Welcome to the Supreme Court of the Philippines
Welcome to the Supreme Court of the Philippines
Welcome to the Supreme Court of the Philippines
READ: Infographics on Bar Bulletin No. 2-2023 Re: Application Requirements for the 2023 Bar Examinations sc.judiciary.gov.ph/files/bar-2023 #WeCanDoIt #HernanDoIt #Bar2023

2024 Shari’ah Bar Makes History

May 1, 2024

Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh, 2024 Shari’ah Bar Examinations (SBE) Chairperson, shares the milestones achieved by the 2024 SBE in her message at the Shari’ah Bar opening event held at the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City on April 28, 2024. Among others, this year’s SBE marks the first time that the SBE is being chaired by a sitting member of the Court as part of the Court’s efforts to formally integrate the Shari’ah Bar. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

History was made on April 28, 2024 with a series of firsts on Day 1 of the first digitalized and regionalized Shari’ah Bar Examinations (SBE).

To open this year’s SBE, two Shari’ah Bar ceremonies were held simultaneously at the local testing centers (LTCs), one at the Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) in Davao City and the other at the University of the Philippines Diliman (UP Diliman) in Quezon City.

This year’s SBE saw an increase in the number of examinees. From 526 examinees in the 2022 SBE, 855 attended Day 1 of this year’s SBE—marking the highest number of SBE examinees in history. Of the 855, 591 took the exam at the ADDU and 264 at UP Diliman.

The exam subjects for Day 1 of the SBE were Jurisprudence (Figh) and Customary Laws (Adat) [15%] in the morning and Persons, Family Relations,

and Property [35%] in the afternoon. On Day 2, May 2, 2024, the subjects will be Succession, Wills/Adjudication, and Settlement of Estates [35%] in the morning and Procedure in the Shari’ah Courts [15%] in the afternoon.

Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo and 2024 Shari’ah Bar Consultant Associate Justice Japar B. Dimaampao delivered messages at UP Diliman, while 2024 Shari’ah Bar Chairperson Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh and Associate Justice Antonio T. Kho Jr. gave remarks at the ADDU. Justice Singh later flew back to Quezon City to personally observe the conduct of the SBE in UP Diliman.

Justice Singh announced that the 2024 Shari’ah Bar Examination (SBE) has achieved several firsts. Firstly, it marks the first time that the SBE is being chaired by a sitting member of the Court as part of the Court’s efforts to formally integrate the Shari’ah Bar.

Secondly, the SBE will now be conducted yearly instead of every other year, with Associate Justice Kho leading the next SBE in 2025. Justice Singh noted that in conducting the SBE more frequently, the Court aims to “strengthen and make more accessible the Shari’ah justice system by encouraging and giving more opportunities to aspiring Shari’ah counselors to undertake such endeavor.”

Thirdly, in order to encourage more examinees, a second batch of the Shari’ah Training Seminar (STS) was held in seven different venues around the country. The STS is a requirement for those who intend to take the SBE. The Supreme Court will now take over the conduct of the STS in cooperation with the National Commission of Muslim Filipinos (NCMF).

Fourthly, the 2024 SBE is being conducted in a regionalized and digitalized format. The SBEs were previously held in Metro Manila. For the first time in its history, the SBE is being conducted in Mindanao, with examinees outside Metro Manila given equal and fair access to testing centers.

Similar to the Philippine Bar Examinations, the 2024 SBE has implemented the computer-based program Examplify, which enables examinees to take the exam digitally from their respective LTCs. Over 90% of the examinees took the digital format, while the remaining opted to take the handwritten exam. Examinees were also given the choice to take the written exam in Arabic.

Lastly, the Court has allowed interested overseas Filipino workers from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to join the STS online and take the examinations in the Philippines. The Court granted qualified examinees financial assistance to cover their airfare and accommodations.

