Philippines may get new law: Sing national anthem with spirit or face prison time

Schoolchildren wave flags as they welcome Philippines military chief General Gregorio Catapang Junior as he visits Pagasa Island (Thitu Island) at the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, on May 11, 2015.
Schoolchildren wave flags as they welcome Philippines military chief General Gregorio Catapang Junior as he visits Pagasa Island (Thitu Island) at the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, on May 11, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (NYTIMES) - Filipinos would be required to sing the national anthem when it is played in public - and to do so with enthusiasm - under a Bill that the House of Representatives of the Philippines approved on Monday (June 26).

If the Bill, which will be considered by the Senate, is approved and signed into law, a failure to sing the anthem, "Lupang Hinirang," with sufficient energy would be punishable by up to year in prison and a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 pesos, or about US$1,000 (S$1,372) to US$2,000. A second offence would include both a fine and prison time, and violators would be penalised by "public censure" in a newspaper. "The singing shall be mandatory and must be done with fervour," the bill states.

The law would also mandate the tempo of any public performance of the anthem - it must fall between 100 and 120 beats per minute. Schools would be required to ensure all students have memorised the song.

It's not unusual for a nation to value its national anthem but it is rare for respect to be legally required.

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The Supreme Court in India ruled in November that movie theatres would be required to play the national anthem before screenings, and that moviegoers would be required to stand. Nineteen people were arrested in December after failing to stand in two separate incidents, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The court specified in February it was unnecessary to stand if the anthem was played as part of a film, an issue that arose after reports that people were assaulted for not rising, according to The Times of India.

 
 

In Thailand, the anthem is played at 8am and 6pm each day on loudspeakers in places like schools, offices buildings, parks and train stations. People are expected to stand still and be silent.

Though prosecutions are rare, a Thai man and woman were charged with lèse-majesté - offending the dignity of the monarch - after not standing as the anthem was played in a movie theatre in September 2007, according to the US State Department. The charges, which are punishable by up to 15 years in prison, were dropped in 2012.

Another moviegoer was sentenced to three years in prison under the same law for not standing during the anthem in 2008, according to Prachatai English. Her jail term was cut in half and suspended for two years after she pleaded guilty.

In 2007, Thai lawmakers considered a bill that would require motorists to stop their cars when the anthem was played, but it was not passed.

Last week, Chinese lawmakers drafted laws to restrict where the national anthem can be played and crack down on malicious revisions or derogatory performances, according to The South China Morning Post. Violations would be punishable by up to 15 days in detention.

While there are no binding laws in the United States related to the national anthem, the flag code says people should "stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart" during the national anthem.

If a flag is not present, people "should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed there."

But in 1942, a man and a woman in Chicago were charged with disorderly conduct and fined US$200 each for failing to stand during the anthem at a theatre. They said a picture shown just before the anthem related to war efforts "did not put them in the right mood," The New York Times reported.