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Welcome to the Supreme Court of the Philippines
Welcome to the Supreme Court of the Philippines
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Yearender: Significant Supreme Court Decisions in 2023

December 30, 2023

In 2023,* the Supreme Court had a total case output of 3,711 cases, with a clearance rate of 84% and a disposition rate of 21%, up from 19% the previous year.

The following are some of the notable rulings that the Supreme Court promulgated in 2023 pursuant to its power of adjudication:

G.R. No. 244587, Sula v. COMELEC, January 10, 2023

In Sula v. COMELEC, the Court upheld the inclusion of Cotabato City in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

The Court ruled that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) complied with the requirements of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in conducting a plebiscite. The Court further emphasized the constitutional mandate of the COMELEC to guarantee the proper exercise of the right of suffrage which the Court will not interfere with if there is no grave abuse of discretion.

The Court also found that the petitioners failed to substantiate with the necessary evidence their allegations of fraud in the conduct of the plebiscite. “The mere allegation that the inclusion of Cotabato City in the newly-formed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was not the true intention of the voters of Cotabato City will not persuade this Court to overturn the actions of the Commission on Elections,” the Court held.

G.R. No. 182734, Bayan-Muna Party List v. GMA, January 10, 2023

In Bayan-Muna Party List v. GMA, the Court declared unconstitutional and void the Tripartite Agreement for Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) by and among China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Vietnam Oil and Gas Corporation, and Philippine National Oil Company involving an area in the South China Sea covering 142,886 square kilometers (“Agreement Area”).

The Court ruled that the JSMU is unconstitutional for allowing wholly-owned foreign corporations to participate in the exploration of the country’s natural resources without observing the safeguards provided in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.

The Court, noting that the term “exploration” pertains to a search or discovery of something in both its ordinary or technical sense, ruled that the JMSU involves the exploration of the country’s natural resources, particularly petroleum.

The Court subsequently denied the Motion for Reconsideration filed by respondents.

G.R. No. 236628, San Juan v. People, January 17, 2023

In San Juan v. People, the Court ruled that Section 10(a) of Republic Act No. 7610, or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act (RA 7610), applies to acts covered by the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

The Court clarified how Section 10(a) of RA 7610 should be interpreted. Citing its previous ruling in Araneta v. People, the Court noted that Section 10(a) contemplates four distinct acts: (a) child abuse, (b) child cruelty, (c) child exploitation, and (d) being responsible for conditions prejudicial to the child’s development.

The Court noted there are two possible interpretations of the phrase “but not covered by the [RPC], as amended” in Section 10(a) of RA 7610: (1) that the phrase qualifies only the immediate words, i.e. “including those covered by Article 59 of Presidential Decree No. 603 [PD 603], as amended”; or (2) that the phrase qualifies all of the four acts enumerated in Section 10(a).

Under the first interpretation, Section 10(a) applies to acts covered by the RPC as well as acts under Article 59 of PD 603 that are not covered by the RPC. The second interpretation, on the other hand, precludes the application of Section 10(a) to acts already covered by the RPC.

The Court ruled that the correct interpretation is the first, following the doctrine of last antecedent and the rule of ad proximum antecedens fiat relatio nisi impediatur sentencia (relative words refer to the nearest antecedent, unless it is prevented by the context).

G.R. No. 236118, ACT Teachers v. Duterte, January 24, 2023

In ACT Teachers v. Duterte, the Court upheld the constitutionality of R.A. No. 10963, or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN Act), which amended R.A. No. 8424, or the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997.

The Court held that the supposed absence of a quorum in the House of Representatives was belied by the official Journal of the House of Representatives, both on the day that the TRAIN’s Bicameral Conference Report was ratified and the immediately subsequent session on January 15, 2018. As between the livestream video and photographs presented by the petitioners, and the Congressional Journal, the latter must prevail as to the events on the Congressional floor on that fateful day given that no less than the Constitution itself grants the Congressional Journal its imprimatur.

