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Chief Justice Gesmundo to Legal Professionals: Regain Public’s Trust by Giving Dignity and Nobility to Our Profession

October 25, 2022

Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo yesterday urged the  members of the legal community to give dignity and nobility to the  profession so as to regain the trust of the people in lawyers and in the  entire justice system.

Speaking at the second leg of the Ethics Caravan for the Proposed Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability (CPRA) at the  University of Mindanao, Matina Campus, Davao City, Davao del Sur on  Monday, October 24, 2022, Chief Justice Gesmundo also underscored  the importance of these inclusive and consultative dialogues with all  concerned stakeholders in revising the Code. 

“This a clarion call for all of us to take the responsibility of giving  dignity and nobility to our profession, and by so doing, put back the  trust of our people not only in lawyers, but in the justice system as a  whole,” said Chief Justice Gesmundo, who also gave an overview of the  Supreme Court’s Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022-2027 (SPJI)

The Chief Justice emphasized that lawyers, as officers of the  court, “play a key role in the administration of justice and upholding the  rule of law.”  

However, the Chief Justice said that the legal profession “is no  stranger to allegations of scandal and controversy. In fact, it is a general  belief that in practice, lawyers either by hook or by crook use unsavory  tactics to further their client’s, or even their own, interest,” he said.  “Some lawyers even lie, cheat, or steal to gain the upper hand. It is no  wonder that lawyers have often been perceived as liars, having no  scruples at all, and only after his or her professional fees.”  

The proposed CPRA seeks to improve and modernize the practice  of law. The Chief Justice shared that it tackles the use of social media,  formation and definition of the lawyer-client relationship, conduct of  non-legal staff and other intricacies experienced by practitioners today.  “The CPRA also consolidates separate regulations pertaining to the  discipline of lawyers,” he said. “It also abbreviates administrative  proceedings and imposes a standardized table of penalties for varying  degrees of offenses. The CPRA not only addresses the punitive aspect of  the unethical legal practice but also captures the ideal characteristics  that all members of the bar must live up to- independence, propriety,  fidelity, competence and diligence, equality, and accountability.”  

Chief Justice Gesmundo stressed that apart from aiming to  inform members of the Bar about the proposed CPRA, the goal of the  Ethics Caravan “is to allow for a more inclusive and consultative dialogue  with all relevant stakeholders including practitioners, the academe, and  other stakeholders, to further fine-tune the proposed provisions and  address any concern which might have been previously overlooked.”  

The Chief Justice encourage everyone to work with the Judiciary  and help it achieve its goal of delivering timely and effective justice,  stressing that: “Efficiency, Innovation, and Access, the outcomes of the  SPJI, may only be attained through meaningful cooperation between the  members of the bar, the bench, court officials and employees, other  public officials, and court users. This Ethics Caravan is an effort to open  more avenues for cooperation between the Court and different sectors of  relevant stakeholders.” 

The five-leg Ethics Caravan is part of the Supreme Court’s efforts to  update the 34-year old Code of Professional Responsibility and craft a  modern, relevant, and responsive guide for lawyers’ conduct. The first  Caravan was held in Cebu City last September. After the Cebu and Davao legs, consultations with stakeholders on the proposed CPRA will  be conducted in Naga City, Baguio City, and the NCR.  

Led by the Supreme Court Sub-Committee for the Revision of the  Code of Professional Responsibility (Sub-Committee), with the support of  the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-Australia, The Asia  Foundation, The European Union, Justice Sector Reform Program:  Governance in Justice, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the  Philippine Association of Law Schools, the Ethics Caravan is a series of  consultations seeking to incorporate in the CPRA the underlying ethical  considerations of a technology-driven Judiciary and legal profession in  line with the Supreme Court’s SPJI. 

Likewise, it aims to introduce the proposed CPRA and its salient  provisions to stakeholders and the general public as part of the Supreme  Court’s efforts to update the 34-year old Code of Professional  Responsibility and craft a modern, relevant, and responsive guide for  lawyers’ conduct. 

Senior Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, in a recorded  message, highlighted the proposed changes in the Lawyers’ Oath,  including adding the word “justice” for the first time, underscoring the  value of the Lawyer’s Oath as forming “the basic foundation of what a  lawyer means.”  

Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, the Sub-Committee Chairperson, in  her video recorded message, expressed her gratitude to all participants.  She disclosed that “it was the choice and wish of the Chief Justice to  hold every Ethics Caravan in the university where the teaching of ethics  all begins and where the values we learned from home are fortified. We  also recognize the role of the youth in nation building as future shapers  of the world. The great lawyers of today were once law students.” 

Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh, Sub-Committee Vice  Chairperson, presented the proposed CPRA. She shared that the CPRA is  the Court’s attempt in crafting more relevant and responsive guide for  lawyers’ conduct. 

The closing remarks of Justice Samuel H. Gaerlan, Sub-Committee  Vice Chairperson, was read by Court of Appeals Justice Geraldine C.  Fiel-Macaraig. 

Supreme Court Justices Jhosep Y. Lopez, Japar B. Dimaampao,  and Jose Midas P. Marquez also attended the second Ethics Caravan.  

The Caravan will culminate in the National Summit on Ethical  Standards for Lawyers which will be held in February 2023.

Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo waves to the participants of the second leg of the  Ethics Caravan as he leaves the Auditorium of the University of Mindanao, Matina  Campus, Davao City, Davao del Sur on Monday, October 24, 2022. (Courtesy of the SC  Public Information Office)

Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh gives a presentation on the proposed Code of  Professional Responsibility and Accountability (CPRA) during the second leg of the Ethics  Caravan for the Proposed CPRA held at the Auditorium of the University of Mindanao,  Matina Campus, Davao City, Davao del Sur on Monday, October 24, 2022. (Courtesy of  the SC Public Information Office)

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.