Justice Singh highlighted the Court’s goal to promote justice and the rule of law in its Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations (SPJI) 2022-2027. The plan aims to implement reforms and initiatives that will strengthen the foundations of Shari’ah Justice. The SBE will play a crucial role in achieving these goals by screening potential Shari’ah counselors who play an important role in the Shari’ah legal system.

“We have truly come a long way since the first Shari’ah Bar Examination held in 1983,” highlighted Justice Singh, while noting the increase in examinees from less than 200 in the first SBE to over 800 examinees in this year’s SBE. “Still, this is only the beginning of our efforts to truly invest the appropriate focus and resources in the Shari’ah justice system. This is the

promise of the SPJI. This is the commitment made by the Court, through the Chief Justice, Hon. Alexander G. Gesmundo, at the 2023 Shari’ah Summit, another first. We intend to fulfill this commitment,” she said.

Chief Justice Gesmundo remarked that “the Shari’ah Bar Examinations stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of Islam in the Philippines,” adding that it “represents our collective effort to promote inclusivity and diversity within the legal profession.”

During the 1st National Shari’ah Summit held in Cagayan De Oro City in 2023, the Court bared its plans for strengthening the foundations of Shari’ah in our national legal framework. This, the Chief Justice said, is in line “with the Court’s reform agenda under the principle of Equal and Inclusive Justice, where we vow to not only free our judicial proceedings and processes from overt discrimination of any form, but also nurture a culture of respect, sensitivity, and inclusivity across distinct beliefs and identities.”

The Chief Justice announced that the Supreme Court Committee on Shari’ah Justice, headed by Senior Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen and Associate Justice Japar B. Dimaampao as Chairperson and Vice Chairperson, respectively, is currently studying how to address key issues, including the inclusion of Shari’ah as a course in law school and the requirement of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education compliance among Shari’ah practitioners. The Court is also looking to expand the jurisdiction of Shari’ah courts to include both criminal and commercial cases and formally organize the Shari’ah High Court created under Article X, Section 7 of Republic Act No. 11054.

Justice Dimaampao emphasized that changes in this year’s SBE not only places “the Shari’ah Bar on equal footing with the Philippine Bar, it also signifies the Court’s willingness to harness the potentials of current technology in providing for effective and non-discriminatory services to the Filipino people.”

He wished for the Shari’ah Bar candidates to “be strongly guided by the wisdom of the Almighty God [Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (SWT)] as well as the moral paradigm or precedent of Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu alayhi wa-sallam, peace be upon Him (PBUH), as set out in the Sunnah, hadiths, or traditions.” He reminded them to “always remember that Shari’ah is sacrosanct and immutable. As the Holy Qur’an ordains in the Surah Al-Jathiya Chapter 45, Ayat or verse 18 of the Holy Qu’ran: ‘Now We have set you O Prophet on the right Way of faith. So follow it, and do not follow the desires of those who do not know the truth.’ Accordingly, Shari’ah candidates must strive to provide the reasoning that is consistent with Shari’ah values effecting the common good (maslahah). By doing so, all your efforts in preparing for the examinations will not go in vain.”

He likewise commended Justice Singh’s exceptional leadership of this year’s SBE.

For his part, Justice Kho stressed that “the Court recognizes and respects Shari’ah as a way of life for the Muslim population and how it governs various aspects of their lives, including personal conduct, family matters such as marriage and inheritance, and business transactions.” The Shari’ah justice system in the Philippines, he said, provides a legal framework for resolving disputes and upholding Islamic principles within the context of the country’s broader legal system. This reflects the country’s commitment to religious diversity and ensuring that Muslims can practice their faith and uphold their traditions while being citizens of the country. “It is the Court’s vision, as stated in the SPJI, to cultivate a culture of respect, sensitivity, and inclusivity in the country. We hope that these efforts are a testament to the Supreme Court’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity, recognizing the distinct needs of its Muslim brethren while maintaining harmony within the broader legal system,” said Justice Kho.