The Court also reiterated that the Constitution, in its present form, does not prohibit the imposition of regressive taxes, but merely directs Congress to evolve a progressive system of taxation.

G.R. No. 242957, Board of Commissioners v. Wenle, February 28, 2023

In Board of Commissioners v. Wenle, the Court laid down guidelines for establishing the validity of administrative warrants:

  1. The danger, harm, or evil sought to be prevented by the warrant must be imminent and must be greater than the damage or injury which will be sustained by the one who shall be temporarily deprived of a right to liberty or property;
  1. The warrant’s resultant deprivation of a right or legitimate claim of entitlement must be temporary or provisional, aimed only at suppressing imminent danger, harm or evil, with such deprivation’s permanency strictly subjected to procedural due process requirements;
  1. The issuing administrative authority must be empowered by law to perform specific implementing acts pursuant to regulatory purposes;
  1. The issuing administrative authority must be necessarily authorized by law to pass upon and make final pronouncements on conflicting rights and obligations of contending parties, as well as to issue warrants or orders that are incidental to the performance of the executive or administrative duty entrusted to it;
  1. The issuance of an administrative warrant must be based on tangible proof or probable cause and must state a specific purpose or infraction allegedly committed, with particular descriptions of the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized;
  1. The warrant issued must not pertain to a criminal offense or pursued as a precursor for the filing of criminal charges and any object seized pursuant to such writ shall not be admissible in evidence in any criminal proceeding;
  1. The person temporarily deprived of a right or entitlement by an administrative warrant shall be formally charged within a reasonable time, if no such period is provided, and shall not be denied access to a competent counsel of his or her choice. In cases where a person is deprived of liberty by virtue of an administrative warrant, the administrative body which issued said warrant shall immediately submit a verified notice to the RTC nearest to the detained for purposes of issuing a judicial commitment order; and
  1. A violation of any item of these guidelines is a prima facie proof of usurpation of judicial functions, malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance, or graft and corrupt practices on the part of responsible officers.

G.R. No. 243133, Republic v. Pryce, March 8, 2023

In Republic v. Pryce, the Court ruled that interment services are covered by the 20% discount on funeral and burial expenses provided by the Senior Citizens Act and its amending laws.

On the scope of services covered by the subject 20% discount on funeral and burial services, the Court said that both RA 9257 and RA 9994, in amending RA 7432, do not provide for an exact definition of the term “funeral and burial services.” Notably, the said laws likewise do not limit the scope of the services falling under “funeral and burial services.”

The Court said that based on the definition of the term “burial” as  it is commonly understood, “burial service” pertains to any service offered or provided in connection with the final disposition, entombment, or interment of human remains. It held that it follows that burial services necessarily include interment services, such as digging the land for the deceased person’s grave, its concreting, and other services being done during the actual burial.

This conclusion, said the Court, was supported by the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) which prescribe the guidelines in the application of the 20% discount on funeral and burial services in that a comparison of the IRRs of RA 9257 and RA 9994 shows that the two are substantially the same. The exception is that Section 6 of the IRR of RA 9994 expounded on the term “other related services” by including a sample list of “services” and excluding obituary publication and cost of memorial plot.

G.R. No. 200015, DPWH v. Phil Institute of Civil Engineers, March 15, 2023

In DPWH v. Phil Institute of Civil Engineers, the Court ruled that with the enactment of the Architecture Act, only registered and licensed architects may prepare, sign, and seal architectural documents as listed under Section 302(4)(a), (c), (d), (e), and (f) of the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of the National Building Code.

The Court held that the Architecture Act impliedly repealed the Civil Engineering Law insofar as it permits civil engineers to prepare, sign, and seal architectural documents.

On the issue of conflicting versions of the National Building Code, the Court ruled that the text of the National Building Code as published in the Official Gazette is the controlling and official version, not the copy of the law stored in the National Library, consistent with the publication requirement under Article 2 of the Civil Code. The provisions of the published version of the law, the Court held, “cannot be supplanted by the contents of the other copy of the law which do not appear to have complied with the publication requirement.”

