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

Justice Hernando to New Lawyers: The Law Should Not Adjust to You

December 28, 2023

Supreme Court Associate Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando, Chairperson of the 2023 Bar Examinations, imparts pieces of advice to the new members of the Philippine Bar who took their oaths and signed the Roll of Attorneys on Friday, December 22, 2023, at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex in Pasay. Justice Hernando implored the new lawyers to always follow the law, as the law should never be the one to adjust to them. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

“Always follow the law. The law should never be the one to adjust to you.”

This was stressed by Supreme Court Associate Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando, Chairperson of the 2023 Bar Examinations, to the newest members of the Philippine Bar as he shared his words of wisdom to them during their oath taking and roll signing on December 22, 2023 at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex in Pasay City.

Justice Hernando told the new lawyers that “[t]his new world before you is full of promise, but know that it is not an ideal one.” Hence, he gave them “simple pieces of advice” for them to live by as they begin their foray into the legal profession.

Justice Hernando underscored the utmost importance of always following the law, and reminded them that the relaxation of rules is always just an exception and not the general rule. He added that the new lawyers should not primarily rely on an authority’s leniency to escape compliance with the law.

“Be a visible example of a follower of the law. Do not skip lines. Do not run that red light. Be not apathetic. Look up from your phones and see the prevailing realities around you,” said Justice Hernando, adding that the prefix “Atty.” is a professional title and not a social rank which makes them important than non-lawyers.

Justice Hernando said that lawyering will take a lot from them including time, energies, “and sometimes even the strength of your own principles.” He urged them to have fortitude during the most trying times. He also paid tribute to those who did not give up despite setbacks in the Bar.

“What will truly validate you is how you will hold yourself out as a lawyer from the moment you sign the Roll of Attorneys, your demeanor before the courts and the public, the propriety of your actions, the stability of your private lives, and the fortitude of your convictions,” he said.

Justice Hernando had more pieces of advice for the new lawyers:

“Take the time to make informed and rational choices, always, so as not to compromise or overlook the most fleeting opportunities.”

“Re-read your drafts. Revisit your law and please do proofread your citations. Ask a mentor’s opinion. Seek a second opinion or a third one when you can. A rash inefficient decision is a child of impatience.”

“Never stop learning. The law is ever-evolving, and we must do our best not to get left behind.”

“Be foremost advocates of peace. He, however, also said that “Lawyers must be promoters of equity.”

“Encourage out-of-court settlement of minor scuffles the best that you can. Help declog the dockets.”

“Study how to converse politely, professionally, and productively.”

“Seek evidence and reason before you render your conclusions and judgment.”

“Love the legal profession. It is yours to keep, under certain conditions…Consider your title as a continuing challenge for you to be a champion of social justice, unshackled truth, altruistic freedoms, unthreatened peace, equality to all, and inequity to none. Use it to advance the rightful plight of others, always and everywhere.”

“If ever you would need to leave the Philippines, come back. Your country needs you now more than ever.”

Imploring the lawyers to use their words with extreme caution in whichever medium they speak, Justice Hernando stressed that they should be aware that the word of a lawyer can sway people’s views and public opinion, and that they are already influencers in their own professional capacities. “At the very least, may your words and actions as lawyers be guided by the rules of basic decency, professional integrity, and universal inclusivity,” he said.

He also reminded them that they are now bound to the provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability, or the CPRA. “Aside from the words of your oath, keep the commandments of the CPRA to heart…You are to act with independence, propriety, fidelity, competence, diligence, equality, and accountability.”

The 2023 Bar Chairperson urged the oath-takers to let the quality of their work and the good word of others boast on their behalf, and reminded them to always say “thank you, ” to “give credit when credit is due,” and that “it is a sign of respect to ask for people’s names and remember them.”

He also urged them to acquaint themselves with the Supreme Court’s Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022-2027 (SPJI), which is the Court’s blueprint of action for judicial reforms.

Justice Hernando also recognized and thanked each member of the Committee of Bar Examiners for the 2023 Bar Examinations, a collection of well-known Jurists, Academicians and Practitioners, and one of the best and brightest set of examiners gathered together by the Court for the Bar Examinations in years:

Political Law and Public International Law

Professor Juanito G. Arcilla

Dean Sedfrey M. Candelaria

Professor Ranulfo G. Mendoza

Professor Antonio Eduardo S. Nachura, Jr.

