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

SC Denies Request for Manual Recount of 2022 Pangasinan Election Results; Affirms Constitutional Right to FOI

August 17, 2023

The Supreme Court En Banc, in a Decision penned by Justice Samuel H. Gaerlan, has denied the Petition for Certiorari and Mandamus filed by Clarlyn A. Legaspi, et al. against the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in relation to the 2022 elections held in Pangasinan.

On May 27, 2022, the COMELEC, through its Executive Director, received a signature campaign petition, titled “APELA PARA SA MANO-MANONG PAGBILANG MULI NG MGA BOTO SA PROBINSYA NG PANGASINAN” (APELA), questioning the results of the elections held in the whole province of Pangasinan on May 9, 2022 and requesting for a recount of the votes cast.

The COMELEC Law Department responded on May 31, 2022, informing the signatories that the APELA did not comply with requirements for election protests.

Atty. Laudemer I. Fabia, who was responsible for preparing and circulating the APELA, replied with a letter on June 15, 2022, claiming he is speaking for more than 71,000 duly registered Pangasinan voters whose signatures could be found in the APELA. According to Atty. Fabia, the COMELEC must reconsider their request given that the APELA is not an election protest filed by a losing candidate, but a People’s Initiative to petition the COMELEC for a manual recount of votes. He also claimed that the APELA is an exercise of their right to information on matters of public concern.

In response, the COMELEC Law Department, in a letter on July 7, 2022, directed them to COMELEC Resolution No. 10650, which provides the requirements in the filing of petitions to commence the process of initiative and referendum.

This was regarded by Atty. Fabia as a denial of their request for manual recount, prompting him and other APELA signatories (petitioners) to go to the Supreme Court.

In dismissing their petition, the Court stressed that an actual case or controversy must exist for the Court to exercise its power of judicial review. There is an actual case or controversy when the aggrieved party’s rights are fully established to be extant, due, and demandable vis-à-vis the other party’s actions, which either violate or deny the said rights, held the Court.

In the case of the petitioners, they claim that their constitutional rights (1) of suffrage, (2) to petition the government for redress of grievances, and (3) to have access to information on matters of public concern were affected by the COMELEC’s supposed denial of the APELA and of their request for manual recount.

The Court, however, held that there was no violation of their right of suffrage, given that they were able to exercise their right to vote by casting their votes on May 9, 2022. Neither was there any proof of manipulations and anomalies that would have prevented their votes from being counted. The Court also stressed that there is no statutory basis for the manual recount the petitioners are requesting. 

The Court explained that while the right of suffrage should cover the accompanying right to have one’s votes properly and rightly counted, the basis must be concrete proof of an initiating party’s rights and violations (existing or impending). Mere speculations and surmises, such as in the case of the petitioners, are insufficient for purposes of determining whether a case constitutes a justiciable controversy.

As for petitioners’ right to petition the government for redress of grievances, the Court held that nothing prevented the petitioners from being heard before the COMELEC and before the Court. The petitioners’ right to express their apprehensions and doubts with regard to the conduct and results of the 2022 elections is constitutionally guaranteed and recognized, and there is no indication at all of the said right being violated or stymied, ruled the Court.

Neither did the Court find violations of the petitioners’ right to information. Tracing the jurisprudence on freedom of information (FOI) cases, starting from Subido v. Ozaeta in 1948 to the present, the Court underscored the constitutional right of the people to information on matters of public concern and that access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.

The Court ruled that it is clear from jurisprudence how the Court accords primacy to such a fundamental right of an ordinary citizen to inquire into the dealings and functions of governance and administration. Subject to certain exceptions and limitations, a citizen whose right to FOI has either been denied or violated by a government agency may bring a suit for mandamus for the vindication of said right and the judicial compulsion of disclosure and/or grant of access to State information crucial to the public discourse and welfare, said the Court.

Such bias in favor of transparency and accountability is in keeping with democratic traditions, hence, no government agency may keep the proverbial door to such records shut in the absence of any compelling justification that must be judicially approved, the Court stressed.

However, in the case of the petitioners, the Court found that their right to FOI was not violated. First, the language in the APELA and Atty. Fabia’s letters did not mention anything about a request for the grant of access to any documents relative to the operation and transmission of vote-counting machines, other than a vague invocation of the petitioners’ right to FOI, without any particulars. Hence, such generally worded, overly broad, and vague references cannot rightly be considered to have been a proper demand for FOI, ruled the Court.