The Court thus concluded that only registered and licensed architects may prepare, sign, and seal the architectural documents listed in Section 302(4)(a), (c), (d), (e), and (f) of the Revised Implementing Rules, while only registered and licensed architects, or interior designers, may prepare, sign, and seal the architectural interior/interior design documents enumerated under Section 302(4)(b) of the same rules.

G.R. No. 257401, Ong v. Senate, March 28, 2023

In Ong v. Senate, the Court held that the Senate committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing contempt and arrest orders against Pharmally resource persons.

The Court ruled that while the Senate has the power to conduct legislative inquiries, it must observe the Constitutional right to due process of the persons appearing before such proceedings.

The Court stressed that Congress is not precluded from causing the appearance of a resource person. Such power being inherent and necessary for Congress to effectively perform its function of inquiry in aid of legislation, it need not find textual basis in the Senate Rules of Procedure.

The Court, however, stressed that Congress’ power of legislative investigation is subject to three limitations: (1) the inquiry must be in “aid of legislation”; (2) the inquiry must be conducted in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure; and (3) the rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be respected. Further, where there is factual basis for contempt, the resource person’s detention should only last until the termination of the legislative inquiry.

In the case of the Pharmally resource persons, the Court found that while the Senate complied with the first two restrictions, it failed to meet the last when it cited the petitioners in contempt and ordered their arrests without giving them the opportunity to be heard.

G.R. Nos. 208310-11 and 208662, People v. Mendez, March 28, 2023

In People v. Mendez, the Court issued the following guidelines in the prosecution of criminal actions for tax law violations:

(1) When a criminal action for violation of the tax laws is filed, a prior assessment is not required. Neither is a final assessment a precondition to collection of delinquent taxes in the criminal tax case. The criminal action is deemed a collection case. The government must thus prove two things: (a) the guilt of the accused by proof beyond reasonable doubt; and (b) the accused’s civil liability for taxes by competent evidence (other than an assessment).

(2) If before the institution of the criminal action, the government filed (a) a civil suit for collection, or (b) an answer to the taxpayer’s petition for review before the CTA, the civil action or the resolution of the taxpayer’s petition for review shall be suspended before judgment on the merits until final judgment is rendered on the criminal action. However, before judgment on the merits is rendered on the civil action, it may be consolidated with the criminal action. In such a case, the judgment in the criminal action shall include a finding of the accused’s liability for unpaid taxes relative to the criminal case.

The Court also clarified that following the effectivity of RA 11576 on August 21, 2021, for tax cases filed upon such date, jurisdiction shall be as follows:

(a) Exclusive original jurisdiction over tax collection cases involving PhP1,000,000 or more remains with the CTA;
(b) Exclusive original jurisdiction over tax collection cases involving less than PhP1,000,000 shall be exercised by the proper first-level courts;
(c) Exclusive appellate jurisdiction over tax collection cases originally decided by the first-level courts shall be exercised by the Regional Trial Court;
(d) Exclusive original jurisdiction over criminal offenses or felonies where the principal amount of taxes and fees, exclusive of charges and penalties, claimed is PhP1,000,000 or more remains with the CTA;
(e) Exclusive original jurisdiction over criminal offenses or felonies where the principal amount of taxes and fees, exclusive of charges and penalties, claimed is less than PhP1,000,000 shall be exercised by the proper first-level courts; and
(f) Exclusive appellate jurisdiction over criminal offenses or felonies originally decided by the first-level courts remains with the RTC.

G.R. No. 253480, Bunayog v. Foscon Shipmanagement, April 25, 2023

In Bunayog v. Foscon Shipmanagement, the Court set the following guidelines in cases where seafarer claiming disability benefits requests third doctor referral:

1. A seafarer who receives a contrary medical finding from his/her doctor must send to the employer, within a reasonable period, a written request to refer the conflicting medical findings to a third doctor, to be mutually agreed upon by the parties, and whose findings shall be final and binding between the parties.