Court of Appeals Associate Justice Anisah B. Amanodin-Umpa, 2024 SBE Vice-Chairperson, delivered the opening remarks at the ADDU, while Court Attorney V Atty. Mohammad F. Dimaampao from the Office of Associate Justice Dimaampao and NCMF Director Cosanie M. Derogongan led the prayer at the ADDU and in UP Diliman, respectively.

Also present were Supreme Court Associate Justices Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, Ramon Paul L. Hernando, Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, Henri Jean Paul B. Inting, Rodil V. Zalameda, and Jhosep Y. Lopez.

Other attendees were Supreme Court officials and employees, and members of the Legal Education Board, Integrated Bar of the Philippines, NCMF – Bureau of Muslim Cultural Affairs, Shari’ah Training Education Division, and Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy.

UP College of Law Dean Darlene Marie B. Berberabe and UP Institute of Islamic Studies Dean Julkipli M. Wadi also attended the event in Quezon City, and Ateneo de Davao University Dean Manuel P. Quibod and University of Southeastern Philippines Dean Jamil Adrian Khalil L. Matalam in Davao City. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo and the Members of the Supreme Court pose with officials of the National Commission of Muslim Filipinos and the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy at the Shari’ah Bar Opening Event at Bocobo Hall of the University of Philippines, Diliman on April 28, 2024. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)
Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh, 2024 Shari’ah Bar Examinations (SBE) Chairperson (seated, second from right) and Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio T. Kho, Jr., incoming 2025 SBE Chairperson (seated, second from left) pose with some of the attendees including judges of the Shari’ah courts, representatives from the Legal Education Board, Integrated Bar of the Philippines, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, and Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy at the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City on April 28, 2024. Also in photo are Court of Appeals Associate Justice Anisah B. Amanodin-Umpa, 2024 SBE Vice-Chairperson (seated, right), and Deputy Court Administrator Leo T. Madrazo (seated, left), Office of the Bar Confidant Officer-in-Charge Atty. Amor P. Entila, Ateneo de Davao University Dean Manuel P. Quibod, and University of Southeastern Philippines Dean Jamil Adrian Khalil L. Matalam. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo speaks at the Shari’ah Bar Opening Event on Day 1 of the 2024 Shari’ah Bar Examinations on April 28, 2024 at the local testing center at the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

Supreme Court Associate Justice Japar B. Dimaampao speaks at the Shari’ah Bar Opening Event on Day 1 of the 2024 Shari’ah Bar Examinations on April 28, 2024 at the local testing center at the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)
Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio T. Kho, Jr. speaks at the Shari’ah Bar Opening Event on April 28, 2024 at the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh, 2024 Shari’ah Bar Examinations (SBE) Chairperson, delivers her message at the Shari’ah Bar opening event held at the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City on April 28, 2024. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

Supreme Court Associate Justice Japar B. Dimaampao, who is at the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City chats by videoconferencing with Court of Appeals Associate Justice Anisah B. Amanodin-Umpa, who is at the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City on Day 1 of the 2024 Shari’ah Bar Examinations on April 28, 2024. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh, 2024 Shari’ah Bar Examinations (SBE) Chairperson, welcomes examinees on Day 1 of the 2024 Shari’ah Bar Examinations on April 28, 2024 at the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh, 2024 Shari’ah Bar Examinations (SBE) Chairperson, and Supreme Court Associate Justice Japar B. Dimaampao, 2024 Shari’ah Bar Examinations (SBE) Consultant, exchange updates on Day 1 of the SBE. Justice Singh was at the national headquarters (NHQ) at the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City while Justice Dimaampao was at the NHQ at the University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

Supreme Court Associate Justice Japar B. Dimaampao, 2024 Shari’ah Bar Examinations (SBE) Consultant and 2024 SBE Bar Head Atty. Mark Darryl P. Buemio observe the situation during Day 1 of the 2024 SBE at the University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City, one of the two local testing centers. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

