Monday, October 22, 2012

Proposed bill (01): Requiring the publication of laws, deeds, orders, notices, etc. on the Internet instead of newspapers, and creating a government office and website for this purpose

The publication in newspapers of laws, deeds, orders, notices, issuances, etc. is required by our Republic Acts, the Rules of Court, rules and regulations of government offices like the SEC, POEA, Insurance Commission, among others. Examples of matters required to be published in newspapers are:

  • Deeds of extrajudicial settlement of estate before they can be filed with the BIR or the Register of Deeds;

  • Laws, before they can become effective under Article 2 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 200;

  • Notices of dissolution of corporations as required by the Securities and Exchange Commission;

  • Court orders on a petition for adoption under RA 8552, petition for issuance of a duplicate copy of a certificate of title in case of loss, etc.;

  • Annual listing by the Department of Health of drugs and their generic names under Section 37 of RA 9502 Cheaper Medicines Act of 2008, and order of the President of the Philippines imposing maximum retail prices on drugs and medicines under Section 30; and

  • Notice of sale of delinquent properties by the various LGUs.

Privately owned newspapers have been generating tremendous revenues from the publication of these notices, orders, deeds, etc. One woman told me that she paid more than Php 50,000.00 for the publication of the court order in her petition for adoption. Some newspapers charge by the line or by column inch. To maximize their revenues, these newspapers often print the orders and notices in very small font size. Some newspapers exist solely to earn money through the publication of these orders and notices. I handled two cases where the required publication was done (through a raffle conducted by the Office of the Clerk of Court) in newspapers whose offices were located in a rundown building and a residential house.

Some unscrupulous individuals choose to publish deeds, orders, etc. in small newspapers. Examples of these individuals are heirs who want to defraud other heirs, and business owners who publish their companies’ notice of dissolution in these small newspapers in order to escape their liabilities to creditors.

This proposed bill seeks to create a government office that will maintain a website where these laws, notices, orders, deeds, etc. will be published instead of in newspapers. The advantages of creating this government office and website are:
  1. Revenues from the publication of these laws, notices, orders, deeds, etc. will go to the national government instead of a few, privately-owned newspapers.

  2. Previously, Article 2 NCC provided that laws to become effective must first be published in the Official Gazette (published by the National Printing Office). PD No. 200 amended Art. 2 back in 1987, noting that the Official Gazette is published erratically and has limited readership; on the other hand, newspapers of general circulation are more easily available, come out regularly, and have a wider readership.

    That was in 1987. Publication in newspapers of general circulation has now become outdated in view of the worldwide reach and easy availability of the Internet. According to the Internet World Stats website, as of last year, 29,700,000 Filipinos (or nearly 30% of the total population) use the Internet. According to a 2008 study by Yahoo! and Nielsen, more Filipinos, especially the younger population, are favoring the Internet, more than television and print. Readership of newspapers showed a decline from 19 to 15 percent between 2007 and 2008. Magazine readership also went down from 16 percent in 2007 to just seven percent in 2008. (As you may have read, the iconic Newsweek Magazine is now a completely online magazine.)

  3. The legal costs for the public – litigants, applicants, etc. – will be drastically reduced. The government office and website will create jobs for computer programmers, encoders, etc. Notaries-public can also be employed to issue the required affidavit of publication.

  4. Anyone in the world can easily check whose estate is being extra-judicially settled, what corporation is being dissolved, and so on. The website can be designed so that these orders, notices, issuances, etc. can be posted, cross-referenced and archived in various ways – alphabetically, chronologically, topically, and geographically.

The government office can be created as an (1) independent office, or (2) attached agency under the Office of the President or the Department of Justice.

Notes:

(1) The Philippine government portal is www.gov.ph. The portal, under PNoy’s administration, has been renamed and redesigned as the “Official Gazette”. Using this name creates confusion; some people think that the Official Gazette mentioned in Article 2 NCC and in PD No. 200 is no longer a print publication. But instead of creating a new website, the Philippine government portal can be used as the website where laws, orders, notices, issuances, etc. are published.

(2) Some court orders are published in newspapers of general circulation. For example, when a respondent in a declaration of nullity of marriage case cannot be located by the court sheriff, the Family Court orders that the petition be published in a newspaper.

Our 1987 Constitution gives the Supreme Court authority to issue rules for legal practice and pleading. My suggestion is for the Supreme Court to require orders, notices, summons, etc. of lower courts to be published in its website, rather than in privately-owned newspapers. This will generate revenue for the Supreme Court and at the same time drastically reduce legal costs for litigants.

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