If you find yourself here before having read the other part of this 2-part article, kindly click here. This way you can read the article in the order of presentation in which it was intended. Having gotten that out of the way, let’s jump back in!
Fourth, Money changing hands
They say “money is the root of all evil.” This advice is really not very useful advice. Money just sitting in your pocket is not going to cause anyone problems. However, when money leaves you or you expect to receive money from someone else, now that’s an opportunity for evil to occur.
Now I am not saying that you ring up a lawyer every time you pop in to a 7-11. I am however saying that anyone with a reasonable degree of foresight can see themselves transacting with amounts of money that they are not accustomed to dealing in. For your purposes, let’s break this down into the voluntary and the involuntary.
I have given myself the task of compressing all the different scenarios under the law into easily recalled phrases and supplying advice that should work in all or most of what can occur in the scenario contemplated. For your purposes, a voluntary transaction is anytime you decide to get paid/pay someone for a good or service.
If you are middle class in the Philippines, you got there in one of two ways: you worked your butt off or you inherited a business/property. There is nothing to be ashamed of in either case. However, Filipinos in general are not very well informed with money. Do not get me wrong. There is a prudence associated with the handling of money, but very little experience. This is nobody’s fault, prosperity in the Philippines is a novel thing.
So there you are, perhaps you’re thinking to yourself about buying your first house? Or maybe selling your car? A surprising number of people treat this transaction like a trip to 7-11. They take/give the money and give/take the keys. This can be a problem for one of a number of reasons. In the case of the car, there are repercussions to leaving your name as the registered owner if an accident occurs. In the case of the house, this is land we are talking about. There are legal requirements that need to be taken care of before it can formally be owned by someone else.
Everyone buys cars using auto loans. This is a common occurrence. However, less people are aware that if you decide to sell said car while it is still being paid off you have just committed a crime.
Art. 319. Removal, sale or pledge of mortgaged property. – The penalty or arresto mayor or a fine amounting to twice the value of the property shall be imposed upon:
1. Any person who shall knowingly remove any personal property mortgaged under the Chattel Mortgage Law to any province or city other than the one in which it was located at the time of the execution of the mortgage, without the written consent of the mortgagee, or his executors, administrators or assigns.
2. Any mortgagor who shall sell or pledge personal property already pledged, or any part thereof, under the terms of the Chattel Mortgage Law, without the consent of the mortgagee written on the back of the mortgage and noted on the record hereof in the office of the Register of Deeds of the province where such property is located.Revised Penal Code
If you buy or sell a car on credit, it is registered under something called a Chattel Mortgage. So wherever the car goes, it is accountable for the loan that it was bought with. The reason why the law punishes the conduct of selling the property or removing it from the location indicated is because this conduct seriously impairs the car’s ability to serve as security for the loan.
So we’ve identified that when you buy or sell something rather large in value, this is definitely an opportunity for a lawyer to step in. There is definitely some discretion though. Whether or not you call a lawyer, as a general rule, will have a lot to do with the reputation of the person you are talking to. Buying a car from a reputable dealership? Unless you want his opinion on the price, a lawyer probably wouldn’t be able to help you. Buying a car from an online advertisement? Might be good to have a lawyer draw up the paperwork.
Buying a condominium from a well known developer? I think the reviews given by other buyers would be more useful than a lawyer’s advice. Buying land from someone who “really needs the money”? Definitely get a lawyer to look over the proof of ownership and get him to register the sale for you as well. A definite red flag in the sale of land is someone who vacillates between having the tax declaration and having a TCT. Those documents are not interchangeable.
Another kind of transaction that people tend not to put so much though into is investing. The things I could say in order to prevent anything unfortunate from happening to your money could fill an article on its own. It’s a good thing I wrote one here. In brief though, I say that if you 1. Do not understand the investment you are buying, or 2. Do not control the investment you are buying, you probably shouldn’t buy it. It seems so obvious you might say, well it’s always obvious until it happens to someone you know.
I’m very sure you’re wondering what kind of transaction a person could engage in that would be involuntary. I’ll give you a hint…
Death is something that happens to everyone and so, in life, we will all have the misfortune of seeing the ones we love pass away. We can be forgiven for mourning, but we can only blame ourselves if the estate becomes expensive and difficult to settle because we took too long.
The job of a lawyer, because Filipinos so often do not leave a will, could be very simple on the night that is most difficult for the family. The night of the wake. This is because everyone who is interested in the estate is there. While I am not suggesting that you do anything but remember the life of the person who has passed away on that night, I think a very prudent thing to do is to at least bring up how you can all “get the ball rolling” on settling the estate. A good idea, assuming everyone is still on speaking terms, would be to choose a point person to handle the estate settlement and do the rounds to get everyone’s signatures when it has been prepared.
Every lawyer in the Philippines has horror stories of the family that waited too long to settle its estate. It can happen sometimes you need to get signatures of over 30 people (or more) in order to dispose of one solitary plot of land. This happens because if an heir dies he transfers his share to his living descendants.
Fifth, Administrative Agencies
If you cast your memory back to high school. You’ll remember yourself trying to memorize lists of things in preparation for exams. You may also recall the common experience of one of the things on those lists becoming harder to recall than the others. If this list was going to be on an exam, this is the entry you would struggle to remember.
