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MFBR lawyers and associates care!

In light of the constantly changing social and economic landscape in the world due to COVID-19, everyone at Mallari Fiel Brillante Ronquillo has taken steps to make good our steadfast commitment to serve our clients and our communities.

To this end, we designed a new business model incorporating the traditional “brick and mortar” and “virtual” law offices. This new model is to achieve the continuity of rendering our legal and business consultancy services to clients and friends, and the immediate implementation of our crisis management and business transformation activities.

Thus, we’re glad to announce that for every fortnight, half of our team will be physically present at our offices from Monday thru Friday, 8:00am to 3:00pm. Clients and our friends can reach us through our office phones and online platforms (website, emails, Facebook, LinkedIn, Zoom, etc.). And to ensure the health and safety of our staff, they have the option to be housed in the Firm’s private residence or shuttled back and forth using the company’s private vehicle. Safety protocols are also observed at our offices.

Finally, our team has prepared a series of materials around the impact of COVID-19 and related considerations. Please take time to view our sample articles and research published in our website. A complete listing and discussion of these articles are available in our newsletter to be distributed to our esteemed clients.

Should you have questions, please reach out to our Office Manager, Argie Macawile, at +632 86953395, +63977 8502357; or email our Managing Partner, Atty. Rob Mallari, at mfl@mflegal.com.ph and rpmallari@mflegal.com.ph.

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Archive for June, 2018

You’ve heard the name, but what is it? Attorney Stephanie Tible answers some FAQs on blockchain.

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So, what is “blockchain”?

Well, simply put, it’s a distributed ledger, maintained on a peer-to-peer network, that uses cryptography to secure transactions. It may either be “permissionless/public”(i.e. anyone can join) or permissioned/private” (i.e. membership is restricted; participating parties must be known to each other).

Is it the same as Bitcoin?

No, it is not synonymous with the very popular (some might say notorious!) Bitcoin, which is a cryptocurrency. Blockchain is a distributed ledger that tracks and records transactions, which may involve assets other than cryptocurrencies.

How relevant is blockchain technology now?

Its importance is growing. Industries, such as finance, insurance, health, and legal, among others, are beginning to make use of it. Blockchain technology fosters trust, accountability, and transparency – factors that individuals and business entities consider in their daily transactions – while potentially decreasing transaction costs by doing away with a middleman, a centralized authority, or a trusted third party. This means that parties on a network may securely transact directly with each other.

In what ways can blockchain be used in the legal industry?

Well, traditionally, parties execute a written contract containing the terms and conditions of their agreement. With blockchain, however, parties may enter into what computer scientist Nick Szabo calls a “smart contract”, an agreement that contains self-executing clauses, and facilitates, verifies, or enforces the negotiation of a legal contract. This set-up may lessen the possibility of litigation since blockchain ensures that the participating parties must first accomplish their side of the obligation (e.g. Party A will only get his/her payment upon providing X service to Party B. If Party A reneges on his/her obligation, Party B’s funds revert to or remain with him/her.)

And then there’s Property Rights. Immutability is one of the important features of blockchain. Once a transaction is recorded therein, the data remains on the block and is shared among all participants. Thus, ownership of property and all transactions made in relation thereto may be recorded in the blockchain. Any changes made will be easily verifiable. So with respect to real property, disputes may be reduced. As to intellectual property rights, determining a certain product’s authenticity may be done by referring to the blockchain.

So, what does the Philippine government say about blockchain technology?

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are the regulatory agencies whose stance holds relevance with respect to blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Said agencies seem to be open to new innovation and are in constant dialogue with key players. On the other hand, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) appears to be silent (at least as of this posting) on the specific tax consequences of blockchain transactions.

Whatever the situation now, there will undoubtedly be more to say on the subject in the months and years to come. Watch this space!

The Law Firm of Mallari Fiel Brillante Ronquillo


Expecting a child? Attorney Jasmin Fiel-Samson looks at maternity leave entitlements

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They say that it takes an entire village to raise a child. As a first time mom, now more than ever I begin to understand the truth behind this saying. It is recognized in almost all parts of the world that parents need time to bond with and raise a child. Currently, here in the Philippines, after giving birth mothers are given maternity leave of 60 or 78 days depending on whether the birth was a vaginal delivery, or through a C-section. The said leave is with pay. It must be noted though that our country has the lowest number of paid maternity leave days in Southeast Asia, well below the 98-day recommendation of the International Labor Organization (ILO). Vietnam offers 180 days, while Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia offer 90 days of maternity leave. On the other hand, the father of the newborn child here in the Philippines is given paternity leave to bond and take care of his newborn child along with his wife. Said paternity leave is also with pay but lasts for seven days only. Bonding with the new-born child, especially during these first few months, is of paramount importance to both parents. Hopefully, the House of Representatives will finally approve and pass the counterpart bill of Senate Bill (SB) No. 1305 or the Expanded Maternity Leave Act. It has been a year since SB 1305 was passed in the Senate. Then it will still have to undergo a bicameral committee hearing before a final proposal is submitted for the Philippine president’s signature. The Expanded Maternity Leave Act has the following salient features:
  • All female workers, regardless of civil status or ‘legitimacy’ of their child, shall be granted 120 days maternity leave with pay and an option to extend it for another 30 days without pay.
  • If the mother qualifies as a solo parent under R.A. 8972 she shall be granted a total of 150 days maternity leave with pay.
  • Fathers would also benefit from the measure if passed into law, as it seeks to grant them 30 days of leave – more than the allowed 7 days of paid leave under Republic Act 7322.
  • Under the bill, 30 of the 120 days can be transferred to alternate caregivers, such as the spouse, common-law partner, and relative up to the 4th degree of consanguinity, including adoptive parents.
  • The full payment shall be advanced by the employer within 30 days from the filing of the maternity leave application.
  • Workers availing themselves of the maternity leave and benefits must receive not less than 2/3 of their regular monthly wages.
  • Employers from the private sector shall be responsible for payment of the salary differential between the actual cash benefits received from the Social Security System (SSS) by the covered female workers and their average weekly or regular wages, for the entire duration of the ordinary maternity leave, with some exceptions.
  • Employees who avail themselves of this benefit shall be assured of security of tenure. This cannot be used as basis for demotion in employment or termination. The transfer to a parallel position or reassignment from one organizational unit to another in the same agency shall be allowed, provided it shall not involve a reduction in rank, status, or salary.
We can only remain hopeful that said law will be passed soon for it is a start. But in future let’s hope our lawmakers take their inspiration from countries such as Sweden which grant awesome benefits to both rearing parents.

