ASKED with this question, what do you think is the answer? Let us see how this is done in our Executive, Legislative or Judicial branches of the government. In Congress, particularly the Lower House or our House of Representatives, the national anthem is sung first before the invocation. However, in the Senate, it is the other way around (i.e., invocation is done first before the singing of our national anthem).
How about in Malacañang or the Supreme Court (SC)? Malacañang does it the way our House of Representatives does, national anthem first before invocation. The SC does it the way the Senate does (i.e. again, invocation first before national anthem).
How about in our Department of Education (DepEd) offices and schools, what is the rule?
On October 29, 2015, Education Secretary Bro. Armin A. Luistro, FSC, issued DepEd Order (DO) 50, Series of 2015, entitled “Observance/Conduct of Flag Raising and Lowering Ceremonies and Proper Sequence in Official DepEd Programs Involving the Singing of the Philippine National Anthem.”
Aside from reiterating Section 18 of Republic Act 8491, otherwise known as the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines, which mandates the observance/conduct of flag-raising ceremonies every Monday morning and flag-lowering ceremonies every Friday afternoon, the aforementioned DO 50 provided clear guidelines as to the proper sequence in official programs in the DepEd (including in private schools) involving the singing of our national anthem and invocation. The DO provided the basis for its guidelines by stating that “while there is no law categorically stating the order of a public ceremony, specifically, whether the singing of the Philippine National Anthem should come before or after the invocation, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Protocol on the Observance of Commemorative Events provides that the singing of the Philippine National Anthem should come before the invocation in official government functions.”
The DO, however, qualifies the NHCP protocol by stating that this rule “may be distinguished from programs or gatherings that are religious in nature or are sponsored by or conducted in private schools or in ‘faith-based’ institutions.”
The DO then enumerated the following guidelines in flag raising ceremonies: “1. (a)ll officials and employees from the central, regional, schools division offices and public schools nationwide, including all public-school learners who have morning classes, are required to join the conduct of flag-raising ceremonies with the following sequence: i. Singing of Lupang Hinirang; ii. Interfaith prayers; Recitation of Panunumpa ng Katapatan sa Watawat ng Pilipinas; and iv. Recitation of Panunumpa ng Bayan by all department officials and employees only; 2. (i)n the conduct of flag-raising ceremonies in private schools or ‘faith-based’ learning institutions, however, the foregoing sequence with respect to the singing of the Philippine National Anthem and invocation need not be observed. Thus, the invocation is optional or may be done prior to the singing of the Philippine National Anthem.”
These same rules apply with respect to official programs involving the singing of the Philippine National Anthem in DepEd offices and public schools nationwide; or in private schools, “faith-based” learning institutions and other gatherings religious in nature. With this clarification, Luistro should truly be commended for the issuance of this DO.
This column should not be taken as a legal advice applicable to any case, as each case is unique and should be construed in light of the attending circumstances surrounding such particular case.
Lawyer Toni Umali is the current assistant secretary for Legal and Legislative Affairs of the DepEd. He is licensed to practice law not only in the Philippines, but also in the state of California and some federal courts in the US after passing the California State Bar Examinations in 2004. He has served as a legal consultant to several legislators and local chief executives. As education assistant secretary, he was instrumental in the passage of the K to 12 law and the issuance of its implementing rules and regulations. He is also the alternate spokesman of the DepEd.