ARNEL Pineda’s rendition of the Philippine national anthem drew praises and criticisms online after the National Historical Institute (NHI) said it is set to file charges against the singer for stylized singing.

Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao chose Pineda to sing “Lupang Hinirang” during his fight against African boxer Joshua Clottey Sunday in Arlington, Texas. Pacquiao won the match via unanimous decision.

Click here for Election 2010 updates

Popular search engine Yahoo! Philippines posted the question “Should Filipino and Journey frontman Arnel Pineda be penalized for his rendition of the “Lupang Hinirang?”

The thread attracted 507 responses as of this posting Monday, with some thanking Pineda for the nice singing and others lambasted the international singer for the different tune. Below are some of the comments:

Tito said: “Yes so that everybody will be sincere to adopt the same tone and tempo because this is our national anthem and we should be able to sing it well because our children who are studying are asking why we have different tone and tempo during our daily morning national anthem in school so I think we should be strict on this matter.”

St. Monica added: “Yes, I agree he should be penalized. Even if others say he sang from the heart, anybody can also sing sincerely from the heart. I am just sad that people can easily break rules and laws, and get sympathy for it. True, everyone has free will, but I believe we have rules to follow.”

SgtMark commented in defense of Pineda: “In my own opinion, I didn't see anything wrong with Arnel Pineda's rendition of Philippine National Anthem. He sang it the way it was supposed to be sung. The only different from that performance was the voice. What do you expect? He's a rock star! His voice is like that. It only seemed different because of his voice but the tempo, the pitch, the rhythm...”

User Karl, meanwhile, asked the NHI to strictly “brief” the performers on the proper singing.

“If NHI really wants a standard rendition of the song, then they should proactively include a very strict briefing of the artist in the fight SOPs...If they happen to do that briefing anyway, then fault is on the artist. I agree with NHI that Lupang Hinirang is meant to be a march, unlike US' anthem, which can be freely rendered in rock, soul, or whatever genre.”

Reader Alexis challenged the NHI staff to sing the national anthem in Pacquiao’s future fights to give singers an example.

“Someone from the National Historic Institute should sing the National Anthem in the next Pacman fight, and then maybe they can show the world how it should be sung. That is if they even have the guts to sing it in front of millions of people around the world.”

A radio report quoted the NHI as saying that the board was displeased over Pineda’s interpretation of “Lupang Hinirang” as well as wearing cowboy-inspired polo instead of Barong Tagalog.

The Republic Act 8491 (Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines) states that any person who will violate its provisions may be punished by a fine of at least P20,000 or imprisonment of not more than one year.

The NHI said Section 37 provides that “the rendition of the National Anthem, whether played or sung, shall be in accordance with the musical arrangement and composition of Julian Felipe.”

But rstlaw0520 said Pineda could be not charged in the Philippines due to lack of jurisdiction.

“Mr. Pineda sung the Lupang Hinirang in Arlington, Texas, USA. For all purposes, assuming that he indeed violated that particular law when he sung the Lupang Hinirang, he did it in USA. Mr. Pineda cannot thus be penalized because Philippine penal laws have no effect whatsoever in the United States of America.”

Pineda joins the list of other prominent Filipino artists who drew the ire of the institute for the unlawful singing. They include Charice, Christian Bautista, Jennifer Bautista and Martin Nievera.

The NHI even asked Nievera to publicly apologize for his offbeat singing of the national anthem at the start of the Pacquiao-Hatton fight in Las Vegas in May last year.

It can be recalled that Nievera started singing the anthem slowly, went on a martial beat in the middle, and ended it on a sustained high note, just like Pineda.

Yahoo! Users only have four days left to answer the said question.

Awaits complaint

For her part, newly-installed Justice Secretary Alberto Agra said Monday that the agency will welcome the filing of any complaints against Pineda for not singing the “Lupang Hinirang” according to its original musical arrangement.

Speaking to reporters, Agra said Pineda may be liable for violation of Republic Act 8491 or the Flag and Heraldic Code.

Agra said he is awaiting the complaint to be filed by the NHI, which reprimanded the international singer for this lapse. NHI has yet to file charges before the DOJ.

The original composition of the national anthem, as arranged by Julian Felipe, intended the song to be a march tempo.

“There is no complaint and the NHI has not asked us to file a complaint or petition so as soon as one is filed, or one is requested that would be the time where a complaint would be filed against the singer or against those who allowed the singers to sing,” Agra clarified.

He also said that other singers, who during the previous boxing fights of Pacquiao mangled the singing of the national anthem, are not off the hook yet if the NHI is really serious in strictly implementing RA 8491.

Under Section 50 of RA 8491, violators of the provision may be punished by a fine between P5,000 to P20,000 or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both at the discretion of the court.

Agra noted the Office of the Solicitor General has previously issued an opinion that singing the national anthem not in accordance with Felipe’s arrangement is a violation of the law.

But he admitted that government lawyers and prosecutors are confronted with legal issues such as jurisdiction considering the alleged offense was committed outside the country.

He added the offending party may argue that changing the arrangement of the national anthem is part of the freedom of speech and of expression, which are guaranteed under the Constitution.

“In this particular case there are two schools of thought, one even if committed abroad but it was telecast nationwide, including the Philippines, then we would have jurisdiction, that is one view. The other view strictly speaking, the crime was committed abroad, and therefore, we don’t have jurisdiction,” Agra said. “But in this particular case we have a law, and like all freedoms there is no freedom which is absolute.”

In defense

But the country’s federation of private schools on Monday urged for public understanding on Pineda’s version.

Eleazardo Kasilag, president of the Federation of Associations of Private Schools Administrators (Fapsa), said it is high time that the public accept other way of rendering the song.

“It is the feeling behind the song not the notes that counts. I think it’s high time that we accept other ways of rendering the song. That is also being relevant and progressive,” Kasilag said when reached for comment on the brewing issue.

He said the public should understand change, adding that even the country’s flag we are using today is no longer the original one.

“Originally, it was a march, yes, because of the war but in the 20th century, I found that passable. After all, even the Filipino flag is no longer the original one. The word Pilipino is now Filipino. The singer stuck to the lyrics anyway. So many cultural traits have lost their germane applications which should have been guarded and we do not complain about them,” he added.

He explained that there are other ways to show patriotism other than singing the national anthem correctly.

“Patriotism should be seen more in paying taxes diligently, obeying traffic lights, etc but showing artistic expression is not a crime.”

Kasilag however said Fapsa members will not allow Pineda’s style in their schools.

The group has about 1,600 member-schools in the National Capital Region (NCR) alone out of the 1,700. Nationwide, there are 8,177 private elementary and secondary schools in the country.

On Sunday, NHI Heraldry Section chief Teddy Atienza said he was not pleased with Pineda’s rendition of the national anthem and that they would file a complaint against him before the Department of Justice (DOJ).

But Pineda defended his version, saying he had sung it with all his heart.

Pineda rose to fame in 2007 when members of the US-based band Journey discovered him on YouTube.

He belted out before a crowd of almost 51,000 boxing fans with his slow rendition of "Lupang Hinirang.” (Virgil Lopez/JCV/AH/Sunnex)