Examinees line up to get plastic jackets for their notices of admission on Day 1 of the 2024 Shari’ah Bar Examinations on April 28, 2024 at the local testing center at the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

Examinees undergo security check on Day 1 of the 2024 Shari’ah Bar Examinations on April 28, 2024 at the local testing center at the  Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

Privacy Notice for the Supreme Court website

Statement of Commitment to Data Privacy and Security

The Supreme Court of the Philippines respects your privacy and your data privacy rights, as well as employs reasonable measures to protect your personal data in accordance with Republic Act No. 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012 (DPA), its Implementing Rules and Regulations, and the various issuances of the National Privacy Commission (NPC) (collectively, the Data Privacy Regulations).

Brief Service Description and Its General Purpose

Use of the Supreme Court Website

The Supreme Court website serves as the online repository of Supreme Court information, references, and resources accessible to the public. By agreeing to use the Supreme Court website, you agree to the collection, use, disclosure, processing, and storage of your non-personal identification information to enable the Supreme Court to monitor the website’s engagement.

What personal data do we collect?

The Supreme Court website, other than the Email Form (see separate Privacy Notice – Email Form), does not collect personal data or cookies. The following non-personal identification information, however, are collected and stored by WordPress Statistics, a third-party service, to enable the Supreme Court to monitor the website’s performance through its engagement with visitors:

(a) Browser;

(b) Device; and

(c) Internet Protocol address.

The information collected by WordPress Statistics are limited to the foregoing.

For further understanding, please see the brief discussion on WordPress Statistics below.

Why do we collect your non-personal identification information?

The information collected through WordPress Statistics shall be processed to enable the Supreme Court, not only to effectively manage its website, but also to efficiently disseminate information to the public.

How do we process your non-personal identification information?

Where you have provided us with your non-personal identification information, you agree to our collection, use, disclosure, storage, and other processing for the purposes and in the manner set forth in this Privacy Notice.

WordPress Statistics

The Supreme Court website uses a third-party website, WordPress Statistics, to gather anonymous statistical information from site visitors and analyze the web traffic data. Such data is not shared with any other party. WordPress Statistics collects the following:

  • Browser;
  • Device; and
  • Internet Protocol address.

For more information, you may visit: https://wp-statistics.com/2018/08/16/wp-statistics-gdpr/

How do we protect your non-personal identification information?

The foregoing information, which are encrypted, shall be captured, stored, and retrieved by the Supreme Court through the third-party server, WordPress Statistics, solely for the specific purposes stated in this Privacy Notice, i.e., for reference in helping the Supreme Court in effectively managing its website. The data shall be processed and stored with utmost security and confidentiality.

Only authorized website administrators of the Supreme Court have access to the collected data stored and reported in WordPress Statistics as installed in the Supreme Court website, which in turn are subject to strict security protocols.

How long will we keep your non-personal identification information?

The collected information shall be stored in the Supreme Court website database. The Public Information Office (PIO) directly administers and maintains the database and the Supreme Court website. Only the PIO website administrators and authorized personnel shall be granted access to the database of the Supreme Court website. Sharing of any information that are contained in the said database with unauthorized persons is strictly prohibited.

The non-personal identification information collected by WordPress Statistics is stored in its database and is accessible to the Supreme Court at any time via statistics reports until WordPress Statistics is uninstalled.

In all cases, the information will be stored in a secure manner to ensure its confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

Upon expiration of the period of retention, the information collected through the Supreme Court website shall be disposed of and discarded in a secure manner that would prevent further processing, unauthorized access, or disclosure of your data.

Changes to our Privacy Notice:

The Privacy Notice may be updated from time to time. If material changes are required, any revisions shall be published on the Supreme Court website under the News and Announcements page for your immediate guidance. Therefore, we encourage you to review this Privacy Notice periodically so that you are up to date on our most current policies and practices.

This Privacy Notice was last updated on February 20, 2024.

How do you contact us?

