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Chief Justice Gesmundo Hails Court Stenographers as True Frontliners

May 2, 2023

Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo speaks before court stenographers on the first day of the 9th National Convention of the Court Stenographers Association of the Philippines on April 26, 2023 in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte.

Hindi uusad ang ating mga kaso—at karugtong nito, hindi uusad ang hustisya—kung wala ang trabahong ginagawa ninyong mga court stenographers.”

Thus remarked Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo during his keynote speech on the first day of the 9th National Convention of the Court Stenographers Association of the Philippines (COSTRAPHIL) on April 26, 2023 in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte.

Addressing over 1,800 court stenographers from all over the country, the Chief Justice stressed the indispensable role of court stenographers in the justice system: “Higit pa sa pagtala ng mga kaganapan at proseso sa paglilitis ng ating mga korte, mayroong mas malalim na responsibilidad na ginagampanan ang ating court stenographers. You help ensure that truth and reason prevail in our courts, and, in turn, our country. In performing your tasks efficiently and effectively, you help win back our people’s faith in our legal system.”

Under Rule 136, Section 17 of the Rules of Court, stenographers are mandated to deliver to the clerk of court immediately after a court session all notes taken, to be attached to the records of the case.

At present, there are over 7,000 court stenographers in the Philippines.

Acknowledging the challenges faced by court stenographers, Chief Justice Gesmundo shared the Supreme Court’s blueprint for judicial reform, which targets the outcomes of Efficiency, Innovation, and Access. “The plight of our court stenographers is something the Supreme Court has taken into account in laying out a path for reform through innovation under the Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022-2027 or the SPJI.”

The Chief Justice added, “The SPJI will, among others, allow us to capitalize on artificial intelligence not just for court operations, but for stenographic work—which, in turn, will facilitate the speedy disposition of cases… We can harness AI-enabled voice-to-text transcription services to make stenographic work more efficient and more effective.”

The Chief Justice noted that such efforts have already begun, with the issuance on July 28, 2021, of Office of the Court Administrator Circular No. 107-2021, which encouraged the use of the Live Transcription feature of the Philippine Judiciary 365 platform during videoconferencing hearings.

Chief Justice Gesmundo also addressed apprehensions of downsizing and layoffs presumed to result from digitization and automation: “When we talk of pushing the Judiciary forward through innovation, we mean exactly that—to propel the Judiciary, in its entirety, forward. That means bringing everyone, including our court stenographers, in tow. Sa maikling salita: sa SPJI, sisiguruhin nating walang mapag-iiwanan.”

In closing, Chief Justice Gesmundo implored the court stenographers to support the SPJI: “I call on our court stenographers to fully embrace technology in the performance of your duties, especially as we pursue reform through innovation. Harness it to work more efficiently and expeditiously. Invest in the skills and resources needed to enable the shift that we envision. Be active agents of reform, bearing in mind that these innovations are meant not to supplant us, but to support us.”

Also present was Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Midas P. Marquez, who acknowledged and thanked the support court stenographers have given to ensure the administration of justice in the country: “Your active participation and enthusiasm in various Court programs and initiatives certainly impelled the Judiciary, through our trial courts, to adapt, evolve, and keep up with the changing times. So, too, are the initiatives, which you yourselves have devised, proved instrumental in the Court’s progression toward meaningful change.”

Court Administrator Raul B. Villanueva and Deputy Court Administrator Leo T. Madrazo also spoke at the Convention, emphasizing the vital position of court stenographers, who make up one-fifth of the Judiciary, in the administration of justice.

The three-day Convention included lectures to enhance the knowledge and skills of court stenographers. Among the lecturers were Assistant Court Administrator (ACA) Lilian Barribal-Co, who spoke on the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel, which states the obligations, duties, and responsibilities of all employees in the Judiciary. ACA Barribal-Co explained the duties required under the Code’s Cannons of Fidelity to Duty; Confidentiality; Conflict of Interest; and Performance of Duties.

ACA Maria Regina Adoracion Filomena M. Ignacio also gave a presentation on the duties and functions of court stenographers and the need to preserve the confidentiality of court records. ACA Ignacio also discussed the standards required of court stenographers in the performance of their functions as stated in various court issuances and as illustrated in jurisprudence.

Speaking on the Court’s digital transformation journey, Deputy Clerk of Court and Chief Technology Officer Jed Sherwin G. Uy shared the launch of the Judiciary Electronic Payment Solution, which serves as an online assessment and payment facility for court fees. He also discussed the Court’s plans to further modernize administrative processes with the target implementation of the Human Resource Information System and the Financial Management Information System within 2023 and 2024. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Midas P. Marquez graces the first day of the 9th National Convention of the Court Stenographers of the Philippines Association on April 26, 2023 in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte.

Court Administrator Raul B. Villanueva speaks before court stenographers on the first day of the 9th National Convention of the Court Stenographers of the Philippines Association on April 26, 2023 in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte.