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Laws On Sexual Harrasment

Ever wondered about the laws which exist to protect women – and indeed men – from the reprehensible crime of sexual harassment, whether it be in the workplace or as the result of a romantic/dating relationship? Let’s discuss them one by one. Under Sec. 3 of Republic Act 7877 or the Anti- Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, sexual harassment may be committed when an employer, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, or any other person who having authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another in a work or training or education environment, demands, requests or otherwise requires any sexual favor from the other. Specifically, sexual harassment in a workplace may be committed as follows:
1. The sexual favor is made as a condition: a. In the hiring or in the employment; b. Re-employment or continued employment of said individual; or c. In granting said individual favorable compensation, terms, conditions, promotions or privileges. 2. The refusal to grant the sexual favor results in limiting, segregating or classifying the employee which in any way would discriminate, deprive, or diminish employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect said employees; 3. The above acts would impair the employee’s rights and privileges under existing labor laws; and 4. The above acts would result in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the employee. Bear in mind that the aforesaid crime can also be committed by teachers, instructors, professors, coaches, and trainers in an education or training environment: 1. Against one who is under the care, custody or supervision of the offender; 2. Against one whose education, training, apprenticeship or tutorship is entrusted to the offender; 3. When the sexual favor is made a condition to the giving of a passing grade, or the granting of honors and scholarships, or the payment of a stipend, allowance or other benefits, privileges or considerations; and 4. When the sexual advances result in an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for the result, trainee or apprentice. In sum, when a person with moral ascendancy over the other commits the aforesaid acts, he or she can be charged with the said crime.
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What you need to know when investing in the Philippines

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These days, anyone looking to invest and set up a business would be very wise to consider the Philippines. Here’s why. The Philippines is an open economy. It allows 100% foreign ownership in almost all sectors and is geared towards a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) investment scheme that other Asian countries emulate. Currently, government corporations are being privatized, and there has been a deregulation in the banking, insurance, shipping, telecommunications, and power industries. Being a business-friendly economy, the Philippine government provides tax incentive packages, i.e. corporate income tax, reduced to a current 32%, with companies in the Special Economic Zones (ecozones) subject to only 5% overall tax rates. Multinationals looking for regional headquarters are entitled to incentives such as tax exemptions and tax and duty-free importation of specific equipment and materials. Added to this, every year there are some 350,000 graduates enriching the professional pool[1]. With higher education priority, the literacy rate in the Philippines is 94.6%— among the highest[2]. Another compelling advantage of the Filipino workforce is the high proficiency in English of Filipinos. Since English is taught in all schools, the Philippines is in fact the world’s third largest English-speaking country. While the Philippines rightly trumpets its strong and competent workforce, of equal importance is its strategic business location. “The Philippines is located right in the heart of Asia, today the fastest growing region. It is located within four hours flying time from major capitals of the region. Sited at the crossroads of the eastern and western business, it is a critical entry point to over 500 million people in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) market and a gateway of international shipping and air lanes suited for European and American businesses”[3]. Doing business in the Philippines is economically practicable. “Wages are typically less than a fifth of that in the United States. Local communication, electricity, and housing costs are also 50% lower compared to the US rates. Foreign companies that are now outsourcing programming and business processes to the Philippines estimate 30%-40% business cost savings, 15%-30% call center services and application systems, and 35%-50% software development.”[4] If all you’ve read up to now has convinced you to choose the Philippines, you might be wondering how to get started. To give you an overview, below are the requirements a foreign corporation must satisfy before engaging in business in the Philippines. It must first secure the necessary licenses or registration certificates from the appropriate government agencies. Generally, the registration process starts with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the government agency responsible for the registration, licensing, regulation and supervision of all corporations licensed to engage in business or to establish a branch office in the Philippines[5]. If the proposed project or activity qualifies for incentives, the foreign corporation may file its application with the appropriate government agency depending on the project’s location, as follows[6]:
  1. Board of Investments (BOI). Website: www.boi.gov.ph. For projects outside the special economic zones
  2. Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). Website: www.peza.gov.ph. For projects in any Special Economic Zone under PEZA
  3. Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA). Website: www.sbma.com. For projects in Subic Bay Freeport
  4. Clark Development Authority (CDC). Website: www.clark.com.ph. For projects in Clark Special Economic Zone
  5. John Jay Poro Point Development Corporation. For projects in John Jay Special Economic Zone, Poro Point Freeport and Special Economic Zone
  6. Cagayan Economic Zone Authority. Website: www.ceza.gov.ph. For projects in Cagayan Special Economic Zone
  7. Zamboanga Economic Authority. Website: http://www.zfa.gov.ph. For projects in Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone
Setting up a business in a foreign country may appear daunting, but with expert, specialist legal assistance from a reputable law firm the experience can be headache-free and profitable.  Should you have any questions please visit us at www.mflegal.com.ph.

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