2. The written request must be accompanied by or must indicate the contents of the medical report from his/her doctor. Otherwise, the written request shall be considered invalid and as if none had been requested.

3. In case there was no valid request for a third doctor referral from the seafarer, the employer may opt to ignore the request or to refuse to assent, either verbal or written, to such request without violating the pertinent provision of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration – Standard Employment Contract (POEA-SEC).

Accordingly, if a complaint is subsequently filed by the seafarer against the employer before the labor tribunal, and the parties, after a directive from the LA pursuant to NLRC En Banc Resolution No. 008-14, fail to secure the services of a third doctor, the labor tribunals shall hold the findings of the company-designated physician final and binding, unless the same is found to be biased, i.e., lacking in scientific basis or unsupported by the medical records of the seafarer. In such a case, the inherent merits of the respective medical findings shall be considered by the tribunals or court.

If, however, the parties were able to secure the services of a third doctor during mandatory conference, the latter’s assessment of the seafarer’s medical condition should be considered final and binding.

4. In case of a valid written request from the seafarer for a third doctor referral, the employer must, within 10 days from receipt, send a written reply stating that the procedure shall be initiated by the employer. After a positive response from the employer, the parties are given a period of 15 days to secure the services of a third doctor and an additional period of 30 days for the third doctor to submit his/her assessment. The assessment of the third doctor shall be final and binding.

In case, however, the parties fail to mutually agree as to the third doctor, a complaint for disability benefits may be filed by the seafarer against the employer. The labor tribunals shall then consider and peruse the inherent merits of the respective medical findings of the parties’ doctors before making a conclusion as to the condition of the seafarer.

5. If, however, the employer ignores the written request of the seafarer, or sends a written reply to the seafarer refusing to initiate the referral to a third doctor procedure, or sends a written reply giving its assent to the request beyond 10 days from receipt of the written request of the seafarer, the employer is considered in violation of the POEA-SEC. The seafarer may now institute a complaint against his or her employer.

6. Upon the filing of the complaint and during the mandatory conference, the LA shall give the parties a period of 15 days to secure the services of a third doctor and an additional period of 30 days for the third doctor to submit his/her reassessment.

7. If the services of a third doctor were not secured on account of the employer’s refusal to give heed to the LA’s request or due to the failure of the parties to mutually agree as to the third doctor, the labor tribunals should make conclusive between the parties the findings of the seafarer’s physician of choice, unless the same is clearly biased, i.e., lacking in scientific basis or unsupported by the medical records of the seafarer. In such a case, the inherent merits of the respective medical findings and the totality of evidence shall be considered by the labor tribunals or courts.

If, however, the failure to refer the seafarer’s condition to a third doctor after directive from the LA was due to the fault of the seafarer, then the labor tribunals and the courts should make conclusive between the parties the findings of the company-designated physician, except when the company-designated physician’s medical conclusion is found to have been issued with a clear bias in favor of the employer, i.e., lacking in scientific basis, or unsupported by the medical records of the seafarer, as held in Dionio v. Trans-Global Maritime Agency. Inc. When such exception applies, the inherent merits of the respective medical findings shall be considered by the tribunals or court.

8. If, despite the employer’s failure to respond to the seafarer’s valid request for a third doctor, the parties, during mandatory conference, were able to secure the services of a third doctor, and the latter was able to make a reassessment on the seafarer’s condition, the third doctor’s findings should be final and binding between the parties. In such a case, the employer’s refusal to respond to the seafarer’s valid request for a third doctor referral should be considered immaterial.

G.R. No. 227706, People v. Almayda, June 14, 2023

In People v. Almayda, the Court ruled that in the chain of custody in drugs cases, the seizure and marking, including the physical inventory and photograph-taking, of the seized drug must be done immediately at the place of arrest.

