. I’ve never seen any flag textile tested.

    It looks like every law we have in the land needs updating. Some crimes even call for fines of only 200 pesos.

    I linked you up. My octogenarian aunties recall your grandfather and grandmother with nostalgia. I’m a Baler native too.

  4. Hi buddy. Thanks. It’s an odd sort of greyish-blue, actually, but the mixtures for the blue are posted, so you can experiment for yourself; best not to trust the naked eye, as monitors can be calibrated in so many ways.

    Thanks for the information on the PTRI! That’s very helpful. And yes, instead of passing so many new laws, a general review of our laws is needed. I’m a big believer in consolidating information.

    Cool website! So you grew up in Baler??

  5. I’m not sure if growing up is the right word. I was born in Baler but I studied in Manila since grade school. Used to go during summer vacation. Haven’t been there for a long time again, though.

  6. I am a police officer presently on schooling at PPSC and I also refered to this BLOG for the research given to us by our instructor from the ombudman. I have not yet read the contents as i only dowloaded this (with the full law) from an internet shop so i can tranfer it to my computer at home to look into it.
    Anyways TY and il give my feedback asap. Just want to say that im fan of yours way back from your guesting stints at ANC and up to now that you host your own programs like the explainer. You have definitely widen the horizon of your viewers. More power.

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