If you have any privacy concerns or questions about your data privacy rights or our Privacy Notice, please contact us through:

JUDICIARY’S DATA PROTECTION OFFICER
Supreme Court of the Philippines
Padre Faura St., Ermita, Manila
Philippines 1000
+63 3 8552 9566
dataprivacy.sc@judiciary.gov.ph

1987Constitution

The Supreme Court Under
the 1987 Constitution

As in the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, the 1987 Constitution provides that “[t]he judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law.” (Art. VII, Sec. 1). The exercise of judicial power is shared by the Supreme Court with all lower courts, but it is only the Supreme Court’s decisions that are vested with precedential value or doctrinal authority, as its interpretations of the Constitution and the laws are final and beyond review by any other branch of government.

Unlike the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, however, the 1987 Constitution defines the concept of judicial power. Under paragraph 2 of Section 1, Article VIII, “judicial power” includes not only the “duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable” but also “to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government.” This latter provision dilutes the effectivity of the “political question” doctrine which places specific questions best submitted to the political wisdom of the people beyond the review of the courts.

Building on previous experiences under former Constitutions, the 1987 Constitution provides for specific safeguards to ensure the independence of the Judiciary. These are found in the following provisions:

    • The grant to the Judiciary of fiscal autonomy. “Appropriations for the Judiciary may not be reduced by the legislature below the amount appropriated for the previous year, and, after approval, shall be automatically and regularly released.” (Art. VIII, Sec. 3).
    • The grant to the Chief Justice of authority to augment any item in the general appropriation law for the Judiciary from savings in other items of said appropriation as authorized by law. (Art. VI, Sec. 25[5])
    • The removal from Congress of the power to deprive the Supreme Court of its jurisdiction over cases enumerated in Section 5 of Article VIII.
    • The grant to the Court of the power to appoint all officials and employees of the Judiciary in accordance with the Civil Service Law (Art. VIII, Sec. 5 [6])
    • The removal from the Commission of Appointments of the power to confirm appointments of justices and judges (Art. VIII, Sec. 8)
    • The removal from Congress of the power to reduce the compensation or salaries of the Justices and judges during their continuance in office. (Art. VIII, Sec. 10)
    • The prohibition against the removal of judges through legislative reorganization by providing that “(n)o law shall be passed reorganizing the Judiciary when it undermines the security of tenure of its members. (Art. VIII, Sec. 2)
    • The grant of sole authority to the Supreme Court to order the temporary detail of judges. (Art. VIII, Sec. 5[3])
    • The grant of sole authority to the Supreme Court to promulgate rules of procedure for the courts. (Art. VIII, Sec. 5[5])
    • The prohibition against designating members of the Judiciary to any agency performing quasi-judicial or administrative function. (Art. VIII, Sec. 12)
    • The grant of administrative supervision over the lower courts and its personnel in the Supreme Court. (Art. VIII, Sec. 6)

The Supreme Court under the present Constitution is composed of a Chief Justice and 14 Associate Justices. The members of the Court are appointed by the President from a list, prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council, of at least three nominees for every vacancy. This new process is intended to “de-politicize” the courts of justice, ensure the choice of competent judges, and fill existing vacancies without undue delay.

RevolutionaryGovernment

The Supreme Court Under
the Revolutionary Government

Shortly after assuming office as the seventh President of the Republic of the Philippines after the successful People Power Revolution, then President Corazon C. Aquino declared the existence of a revolutionary government under Proclamation No. 1 dated February 25, 1986. Among the more significant portions of this Proclamation was an instruction for “all appointive officials to submit their courtesy resignations beginning with the members of the Supreme Court.” The call was unprecedented, considering the separation of powers that the previous Constitutions had always ordained, but understandable considering the revolutionary nature of the post-People Power government. Heeding the call, the members of the Judiciary—from the Supreme Court to the Municipal Circuit Courts—placed their offices at the disposal of the President and submitted their resignations. President Corazon C, Aquino proceeded to reorganize the entire Court, appointing all 15 members.

