Filipinos after watching Miss Universe Philippines Rabiya Mateo’s performance during the national costume competition have drawn attention to why Rabiya didn’t include wearing the headpiece.
Mateo’s costume is designed by the late Filipino international designer Rocky Gathercole. The details carry the logo of the blue, red and yellow that comprises the elements of the Philippine national flag as a whole.
The widespread use of the Philippine flag as a representation of the country during competition becomes a short-hand symbol for independence and nationalism. Netizens at home are quick enough to discuss between the candidate’s Philippine flag-inspired costume whether or not the costume has violated the Philippine Flag Law.
So, did the Miss Universe Philippines violate the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippine Flag by wearing a PH flag-like costume?
To dissect the information, Republic Act No. 8491 Sec. 34 states that citizens of the Philippines are not allowed to use the national flag as a fashion piece. We have witnessed that in Rabiya’s case, not only her, have presented the country’s flag as a fashion accessory in an international competition.
Is it permissible to wear an item of clothing that looks like the Philippine flag?
The Flag Law states that the public cannot wear the flag in whole or in part as a costume or uniform; or to print, paint or attach representation of the flag on handkerchiefs, napkins, cushions, and other articles of merchandise.
To read between the lines, where exactly is the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines claimed in terms of trademark?
Meanwhile, IPOPHL Director General Josephine R. Santiago said, “State flags or emblems, or coat of arms are not allowed under the Intellectual Property Code. The rationale behind it is, that’s a national symbol – owned by the public. No individual firm or entity can own it. Intellectual property, trademark among them of course, gives exclusivity. But the symbol belongs to everyone, to the nation.”
With this, who is to blame? In practice, sports team, government officials, and pageantry are susceptible to committing the same mistake. To cite an example, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray had worn a gold plated ear cuff known as “alab at dangal” during the Miss Universe preliminaries. The earpiece served as a representation of parts in the Philippine sun and star.
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Also, the modern ‘Barong Tagalog’ costume for the Southeast Asian Games designed by renowned fashion designer Francis Libiran, which the collar has incorporated the elements of the Philippine flag.
Many government officials have been seen wearing emblem flags of their uniforms and costumes and we haven’t witnessed anyone being fined or jailed because of that and was never held accountable for any NHCP for a possible violation.
Red, blue, yellow, and white. These colors when put together become a symbol of the Philippine nation and its people. However, according to this document provided by the House of Representatives, wearing the flag as a fashion accessory is acceptable as long as it is approved by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).
Unless displayed wrongly, legal actions may be thrown against you. Perhaps, this case is not new to anyone in the country but what is most important is we are aware of the pressing issue and we know how to react based on what is written on the Law itself.
With no means of how Filipinos express nationalism should always be best aligned with respect and to what extent representation of any symbolic property of the flag will be created must have at least the same highest respect as the Philippine flag.
BENJAMIN ASKINAS/Miss Universe Organization