My version of a Philippine Assisted Reproductive Technologies Act

Last year, for my Medical Jurisprudence class under Prof. James Dennis Gumpal, LLB, MD, I submitted my version of a bill/proposed law that will regulate the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), such as in vitro fertilization and suurogacy, in the Philippines. The provisions were drafted to protect the child conceived through such technologies. The bill settles issues of parental authority, legitimacy, support, and succession by binding the parents into their contract to use identified ARTs and preventing them from rescinding the contract and disowning the child conceived and born through said technologies.

The law also regulates the donation and use of gametes (reproductive cells) of the participants and penalizes unauthorized use of said cells. The donor of such cells and the surrogate are not considered under this bill as the parents of children conceived and born through ARTs. Finally, this bill prohibits human cloning for reproductive purposes.

The explanatory note and the proposed law itself are below:

 

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Wishlist of features on a Philippine legal resource website

You don’t need to photocopy the SCRA version to read the originals or full text of a case. A lot of websites already provide the decisions of the Philippine Supreme Court, some from 1901, from paid sites like eSCRA, CD Asia, MyLegalWhiz to free sites like ChanRobles, Lawphil, Supra Source, Batas.org, Lawyerly, The Corpus Juris, Digest, and the Supreme Court site itself and its eLibrary.

I use all sites, considering their disadvantages and making full use of their advantages. But there are just some features which I think a Philippine legal resource site, free or not, should have. The most important ones, to my opinion, go first in this list.

1. Shepardize

Merriam-Webster defines “shepardize” as:

to look up (a case citation) in Shepard’s Citations especially in order to check the status of the case, parallel citations, or the use of the case in other jurisdictions

In short, shepardizing means determining whether a case is still “good law”, or if it has been supplanted by more recent laws or cases.

Perhaps a color coding could be used: red if overruled (then indicate if by law or by a case), yellow if inconsistent with another case (ex. if a decision on a case by the First Division is inconsistent with a decision by the Second Division on another case with similar facts), and green if still good law.

Perhaps important paragraphs could also be highlighted using the color scheme I just proposed. Upon clicking or tapping the paragraphs concerned, a box stating the law or case that overruled a certain paragraph would appear.

2. Allowing readers to recommend corrections

Nobody’s perfect. Typing a case from print or copy-pasting from the scanned copy to a text editor will always lead to typos, duplicate paragraphs, misplaced words. The reader can help point out these errors by clicking “Report an error”.

3. Auto-click footnotes

Don’t you hate it if you have to scroll down to look at a footnote, and then scroll up to go back where you paused? You can always use Ctrl + F. But a more elegant solution would be simply to click on the footnote number in the main text to get to the footnote text, and to click the footnote number beside the footnote text to return to the main text.

4. Links to other cases in the text itself

Instead of copying the title of one case cited in another, and then pasting it on a Google search box, it would be easier if the case titles themselves link to those cases. For example if X vs. Y cites A vs. B, clicking “A vs. B” would lead to the full text of A vs. B.

5. Cases cited in and cited by

eSCRA has this feature. The left side of the screen shows the list of cases cited in one case, and the list of cases citing that case in return.

6. Allowing searches by case title, case number and/or SCRA citation at the same time, with suggestions if none found

Most legal sites allow only searching by case title. eSCRA allows searching by case number, SCRA citation, or case title, but not all at the same time. Worse, there are no suggestions if no search results are displayed.

7. Laws as amended with feature to look at how law evolved

Supra Source contains this feature but I can no longer use it because I can’t use my Facebook account to log in to that site. Clicking the letter “H” shows previous versions of a provision or law. For example, I can see how Article 302 of the Labor Code on retirement pay evolved from RA 7641 up to RA 10757.

8. Philippine legal dictionary

This can work either as a list from A to Z like this site or through links in the text of a case. For example, clicking the term “Ubi lex non distinguit, nec nos distinguere debemus” would display a box stating the definition “When the law does not distinguish, we must not distinguish.”

9. Auto-generate case citations

Clicking a box generates “A vs. B, G.R. No. 123456, January 1, 2019″.

10. Summary of new laws

This can probably go at the home page of the site. Self-explanatory

11. List of topics with list of cases

The topics can be arranged by subjects. Then clicking a topic leads to a list of at least important cases. For example: Remedial Law > Civil Procedure > Service of summons > Manotoc vs. CA, Robinson vs. Miralles

12. CA and CTA decisions

Both the Court of Tax Appeals and Court of Appeals have made their decisions available online. But they are not easily accessible. You’ll need to use their search engine. Perhaps they could be arranged by date decided, just like Supreme Court cases.