On March 25, 1986, President Corazon Aquino, through Proclamation No. 3, also abolished the 1973 Constitution and put in place a Provisional “Freedom” Constitution. Under Article I, Section 2 of the Freedom Constitution, the provisions of the 1973 Constitution on the judiciary were adopted insofar as they were not inconsistent with Proclamation No. 3.

Article V of Proclamation No. 3 provided for the convening of a Constitutional Commission composed of 50 appointive members to draft a new constitution; this would be implemented by Proclamation No. 9. Under the leadership of retired SC Justice Cecilia Muñoz Palma as its President, the Constitutional Commission of 1986 submitted its output of to the people for ratification.

By a vote of 76.30%, the Filipino people then ratified the Constitution submitted to them in a national plebiscite on February 2, 1987.

President Aquino, other civilian officials, and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, upon the announcement of the ratification of the 1987 Constitution, swore allegiance to the new charter on February 11, 1987 thereby putting an end to the revolutionary government.

1973

The Supreme Court Under
the 1973 Constitution

The declaration of Martial Law through Proclamation No. 1081 by former President Ferdinand E, Marcos in 1972 brought about the transition from the 1935 Constitution to the 1973 Constitution. This transition had implications on the Court’s composition and functions.

This period also brought in many legal issues of transcendental importance and consequence. Among these were the legality of the ratification of a new Constitution, the assumption of the totality of government authority by President Marcos, and the power to review the factual basis for a declaration of Martial Law by the Chief Executive, among others. Also writ large during this period was the relationship between the Court and the Chief Executive who, under Amendment No. 6 to the 1973 Constitution, had assumed legislative powers even while an elected legislative body continued to function.

The 1973 Constitution increased the number of the members of the Supreme Court from 11 to 15, with a Chief Justice and 14 Associate Justices. The Justices of the Court were appointed by the President alone, without the consent, approval, or recommendation of any other body or officials.

Ayuntamiento

The Supreme Court of
the Second Republic

Following liberation from the Japanese occupation at the end of the Second World War and the Philippines’ subsequent independence from the United States, Republic Act No. 296 or the Judiciary Act of 1948 was enacted. This law grouped together the cases over which the Supreme Court could exercise exclusive jurisdiction for review on appeal, certiorari, or writ of error.

SupremeCourt

The Supreme Court During
the Commonwealth

Following the ratification of the 1935 Philippine Constitution in a plebiscite, the principle of separation of powers was adopted, not by express and specific provision to that effect, but by actual division of powers of the government—executive, legislative, and judicial—in different articles of the 1935 Constitution.

As in the United States, the judicial power was vested by the 1935 Constitution “in one Supreme Court and in such inferior courts as may be established by law.” It devolved on the Judiciary to determine whether the acts of the other two departments were in harmony with the fundamental law.

The Court during the Commonwealth was composed of “a Chief Justice and ten Associate Justices, and may sit en banc or in two divisions, unless otherwise provided by law.”

ArellanoCourt

The Establishment of
the Supreme Court of the Philippines

On June 11, 1901, the Second Philippine Commission passed Act No. 136 entitled “An Act Providing for the Organization of Courts in the Philippine Islands” formally establishing the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands and creating Courts of First Instance and Justices of the Peace Courts throughout the land. The judicial organization established by the Act was conceived by the American lawyers in the Philippine Commission, with its basic structures patterned after similar organizations in the United States.

The Supreme Court created under the Act was composed of a Chief Justice and six Judges. Five members of the Court could form a quorum, and the concurrence of at least four members was necessary to pronounce a judgment.

Act No. 136 abolished the Audiencia established under General Order No. 20 and declared that the Supreme Court created by the Act be substituted in its place. This effectively severed any nexus between the present Supreme Court and the Audiencia.