Commercial and Taxation Laws

Professor Timoteo B. Aquino

Professor Ignatius Michael D. Ingles

Dean Cesar L. Villanueva

DOTR Undersecretary Reinier Paul R. Yebra


Civil Law

Dean Marianne B. Angeles

Dean Ma. Ngina Teresa V. Chan-Gonzaga

Assistant Solicitor General Marissa B. Dela Cruz-Galandinez

Dean Joan S. Largo


Labor Law

Professor Blessilda B. Abad-Gamo

Professor Imelda M. Abadilla-Brown

Professor Erdelyne C. Go

Atty. Ma. Teresa Antonia F. Fabregas


Criminal Law

Justice Selma Palacio Alaras

Professor Edwin M. Carillo

Atty. Rodolfo Ma. A. Ponferrada

Judge Jocelyn Sundiang-Dilig


Remedial Law, Legal and Judicial Ethics with Practical Exercises

Professor Irene Mae B. Alcobilla

Justice Eduardo B. Peralta, Jr.

Justice Germano Francisco D. Legaspi

Professor Tranquil Gervacio S. Salvador III

Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez, Chairperson of the 2024 Bar Examinations, for his part identified three major challenges he wanted to imprint in their person—technology, economic materialism, and moral responsibility.

On technology, Justice Lopez said that “[w]hile there is a threat of antiquity, the good news is, the emerging technology will not threaten nor usher the demise of the law profession because our law profession is the cornerstone of humanity. Machines are but the creatures of human beings and cannot overcome their creators.”

Justice Lopez appealed to the new lawyers sense of altruism. On economic materialism, he said: “Let me emphasize that a costly and expensive litigation is in itself an injustice, it divests the inherent right of people from access to justice, especially the underprivileged and marginalized ones who should benefit more in terms of law.”

Justice Lopez also cited the CPRA when he spoke of moral responsibility, emphasizing the the Code“captures the virtues that all legal professionals must live up to.”

Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier delivered the invocation, where she expressed gratitude for the wisdom, dedication, and perseverance accorded to Justice Hernando, the Office of the 2023 Bar Chair, and the various offices of the Court in administering the 2023 Bar Examinations. Justice Javier also prayed for wisdom and guidance for all Bar passers who will cross the threshold from student to lawyer during the Ceremonies, and for all newly minted lawyers to be granted the inspiration to become genuine instruments of justice.

Supreme Court Clerk of Court En Banc Atty. Marife M. Lomibao-Cuevas administered the oath to the new lawyers, who were then asked to sign the Oath Forms and the Roll of Attorneys given to them prior to the Ceremonies.

For the first time in the history of the Bar Examinations, the new lawyers took their oath, signed the Roll of Attorneys, and received their Certificate of Admission to the Bar (Diploma), Certificate of Membership in the Philippine Bar, Record of Ratings, and their own copy of their Oath Form and Roll of Attorneys on the same day. The traditional form and mode of signing of the Roll of Attorneys were revisited and revised upon the initiative of Justice Hernando and with the approval of the Supreme Court En Banc, so that the new lawyers can leave the Ceremonies with their Certificate of Admission to the Bar (Diploma), Certificate of Membership in the Philippine Bar, Record of Ratings, and their own copy of their Oath Form and Roll of Attorneys.

These reforms are in fulfillment of Justice Hernando’s promise and vision to have law graduates become lawyers in the same year they graduated law school.

Significantly as well, this year’s Bar passers are also the first batch of lawyers who have complied with the Clinical Legal Education Program requirement for admission to the Bar, which then Associate Justice and now Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo advocated for during the 2019 Legal Education Summit as one of the major Bar reforms of the Court.

The Ceremonies, the Program and system of which were meticulously orchestrated by the Office of the 2023 Bar Chair, was the second time this year that the Supreme Court administered the mass oath taking and signing of the Roll of Attorneys, this time to the examinees who hurdled the 2023 Bar Examinations.

A video tribute to the new lawyers featuring the highlights of the 2023 Bar Examinations—from all three days of the exams and release of the results, to the day of the Ceremonies itself— was shown prior to Justice Hernando’s message. The video was prepared by the Supreme Court Public Information Office upon the instructions of the Office of the 2023 Bar Chair.

A total of 3,812 out of the 10,387 who completed all the tests during the three days of the exams passed the 2023 Bar Examinations. This translates to a passing rate of 36.77%. Ephraim Porciuncula Bie, a graduate of University of Santo Tomas, topped this year’s Bar Examinations with the highest over-all rating of 89.2625%.

The exams were held at 14 local testing centers nationwide on September 17, 20, and 24, and the results were released last December 5. The six core subjects were Political and Public International Law (15%); Commercial and Taxation Laws (20%); Civil Law (20%); Labor Law and Social Legislation (10%); Criminal Law (10%); and Remedial Law, Legal and Judicial Ethics with Practical Exercises (25%). (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

Newly minted lawyers take their oath as members of the Philippine Bar at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex in Pasay City on December 22, 2023. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

Supreme Court Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez, Chairperson of the forthcoming 2024 Bar Examinations, delivers his message to the successful 2023 Bar Examinees on December 22, 2023. (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:

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(b) Device; and

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

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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

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

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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.

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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.

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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
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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.