Second, the Court found that the petitioners failed to exhaust available administrative remedies when they did not resort to the COMELEC’s established FOI procedure as outlined in its FOI Manual, which provides a well-defined procedure by which a citizen may request for access to information in the custody of the COMELEC’s offices and officials. The Court noted that the COMELEC’s FOI procedure is complete with a procedure for the administrative appeal of denials of FOI requests and an express recognition that “[u]pon exhaustion of all administrative remedies, the requesting party may file the appropriate judicial action in accordance with the Rules of Court.” In the case of the petitioners, there was no denial of their right to FOI, since there was no proper FOI request to begin with, despite the COMELEC’s exhaustive FOI policy and manual in place since 2020, said the Court.

The Court also held that there is a need to reexamine the notion that mandamus, which is awarded only when a petitioner’s legal right to the performance of a particular act is clear and complete, is still the appropriate remedy to enforce and recognize the people’s constitutional right to FOI in light of government agencies such as the COMELEC having crafted and promulgated FOI procedures that now appear to be quasi-judicial in nature.

That the COMELEC’s FOI Manual provides for the constitution of an appeals and review committee to decide appeals from initial denials of FOI requests means that the administrative process as spelled out in the FOI manuals and procedures of government agencies have actually and already become discretionary and no longer purely ministerial, the Court said. Hence, actions on FOI requests before government agencies with established FOI procedures, which involve the determination of the factual and legal aspects of the said requests are deemed to be discretionary actions properly reviewable by either appeal or certiorari, depending on the circumstances.

The Court added that the petitioners, who should be commended for their courageous stance when they signed and filed the APELA, can still avail of the remedies contained  in  the COMELEC’s  FOI  manual  for  the  information they seek vis-à-vis the truth of the May 9, 2022 National and Local Elections.

The Court also noted the following as additional grounds to dismiss the petition: the required verifications are defective as the facts stated in the petition were not based on the petitioners’ personal knowledge or on authentic documents; the petitioners have no legal standing since there is no concrete injury given that they were not prevented from participating in the 2022 elections; and the petition cannot be classified as a class suit for its failure to attach the APELA signature pages for the Court’s verification.

The Court concluded by underscoring that its ruling affirms the people’s constitutional right to FOI by its recognition and strengthening of FOI procedures duly crafted and promulgated by government agencies such as the COMELEC. This is also in keeping with the Court’s deference and respect accorded to the COMELEC as the sole constitutionally empowered electoral body and watchdog having primary competence and specialized expertise over all things election-related, said the Court.

The Supreme Court Public Information Office shall upload a copy of the Decision in G.R. No. 264661 (Legaspi, et al. v. COMELEC) once it receives a copy from the Office of the Clerk of Court En Banc. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court 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

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 personal data to enable us to monitor the website’s engagement.

What personal data do we collect?

The following personal data are collected by WordPress Statistics, a third-party party service, to enable us to monitor the website’s performance through its engagement with visitors:

  • Browser
  • City
  • Country
  • Device brand
  • Device category
  • Device model
  • Language
  • Operating System
  • OS Version
  • Platform

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

Why do we collect your personal data?

The data collected by WordPress Statistics shall be used to enable us to monitor the website’s performance through its engagement with visitors.

How do we process your personal data?

Personal data by WordPress Statistics 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.

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.

WordPress Statistics

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

  • Browser
  • City
  • Country
  • Device brand
  • Device category
  • Device model
  • Language
  • Operating System
  • OS Version
  • Platform

How do we protect your personal data?

The foregoing personal data, which are encrypted, shall be captured, stored, and retrieved by the Supreme Court and its offices solely for the specific purposes stated in the Privacy Notice, i.e., for reference in helping the Supreme Court in effectively managing the SC website and for proper processing of queries/requests and contacting the data subject to respond to the queries/requests. 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 hosted in the Supreme Court servers, which in turn is subject to strict security protocols.

How long will we keep your personal data?

The collected personal data shall be stored in the Supreme Court server. The Supreme Court Management Information System Office (MISO) maintains the database for the transmission of the personal data. Only the administrators of the SC website, MISO, and authorized offices shall have access to such data. Such personal data shall not be shared with unauthorized persons.

Personal data collected by WordPress Statistics 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.

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 in relation to the personal data collected by WordPress Statistics. These rights may be exercised at your discretion:

(a) The right to be informed

You have the right to be informed whether personal data pertaining to you, obtained through the WordPress Statistics, 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 (obtained either through the WordPress Statistics), 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 system as obtained either through WordPress Statistics, 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 structure format that is commonly used and allows for further use by the data subject.

Changes to our Privacy Notice:

This 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 August 30, 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 3 8552 9532



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.

Mobile Menu