The Anti-Duel Law in the Philippines is still in effect

Perhaps once of the most archaic and least useful law in the Philippines (followed only by the Negotiable Instruments Law of 1911) is the anti-duel law under the Revised Penal Code (RPC). In law school, it is the usual butt of a joke by Criminal Law Professors asking the relevancy of such law in modern times. After all, do people still duel?

Well, the answer to that question is: do you come from a province? (May probinsiya ka ba?)

In some provinces, particularly in rural areas, asking for a duel to the death is very much alive. The weapon of choice happens to be long bolos (or locally referred to as sundang in certain areas), and not revolvers as is usually portrayed in the movies. Often, when folks are seriously aggrieved, usually involving one or a family’s honor, they come out daring offenders to a fight to the death. It escalates to a duel when the invitation is accepted.

Curiously, once a duel is concluded with one often dying, the other goes into hiding for fear of criminal prosecution. Often, it is believed that the surviving party may find himself be charged with murder or homicide at the least.

However, this is incorrect.

The charge would constitute the violation of the Anti-Duel Law under Articles 260 or 261 of the Revised Penal Code, as the case may be, to wit:

Article 260. Responsibility of participants in a duel. – The penalty of reclusion temporal shall be imposed upon any person who shall kill his adversary in a duel.

If he shall inflict upon the latter physical injuries only, he shall suffer the penalty provided therefor, according to their nature.

In any other case, the combatants shall suffer the penalty of arresto mayor, although no physical injuries have been inflicted.

The seconds shall in all events be punished as accomplices.

Article 261. Challenging to a duel. – The penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon any person who shall challenge another, or incite another to give or accept a challenge to a duel, or shall scoff at or decry another publicly for having refused to accept a challenge to fight a duel.

Act No. 3815, The Revised Penal Code

Thus, to the point of whether the Ant-Duel Law is still relevant, it is still so in certain parts and for the purpose of charging a person who violates it since that person can neither be charged with murder nor homicide.

The requisites for murder or homicide do not squarely fall in a case involving a duel as both parties very much gave consent to act of engaging in a combat, where one might get killed.