Privacy Statement

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

By submitting your concern or request to us via the Query Form and ticking the box signifying your agreement to the processing and disclosure of personal data, you agree to the collection, use, disclosure, and processing of your personal data for legitimate purposes and in accordance with our mandate.

What personal data do we collect?

The following personal data may be collected through the Query Form and/or by the website analytics:

(a) full name
(b) mobile number
(c) e-mail address
(d) age
(e) gender
(f) nationality

The foregoing complies with the requirement under the Data Privacy Regulations that the privacy notice should provide a “description of the personal data to be entered into the system.

Why do we collect your personal data?

The foregoing personal data shall be processed for the following purposes:

(a) for the proper processing of requests;
(b) to contact you to respond to queries/requests;
(c) for demographics analysis;
(d) for other purposes pursuant to the performance of the functions of the Supreme Court and its offices; and/or
(e) as required by law.

The foregoing complies with the requirement under the Data Privacy Regulations that the privacy notice should provide the “purposes for which the personal data are being or will be processed, including processing for direct marketing, profiling or historical, statistical or scientific purpose.

How do we process your personal data?

Personal data collected shall be processed for purposes of determining the profile of SC website users for reference in helping the Supreme Court in effectively managing the SC website as well as in the SC’s dissemination of information to the public.

Personal data will be collected online based on the information and digital/uploaded documents, if any, provided by the data subjects. The personal data will then be stored and further processed in an electronic form.

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

Google Analytics

The Supreme Court website uses Google Analytics to gather anonymous statistical information from site visitors. Such data are used by the Supreme Court to improve website user experience. You may read about Google Analytics in this link:

You may also choose not to allow Google to collect your information by clicking this link: – please scroll down to ask Google to delete your data

How do we protect your personal data?

The foregoing personal data shall be captured, stored, and retrieved by the Supreme Court and its offices as may be necessary and with utmost security and confidentiality.

How do we retain your personal data?

The collected personal data shall be stored in the Supreme Court server. Such personal data shall not be shared to unauthorized persons.

How long will we keep your personal data?

Such personal data shall be retained for a period of one year. For exceptional circumstances, the data may be retained for as long as needed in the performance of the functions of the Supreme Court and its offices.

Under the Data Privacy Regulations, retention of personal data shall only be for as long as necessary:

a) for the fulfillment of the declared, specified, and legitimate purpose, or when the processing relevant to the purpose has been terminated;

b) for the establishment, exercise or defense of legal claims; or

c) for legitimate business purposes, which must be consistent with standards followed by the applicable industry or approved by appropriate government agency.

However, personal data originally collected for a declared, specified, or legitimate purpose may be processed further for historical, statistical, or scientific purposes, and, in cases laid down in law, may be stored for longer periods, subject to implementation of the appropriate organizational, physical, and technical security measures

How do we dispose of the collected personal data after the retention period?

Your personal data shall be retained: (a) only until your requests or concerns are addressed; or (ii) for a longer period, in exceptional cases, such as when legal issues arise from your requests or concerns or its processing, after which the personal data shall be anonymized and/or expunged. In all cases, your personal data will be stored in a secure manner to ensure its confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

What are your rights as a data subject?

Under the Data Privacy Regulations, you are entitled to the following rights as data subject, which you may exercise at your discretion:

a) The right to be informed

You have the right to be informed whether personal data pertaining to you shall be, are being or have been processed.

b) The right to access

Under the DPA, individuals can request access to any of their personal data held by the Supreme Court, subject to certain restrictions. Any such request should be addressed to the Data Protection Officer.

c) The right to object

You have a right to object to the processing of your personal data, including processing for direct marketing, automated processing or profiling.

d) The right to erasure or blocking

You have the right to suspend, withdraw or order the blocking, removal, or destruction of your personal data from the Supreme Court’s filing system subject to the provisions of the Data Privacy Regulations.

e) The right to damages

You have the right to be indemnified for any damages sustained due to inaccurate, incomplete, outdated, false, unlawfully obtained, or unauthorized use of personal data, considering any violation of your rights and freedoms as data subject.

f) The right to file a complaint before the National Privacy Commission (NPC)

If you feel that your rights have been violated or your personal data has been misused, maliciously disclosed, or improperly disposed of, you have the right to file a complaint before the NPC.

g) The right to rectification

You have the right to dispute any inaccuracy or error in your personal data and have the Supreme Court correct it immediately, unless the request is vexatious or unreasonable.

h) The right to data portability

You have the right to obtain a copy of your data in an electronic or structured format that is commonly used and allows for further use by the data subject.

Changes to our Privacy Notice:

The Privacy Notice may be updated from time to time. If material changes to the Query Form 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 07, 2023.

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:

Supreme Court of the Philippines
Padre Faura St., Ermita, Manila
Philippines 1000
+63 908 850-0919 / +63 2 8552-9644 /


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.