13. Fun facts

To spice things up while reading an otherwise boring case, perhaps a box can appear on the right side of a case containing trivia. For example, did you know that the building involved in Manila Lodge No. 761 v. Court of Appeals [G.R. No. L-41001, September 30, 1976] is now the Museo Pambata?

14. Reference to page of SCRA version

Take a look at Brown vs. Board of Education at Justia. Ever wondered what “[489]” means? That’s the page number of the hard copy where the paragraphs above it appeared.

What features do you want to appear on a legal resource website? Which of the ones listed here are more important to you? Which of these features would appear next on a legal resource site? Let me know and I’ll edit my post accordingly.

Because of TRAIN, Has the Commissioner of Internal Revenue Lost the Power to Inquire into Bank Deposit Accounts and Other Related Information Held by Financial Institutions, Accredit and Register Tax Agents, and Prescribe Additional Procedural or Documentary Requirements?

Section 4 of RA 10963 (TRAIN Law) reads:

Section 4. Section 6 of the NIRC, as amended, is hereby further amended to read as follows:

Sec. 6. Power of the Commissioner to Make Assessments and Prescribe Additional Requirements for Tax Administration and Enforcement.—

“(A) Examination of Returns and Determination of Tax Due.— After a return has been filed as required under the provisions of this Code, the Commissioner or his duly authorized representative may authorize the examination of any taxpayer and the assessment of the correct amount of tax, notwithstanding any law requiring the prior authorization of any government agency or instrumentality: Providedhowever, That failure to file a return shall not prevent the Commissioner from authorizing the examination of any taxpayer.

“x x x

“x x x

“(B) x x x

“(C) x x x

“(D) x x x

“(E) Authority of the Commissioner to Prescribe Real Property Values.— The Commissioner is hereby -authorized to divide the Philippines into different zones or areas and shall, upon mandatory consultation with competent appraisers both from the private and public sectors, and with prior notice to affected taxpayers, determine the fair market value af real properties located in each zone or area, subject to automatic adjustment once every three (3) years through rules and regulations issued by the Secretary of Finance based on the current Philippine valuation standards: Provided, That no adjustment in zonal valuation shall be valid unless published in a newspaper of general circulation in the province, city or municipality concerned, or in the absence thereof, shall be posted in the provincial capitol, city or municipal hall and in two (2) other conspicuous public places therein: Providedfurther, That the basis of any valuation, including the records of consultations done, shall be public records open to the inquiry of any taxpayer. For purposes of computing any internal revenue tax, the value of the property shall be, whichever is the higher of:

“(1) the fair market value as determined by the Commissioner; or

“(2) the fair market value as shown in the schedule of values of the Provincial and City Assessors.”

There is no indication that there are other portions of Section 6 after item (E). Thus, does this mean that the following portions of Section 6 after item (E) have been deleted?

(F) (As amended by RA 10021) Authority of the Commissioner to Inquire into Bank Deposit Accounts and Other Related information held by Financial Institutions. – Notwithstanding any contrary provision of Republic Act No. 1405, Republic Act No. 6426, otherwise known as the Foreign Currency Deposit Act of the Philippines, and other general or special laws, the Commissioner is hereby authorized to inquire into the bank deposits and other related information held by financial institutions of:

(1) A decedent to determine his gross estate; and

(2) Any taxpayer who has filed an application for compromise of his tax liability under Section 204(A)(2) of this Code by reason of financial incapacity to pay his tax liability.

In case a taxpayer files an application to compromise the payment of his tax liabilities on his claim that his financial position demonstrates a clear inability to pay the tax assessed, his application shall not be considered unless and until he waives in writing his privilege under Republic Act No. 1405, Republic Act No. 6426, otherwise known as the Foreign Currency Deposit Act of the Philippines, or under other general or special laws, and such waiver shall constitute the authority of the Commissioner to inquire into the bank deposits of the taxpayer.

(3) A specific taxpayer or taxpayers subject of a request for the supply of tax information from a foreign tax authority pursuant to an international convention or agreement on tax matters to which the Philippines is a signatory or a party of: Provided, That the information obtained from the banks and other financial institutions may be used by the Bureau of Internal Revenue for tax assessment, verification, audit and enforcement purposes.

In case of a request from a foreign tax authority for tax information held by banks and financial institutions, the exchange of information shall be done in a secure manner to ensure confidentiality thereof under such rules and regulations as may be promulgated by the Secretary of Finance, upon recommendation of the Commissioner.

