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Welcome to the Supreme Court of the Philippines
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Justice Singh Urges Persons Deprived of Liberty to Remain Hopeful in Cebu City Jail Female Dormitory

May 12, 2024

Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh, Co-Chairperson of the Committee on Gender Responsiveness in the Judiciary, delivers an inspirational message to the persons deprived of liberty of the Cebu City Jail Female Dormitory on May 10, 2024. (Photo courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office; Caption courtesy of the Office of Associate Justice Singh) 

Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh urged the persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) of the Cebu City Jail Female Dormitory (CCJ-FD) not to lose hope during a facility visit last May 10, 2024, together with Associate Justice Jose Midas P. Marquez, Court Administrator Raul B. Villanueva, and Supreme Court Spokesperson Atty. Camille Sue Mae L. Ting.

Justice Singh co-chairs the Committee on Gender Responsiveness in the Judiciary (CGRJ) with Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul B. Inting and Associate Justice Jhosep Y. Lopez. Justice Singh conducted the visit to the CCJ-FD to check on the conditions of the PDLs, the jail’s facilities, and to primarily aid the creation and formulation of the Manual and Protocol for Handling of Cases of Women in Conflict with the Law.

In her message, Justice Singh expressed her sympathy and understanding for the PDLs and the difficulty to afford bail. She shared that under the new Rules on Criminal Proedure, judges will be required to appreciate the circumstances of the accused in determining the need to confine the accused. “[N]apakalaki pong pagkukulang ng ating mga pinatutupad na alituntunin, na yung mga nabibilang sa inyo na pwede sana magpiyansa, hindi makapagpiyansa kasi wala tayong kakayanan. Dahil po dito, nakipagusap po si Chief Justice [Alexander G.] Gesmundo kay Secretary of Justice [Jesus Crispin C.] Remulla ng [Department of Justice], at binabaan po ni Secretary Remulla [ang kailangang bayaran]. Ngayon po, pag indigent, hanggang sa sampung [libong piso] para lang makalaya yung pwede namang makalaya, para habang kayo ay linilitis pa, innocent pa kayo, hindi pa kayo kailangan mapiit. Kaya lang kahit yung sampung libo hindi kaya, xxx walang pagkukunan. Kaya po ang Korte Suprema ay gumagawa po ng mga bagong rules, xxx yung aming Rules on Criminal Procedure, kung saan kasama po natin si Justice Midas Marquez. Doon po sa mga bagong patakaran na iyon, xxx kapag kayo po ay may kaso, tapos kayo po ay dapat magpiyansa pero wala kayong pangpiyansa, ang aming mga judges kailangan tignan ang mga factors, kung kayo po ba ay first offender, xxx ano ba ang nature ng iyong kasalanan, xxx yung edad niyo, are you a pregnant woman, xxx are you a mother na meron kayong mga batang anak na inyo pang inaalagaan xxx o kayo ba ang breadwinner sa pamilya ninyo[.] Xxx Yung mga bagay na yan ay titignan po ng mga judges namin, at pagka marami po ang factors na yon, imbis na ikulong po kayo habang linilitis ang inyong kaso, pwede po kayong pakawalan under other safeguards (It is a big discrepancy in our rules that those of you who should be allowed to be granted bail cannot do so because of the inability to pay. Because of this, Chief Justice [Alexander G.] Gesmundo spoke with Secretary of Justice [Jesus Crispin C.] Remulla to have the required bail lowered. Now, if the accused is indigent and they can be granted bail, bail should only be at ten thousand pesos, so that while your case is being tried, while you are still innocent, you do not have to be jailed. However, ten thousand is still too much, xxx for those with no resources. This is why the Supreme Court is creating new rules, xxx our Rules on Criminal Procedure, together with Justice Midas Marquez. In these new rules, xxx if you have a case, and you can be granted bail but you lack the resources to afford it, our judges will be required to look at the factors, such as if you are a first offender, xxx the nature of your case, xxx your age, are you pregnant, xxx are you a mother who is still taking care of young children, xxx or are you the breadwinner of your family[.] These factors will be looked into by our judges, and if such factors are present, instead of confining you while your case is being tried, you can be set free under other safeguards),” Justice Singh proudly shared.

Justice Singh also highlighted that persons convicted of heinous crimes can now avail of Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) in serving their sentences, in light of the Supreme Court En Banc’s recent ruling in G.R. No. 249027 and G.R. No. 249155 (Guinto et al., v. Department of Justice; Inmates of New Bilibid Prison, et al. v. Department of Justice). Such ruling was penned by Justice Singh.  