The Anglo-American legal system under which the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands was expected to operate was entirely different from the old Spanish system that Filipinos were familiar with. Adjustments had to be made; hence, the decisions of the Supreme Court during its early years reflected a blend of both the Anglo-American and Spanish systems. The jurisprudence was a gentle transition from the old order to the new.

VillamorHall

The Judicial System During
the American Occupation

After Spain’s defeat in the Spanish-American War in the late 1890s, The subsequent occupation by the Americans of the Philippine Islands paved the way for considerable changes in the control, disposition, and governance of the Islands.

The judicial system established during the regime of the military government functioned as an instrument of the executive—not of the judiciary—as an independent and separate branch of government. Secretary of State John Hay, on May 12, 1899, proposed a plan for a colonial government of the Philippine Islands which would give Filipinos the largest measure of self-government. The plan contemplated an independent judiciary manned by judges chosen from qualified locals and Americans.

On May 29, 1899, General Elwell Stephen Otis, Military Governor for the Philippines, issued General Order No. 20, reestablishing the Audiencia Teritorial de Manila which was to apply Spanish laws and jurisprudence recognized by the American military governor as continuing in force.

The Audiencia was composed of a presiding officer and eight members organized into two divisions: the sala de lo civil or the civil branch, and the sala de lo criminal or the criminal branch.

It was General Otis himself who personally selected the first appointees to the Audiencia. Cayetano L. Arellano was appointed President (equivalent to Chief Justice) of the Court, with Manuel Araullo as president of the sala de lo civil and Raymundo Melliza as president of the salo de lo criminal. Gregorio Araneta and Lt. Col. E.H. Crowder were appointed associate justices of the civil branch while Ambrosio Rianzares, Julio Llorente, Major R.W. Young, and Captain W.E. Brikhimer were designated associate justices of the criminal branch. Thus, the reestablished Audiencia became the first agency of the new insular government where Filipinos were appointed side by side with Americans.

SpanishRegime

The Judicial System Under
the Spanish Regime

During the early Spanish occupation, King Philip II established the Real Audiencia de Manila which was given not only judicial but legislative, executive, advisory, and administrative functions as well. Composed of the incumbent governor general as the presidente (presiding officer), four oidores (equivalent to associate justices), an asesor (legal adviser), an alguacil mayor (chief constable), among other officials, the Real Audiencia de Manila was both a trial and appellate court. It had exclusive original, concurrent original, and exclusive appellate jurisdictions.

Initially, the Audiencia was given a non-judicial role in the colonial administration, to deal with unforeseen problems within the territory that arose from time to time—it was given the power to supervise certain phases of ecclesiastical affairs as well as regulatory functions, such as fixing of prices at which merchants could sell their commodities. Likewise, the Audiencia had executive functions, like the allotment of lands to the settlers of newly established pueblos. However, by 1861, the Audiencia had ceased to perform these executive and administrative functions and had been restricted to the administration of justice.

When the Audiencia Territorial de Cebu was established in 1886, the name of the Real Audiencia de Manila was changed to Audiencia Territorial de Manila.

Map

The Judicial System of the
Pre-Colonization Filipinos

When the Spanish colonizers first arrived in the Philippine archipelago, they found the indigenous Filipinos without any written laws. The laws enforced were mainly derived from customs, usages, and tradition. These laws were believed to be God-given and were orally transmitted from generation to generation.

A remarkable feature of these customs and traditions was that they were found to be very similar to one another notwithstanding that they were observed in widely dispersed islands of the archipelago. There were no judges and lawyers who were trained formally in the law, although there were elders who devoted time to the study of the customs, usages, and traditions of their tribes to qualify them as consultants or advisers on these matters.

The unit of government of the indigenous Filipinos was the barangay, which was a family-based community of 30 to 100 families, occupying a pook (“locality” or “area”) headed by a chieftain called datu who exercised all functions of government—executive, legislative, and judicial—a barangay was not only a political but a social and an economic organization. In the exercise of his judicial authority, the datu acted as a judge (hukom) in settling disputes and deciding cases in his barangay.