The Commissioner shall provide the tax information obtained from banks and financial institutions pursuant to a convention or agreement upon request of the foreign tax authority when such requesting foreign tax authority has provided the following information to demonstrate the foreseeable relevance of the information to the request:

(a) The identity of the person under examination or investigation;

(b) A statement of the information being sought, including its nature and the form in which the said foreign tax authority prefers to receive the information from the Commissioner;

(c) The tax purpose for which the information is being sought;

(d) Grounds for believing that the information requested is held in the Philippines or is in the possession or control of a person within the jurisdiction of the Philippines;

(e) To the extent known, the name and address of any person believed to be in possession of the requested information;

(f) A statement that the request is in conformity with the law and administrative practices of the said foreign tax authority, such that if the requested information was within the jurisdiction of the said foreign tax authority then it would be able to obtain the information under its laws or in the normal course of administrative practice and that it is in conformity with a convention or international agreement; and

(g) A statement that the requesting foreign tax authority has exhausted all means available in its own territory to obtain the information, except those that would give rise to disproportionate difficulties.

The Commissioner shall forward the information as promptly as possible to the requesting foreign tax authority. To ensure a prompt response, the Commissioner shall confirm receipt of a request in writing to the requesting tax authority and shall notify the latter of deficiencies in the request, if any, within sixty (60) days from receipt of the request.

If the Commissioner is unable to obtain and provide the information within ninety (90) days from receipt of the request, due to obstacles encountered in furnishing the information or when the bank or financial institution refuses to furnish the information, he shall immediately inform the requesting tax authority of the same, explaining the nature of the obstacles encountered or the reasons for refusal.

The term “foreign tax authority,” as used herein, shall refer to the tax authority or tax administration of the requesting State under the tax treaty or convention to which the Philippines is a signatory or a party of.

(G) Authority to Accredit and Register Tax Agents. – The Commissioner shall accredit and register, based on their professional competence, integrity and moral fitness, individuals and general professional partnerships and their representatives who prepare and file tax returns, statements, reports, protests, and other papers with or who appear before, the Bureau for taxpayers. Within one hundred twenty (120) days from January 1, 1998, the Commissioner shall create national and regional accreditation boards, the members of which shall serve for three (3) years, and shall designate from among the senior officials of the Bureau, one (1) chairman and two (2) members for each board, subject to such rules and regulations as the Secretary of Finance shall promulgate upon the recommendation of the Commissioner.

Individuals and general professional partnerships and their representatives who are denied accreditation by the Commissioner and/or the national and regional accreditation boards may appeal such denial to the Secretary of Finance, who shall rule on the appeal within sixty (60) days from receipt of such appeal. Failure of the Secretary of Finance to rule on the Appeal within the prescribed period shall be deemed as approval of the application for accreditation of the appellant.

(H) Authority of the Commissioner to Prescribe Additional Procedural or Documentary Requirements. – The Commissioner may prescribe the manner of compliance with any documentary or procedural requirement in connection with the submission or preparation of financial statements accompanying the tax returns.

The general coverage of the Retirement Pay Law (RA 7941) is broad enough to encompass all private sector employees

In De La Salle Araneta University vs. Bernardo [G.R. No. 190809, February 13, 2017], the Supreme Court ruled:

Republic Act No. 7641 states that “any employee may be retired upon reaching the retirement age x x x;” and “[i]n case of retirement, the employee shall be entitled to receive such retirement benefits as he may have earned under existing laws and any collective bargaining agreement and other agreements.” The Implementing Rules provide that Republic Act No. 7641 applies to “all employees in the private sector, regardless of their position, designation or status and irrespective of the method by which their wages are paid, except to those specifically exempted x x x.” And Secretary Quisumbing’s Labor Advisory further clarifies that the employees covered by Republic Act No. 7641 shall “include part-time employees, employees of service and other job contractors and domestic helpers or persons in the personal service of another.”

The only exemptions specifically identified by Republic Act No. 7641 and its Implementing Rules are: (1) employees of the National Government and its political subdivisions, including government-owned and/or controlled corporations, if they are covered by the Civil Service Law and its regulations; and (2) employees of retail, service and agricultural establishments or operations regularly employing not more than 10 employees.

Based on Republic Act No. 7641, its Implementing Rules, and Secretary Quisumbing’s Labor Advisory, Bernardo, as a part-time employee of DLS-AU, is entitled to retirement benefits. The general coverage of Republic Act No. 7641 is broad enough to encompass all private sector employees, and part-time employees are not among those specifically exempted from the law. The provisions of Republic Act No. 7641 and its Implementing Rules are plain, direct, unambiguous, and need no further elucidation. Any doubt is dispelled by the unequivocal statement in Secretary Quisumbing’s Labor Advisory that Republic Act No. 7641 applies to even part-time employees.

Under the rule of statutory construction of expressio unius est exclusio alterius, Bernardo’s claim for retirement benefits cannot be denied on the ground that he was a part-time employee as part-time employees are not among those specifically exempted under Republic Act No. 7641 or its Implementing Rules.