Need legal advice? We’ve got it for you!
Kua Sy & Yeung Law Offices (SKY Law) is a full service law firm based in Ortigas established by Attys. Kurt Yeung, Edson Sy, and Kesterson Kua, all of whom have extensive legal experience over the years. Last August, we asked you to send over your legal-related questions to us as part of the Sky’s The Limit segment, and the lawyers of SKY Law have gladly answered them below!
ON FAMILY INHERITANCE
I’m part of a very traditional Chinese family where sons are prioritized over daughters. My mom died over 20 years ago and my dad just recently passed away, without leaving a will.
My brothers banned me from the family business and didn’t give me my share in the inheritance. They forced me to release all the money that was in my name and that of my father’s. They also began to spread rumors to discredit me. They secretly recorded me in my own house and spread this manipulated recording to ruin my reputation. What are my options?
SKYLAW: You are entitled to a share in the inheritance. Legitimate children succeed their parents regardless of sex or age (Article 979 of the Philippine Civil Code). If your brothers executed an extrajudicial settlement of estate, you can contest that document and have it declared void and without effect. Rule 74 of the Rules of Court declares that an extrajudicial settlement does not bind persons who did not participate in it or have no notice of it.
As for spreading rumors to discredit you, we have defamation laws that you could use –libel or slander. For the unauthorized recordings, you could sue for violation of your privacy. The unauthorized recording could fall under unauthorized processing of your personal data under the Data Privacy Act. If private conversations were recorded, it may fall under The Anti-Wire Tapping Act. If you were video-recorded naked, it will be a violation of the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009.
ON IDENTITY CHANGE ON FORMAL DOCUMENTS FOR A TRANSGENDER
If I have successfully changed my name, how do I go about changing my name in all my legal documents and government IDs?
SKYLAW: You have to apply with the specific government agency and submit the proper requirements. For example, for SSS you need to accomplish the Member Data Change Request. You may be asked to submit documents that will support the change in name, such as the annotated birth certificate.
How do I change my gender officially, in my birth certificate? Do I need a gender-affirming surgery to change the gender marker on my ID?
SKYLAW: If it’s a clerical error, you can file a verified petition with the city or municipal civil registrar where your birth certificate is registered. Verified means it is under oath.
What if you’ve undergone a gender-affirming surgery, could you change your sex in your birth certificate because of the surgery? Unfortunately, no. This was made clear in Silverio v Republic of the Philippines. The Supreme Court said that “a birth certificate is a historical record of the facts as they existed at the time of birth. Thus, the sex of a person is determined at birth, visually done by the birth attendant (the physician or midwife) by examining the genitals of the infant. Considering that there is no law legally recognizing sex reassignment, the determination of a person’s sex made at the time of his or her birth, if not attended by error, is immutable.” Currently, the only recognized exception to this rule are intersex individuals whose genders are determined at maturity and not at birth.
As for the ID, is it government or private-issued? For privately issued IDs, please talk to your company HR.
ON TAX LAWS
What are the tax laws in the Philippines?
SKYLAW: There are three basic tax laws to be mindful of in the Philippines. They are:
the National Internal Revenue Code (Republic Act No. 8424, and related amendments such as Republic Act No. 10963) which governs national taxes handled by the Bureau of Internal Revenue;
the local tax ordinances passed by local government units (which are all governed by the tax provisions of the Local Government Code/Republic Act No. 7160) which governs local taxes; and
the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (Republic Act No. 10863) which governs customs and importation duties handled by the Bureau of Customs.
Other than these three, there are of course several special tax laws that govern particular instances such as those that provide tax incentives (e.g. Special Economic Zone Act & Omnibus Investments Code), or those that impose special taxes such as travel tax.
Who are qualified for tax exemptions?
SKYLAW: If we’re talking about purely income tax, then the following are exempt under the National Internal Revenue Code: general professional partnerships, intercorporate dividends, non-profit corporations enumerated in Section 30 of the National Internal Revenue Code, the income of aliens and non-resident citizens from outside the Philippines, compensation income of minimum wage earners, insurance proceeds and premium returns, retirement benefits and pensions, separation pay, 13th month pay and other benefits not exceeding PHP90,000.00, gains from the sale of bonds and other certificates of indebtedness with a maturity of more than 5 years, gains from the redemption of shares in a mutual fund company, and interest income from long-term (at least 5 years) deposit or investment in the form of savings, common, or individual trust funds, deposit substitutes, investment management accounts, and other investments certificates in such form as prescribed by the BSP.
ON BUSINESS AND CITIZENSHIP
Can you do business in the Philippines if you’re not a Filipino citizen?
SKYLAW: Generally, non-Filipino citizens can engage in business in the Philippines. However, particular nationalized activities enumerated in the updated Foreign Investment Negative List (Executive Order No. 65, 29 October 2018) are subject to maximum foreign equity requirements. In such instances, non-Filipino citizens can only participate by investing the maximum allowed equity/capital, and occupying the corresponding number of board seats. Under the Anti-Dummy Law, non-Filipino citizens aren’t even allowed to intervene in the management, operation, administration or control of corporations engaged in nationalized activities.
ON REAL ESTATE
Do you really need to surrender your condo unit after 99 years?
SKYLAW: There is no particular period provided under the law for the existence of a condominium unit. A condominium project may continue to exist for as long as it remains tenantable and not dangerous or ruinous, and the owners of the condominium units do not vote to dissolve the condominium corporation.
ON LEGAL SERVICES
Is hiring a lawyer really expensive?
SKYLAW: It’s not as expensive as people think. For those who regularly encounter legal issues or documents for review, such as those who are in business, getting a monthly retainer will often cost just a little more than the monthly minimum wage. It definitely costs a fraction of the cost of employing a lawyer full-time.
Furthermore, initial consultation may not be as expensive as you expect. Though an initial consultation can cost a couple of thousand pesos, depending on the circumstances, it’s possible to get an initial consultation for free. During the initial consultation, a good lawyer will inform you whether it is worth it to pursue a particular course of action or not. You may also ask for a fee estimate during the consultation, though such estimates may not always be accurate.
Keep an eye out for more legal advice from SKY Law through our social media pages and website! To learn more or to consult about SKY Law Offices, head on over to their official website, as well as their Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn pages.