Administrative agencies are basically everything in the governments not under the courts or congress. They are your BIR, DoLE, NBI, SSS, PhilHealth, HDMF, DSWD and so on and so forth. This is the area of the law where a lawyer’s response to your troubles will most likely be “I don’t know, but I can find out.” This is not because the lawyer was lazy in law school mind you. This is because while the lawyer may have a good grasp of dealing with Tax Law, Tax Authorities are not as easily comprehended. Collection Officer’s and their equivalents in the various Administrative Agencies are often buried in work and cannot afford the time it takes for a lawyer to make his case. (This is more an indictment of the conditions and tools we put at the disposal of our civil service members than anything else.) This makes it hard for a lawyer to come in with just the black letter law and be able to obtain a solution.
There is one thing that I would advise though to avoid trouble. Make sure your registered address is up to date! Administrative agencies are in the habit of mailing notices of delinquencies and/or issues that you have with them well in advance of them doing anything about it. It is good for you because it gives you ample opportunity to settle any issues well before they become full blown problems. However, it is also very good for administrative agencies because, if for whatever reason, you do not settle these issues with them, they can claim hefty surcharges and the interest that has accrued during all the time you watched Netflix at home. If your business is registered in one location, and then moves. It suddenly becomes a lot easier to become ignorant of your degrading relationship with the SSS and, much like a scorned lover, you will regret it thoroughly.
If you aren’t sure about the precise nature of your relationships/obligation to the Administrative Agency this is a situation where a lawyer can make things clear for you. If you have more than one Administrative Agency vying for your attention, a lawyer would know which one to prioritize. If you are truly at a loss because you feel you have been treated unfairly, it may be a sign that you need to go to court for a fair shake. A lawyer using the Rules of Court to their fullest effect, can ensure that his case (more accurately your case) is heard in its entirety.
In any event, you need not fear Administrative agencies. They are relatively more lenient than the courts or cops. Which reminds me…
Sixth, Courts and Cops
There are situations where it is not your decision whether or not to call a lawyer. This is the entry that is perhaps the easiest to remember of all of them. Because if it happens to you, they will tell you to call a lawyer.
You would be surprised though at the number of people who when receiving process directly from the court wait too long before calling a lawyer. The recent amendment to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure are heavily going to penalize this kind of behavior. This is because, simplifying greatly, lawyers are now required to show up to court with most everything they need to conduct trial. This means delaying that phone call to your lawyer is going to hurt the amount of time he has to prepare for trial. This is bad for your case.
I understand why this can occur though. People don’t often know who they can approach with their problems. In the Philippines we take having to go to court as a shameful thing. These two things combined often delay that phone call to a lawyer for a few precious days. However, this is not the time to get bogged down in self-pity, it is a time for action. Do whatever you need to do to get in touch with a lawyer as soon as possible.
Don’t be afraid of lawyers either, they are people just like you. If they don’t take your case, it’s OK. There is an element of matchmaking to the process of finding the right lawyer. Also, every lawyer will have a network he can reach into and pull out a recommendation for you.
I want to approach this topic with as much delicacy as possible considering that policing both here and abroad is a very hot topic. I will focus my discussion on what to do if you find yourself in the unfortunate scenario. Let’s start with the fact that getting arrested is a very serious legal event in a person’s life. Hopefully you are reading this well in advance of any encounters with the police so that what is said here will be most useful to you.
If you are arrested, you will know in one of two ways: First, the policeman will inform you or, Second, you will have been arrested as will become evident by the policeman putting his hands on you. Now regardless of whether or not you think you did anything wrong, at the point in time you are being arrested, the policeman thinks you did something wrong. You can give them your name, they are allowed to search you and will be able to get that from the ID in your wallet anyway. Be polite. Be courteous. If they start asking questions about where you were, who you were with, what you were just doing, just excuse yourself from responding. What would be ideal is that you retain the composure to be able to respond with a calm and collected “I invoke my right to remain silent.” I cannot however predict what the conditions of your arrest may be or the emotional and mental state you may be in at the time. Claim fear. Claim a panic-attack. Do not give them anymore information than they had at the moment they arrested you.
The first opportunity you have, you are going to need a lawyer. It does not matter who. It does not matter if they are too important to bother. You need to get a lawyer. To highlight the importance of this, once you have a lawyer actively working on your arrest, it is only a matter of time till you get out. It is only in the most flagrant violations of the law that prolonged detention from the time of arrest is a real possibility. An example would be the police burst through the door to find you clutching a bloody knife standing over a fresh cadaver. A scenario to watch out for though is getting arrested on a Friday night, generally speaking, you would have to spend the weekend in jail.
In law school we had endless lists to memorize. A trick we used to get by was mnemonic devices. I’ll leave you with one: BIG-MAC. (It was hard to make the listacle format work with CHAMP. Sorry Jolibee.)
- Bodily Harm or Substantial Damage/Loss of Income
- Intimidation of a Grave Character
- Getting in to or out of Marriage
- Money Changing Hands
- Administrative Agencies
- Courts and Cops
If your situation does not fall into the above, there’s a good chance you really just need a friend to talk to. If your situation falls into one of the above situations, I strongly suggest seeing a lawyer. I hope you enjoyed the article and I sincerely hope you never need any of the advice I gave you!