“Para naman po doon sa mga hindi maganda po yung narating ng ating mga kaso at tayo po ay naconvict, tapos natalo po ang ating apela, xxx at tayo ay magsisilbi na doon sa ating correctional [institute]: huwag din pong mawalan ng pag-asa, dahil mayroon po kaming recent decision, yun pong Guinto, kung saan sinabi po namin na sa ating Good Conduct Time Allowance, kahit po yung mga heinous offenses, xxx pwede kayo mag GCTA. Kahit po yung repeat offenders, xxx pwede pa rin po magavail ng GCTA. Kasi po ang sabi natin diyan, kaya nga po tayo ay tao, tayo ay magkakamli, hindi tayo perpekto, hindi tayo diyos. At pag nagkamali, dapat may pagkakataon pa, kasi wala namang perpekto sa atin. Xxx Kaya po sinabi namin sa sa Guinto, kahit heinous offenses, kahit recidivist, pwede pong makaavail ng GCTA, kaya magbait po tayo (For those whose cases did not turn out as well and you are convicted, and your appeals are denied and you have to serve time at our correctional [institutes]: do not lose hope, because we have a recent decision, Guinto, where we pronounced that in our Good Conduct Time Allowance, even those found guilty of heinous offenses, xxx can avail of GCTA. Even repeat offenders, xxx can avail of GCTA. Because we are only people, we are bound to make mistakes, we are not perfect nor are we gods. When we do make mistakes, you should still have the opportunity to change, because none of us are perfect. This is why we pronounced in the case of Guinto, even if you are found guilty of a heinous offense, even if you are recidivist, you can avail of GCTA, so let’s do our best,” Justice Singh said to the CCJ-FD residents.

Justice Singh further encouraged the PDLs to participate in the jail’s various programs which can be credited for GCTA. “Yung mga bagay na pwede nating gawin [na pwedeng macredit bilang GCTA], yung mga programa ng jail authorities, gawin po natin. Mayroon pong mga reading program, mentoring program, coaching program, sumali po tayo (The activities that we can do [that can be credited as GCTA], such as the programs of the jail authorities, let us participate in them. There are reading programs, mentoring programs, coaching programs, let us join them),” Justice Singh exhorted.

Justice Singh also commended the cultural dance prepared by the PDLs and recommended that the same be given GCTA credits. “Iyon din pong dance kanina, thank you sa inyo, napagkaganda ng inyong sayaw. Yun po sana binibigyan natin ng GCTA [credits] iyon dahil that is a very constructive way of spending their time (For the dance earlier, thank you for the beautiful performance. We should also credit that as GCTA because that is a very constructive way of spending their time).”

After delivering her message, Justice Singh, together with Justice Marquez, Court Administrator Villanueva, and Supreme Court Spokesperson Atty. Ting, toured the facility and took note of the living conditions of the PDLs. Throughout the tour, Justice Singh made continuous inquiries regarding the Cebu City Jail’s procedures and protocol on handling their female PDLs, especially the minors, the elderly, and the pregnant women.

Also present were Dean Jose Glenn C. Capanas, Dean of the University of San Carlos School of Law and Governance, and Atty. Mary Grace H. Casano, Executive Director for Legal Aid of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu City Chapter.

Last April 18, 2024, Justice Singh also conducted a visit to the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City. While primarily for the CGRJ and its Technical Working Groups to Develop the Manual and Protocol for Handling of Cases of Women in Conflict with the Law, these jail visits are also conducted in furtherance of the Supreme Court’s Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovation 2022-2027 which targets three major outcomes: Efficiency, Innovation, and Access. (Courtesy of the Office of Associate Justice Singh) 

Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh tours the facilities of the Cebu City Jail – Female Dormitory, together with (from left) Jail Chief Superintendent Neil R. Avisado, DSC, Director of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology – Region VII; Jail Superintendent Stephanny F. Salazar, Cebu City Jail Warden; Supreme Court Spokesperson Atty. Camille Sue Mae L. Ting; Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Midas P. Marquez; and Court Administrator Raul B. Villanueva on May 10, 2024. (Photo courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office; Caption courtesy of the Office of Associate Justice Singh) 

Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh shows her appreciation of the creations of the persons deprived of liberty in their creative workshop at the Cebu City Jail Female Dormitory during a visit on May 10, 2024. (Photo courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office; Caption courtesy of the Office of Associate Justice Singh) 

(Seated, from left) Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh, Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Midas P. Marquez, Court Administrator Raul B. Villanueva; (standing, 8th from left) Supreme Court Spokesperson Atty. Camille Sue Mae L. Ting; Atty. Mary Grace H. Casano, Executive Director for Legal Aid of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu City Chapter; and Dean Jose Glenn C. Capanas, Dean of the University of San Carlos School of Law and Governance, pose with the officers of the Cebu City Jail Female Dormitory after a visit on May 10, 2024. (Photo courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office; Caption courtesy of the Office of Associate Justice Singh) 

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

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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.

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

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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.