The Court restated its 2022 ruling in People v. Casa that in case of warrantless seizures, the inventory and taking of photographs, which is the first link in the chain of custody of drugs cases, generally must be done at the place of seizure.
The exception to this rule is where the physical inventory and taking of photographs of the seized item may be conducted at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer or team, provided that police officers have justification that (1) it is not practicable to conduct the same at the place of seizure or (2) the items seized are threatened by immediate or extreme danger at the place of seizure, held the Court.

The Court added that when the police officers are able to provide a sensible reason, which is practicable, consistent, and not merely generic or an afterthought, then the courts will recognize that the police officers may indeed conduct the inventory at the nearest police station or the nearest office of the apprehending officer/team. Such reason must be indicated in the affidavits of the police officers who participated in the buy-bust operation.

G.R. No. 263590, Macalintal v. COMELEC, June 27, 2023

In Macalintal v. COMELEC, the Court declared unconstitutional the law (RA 11935) which postponed the holding of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (BSK) Elections (BSKE), from its initial schedule of December 5, 2022 to the last Monday of October 2023, but recognized the legal practicality and necessity of proceeding with the conduct of the BSKE on the last Monday of October 2023, pursuant to the operative fact doctrine.

The Court found that there was no legitimate government interest or objective to support the legislative measure, and that the law unconstitutionally exceeds the bounds of the Congress’ power to legislate.

The Court likewise lamented that the means employed by Congress are unreasonably unnecessary to achieve the interest of the government sought to be accomplished, and that the said means are unduly arbitrary or oppressive of the electorates’ right of suffrage. The Court underscored that the primordial purpose stated in the various bills presented in the Senate and House of Representatives sought the realignment of the budget allocation of the COMELEC for the 2022 BSKE to the Executive for the latter’s use in its projects cannot be done without violating the explicit prohibition in the Constitution against any transfer of appropriations.

The Court, however, recognized the existence of RA 11935 as an operative fact which had consequences and effects that cannot be reversed nor ignored. As such, the Court said that the pronouncement on the constitutionality of RA 11935 shall retroact to the date of its enactment, subject to the proper recognition of the consequences and effects of the said law’s existence before the instant ruling.

The motion for reconsideration subsequently filed by the Office of the Solicitor General was likewise denied by the Court.

G.R. No. 233930, Baquirin, et al. v. Dela Rosa, et al., July 11, 2023

In Baquirin v. Dela Rosa, the Court held that the writ of continuing mandamus is a remedy available only in environmental cases and thus cannot be used to compel the performance of particular acts relating to the anti-illegal drug operations of the government.
The petitioners in this case claimed that the then Philippine National Police (PNP) Director-General, the then Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson, and the then Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary failed to adequately perform their duty to prevent violations of the right to life and to investigate and prosecute the same. They prayed that respondents be directed, through a writ of continuing mandamus, to investigate each and every allegation of violation of the right to life committed under the government’s anti-illegal drug operations, such as Oplan Tokhang and Oplan Double Barrel.
In denying the petition, the Court held that for a writ of mandamus to be issued in a case alleging an officer’s neglect of duty, the following must be established: (1) a clear legal right accruing to the petitioner; (2) a correlative duty incumbent upon the respondent to perform an act mandated by law; (3) the respondent neglected to perform such act; (4) the duty is ministerial, and not discretionary, in nature; and (5) there is no other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.
In this case, the Court held that it was not established that respondents neglected their duties as respective heads of the PNP, DOJ, and CHR, in preventing and investigating violations of the right to life, in relation to the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.

G.R. No. 229471, Pacific Cement v. Oil and Natural Gas Commission, July 11, 2023

In Pacific Cement v. Oil and Natural Gas Commission, the Court set the following guidelines mandating the following procedure to be observed in the conduct of financial rehabilitation proceedings pursuant to the Financial Rehabilitation and Insolvency Act of 2010 and the Financial Rehabilitation Rules of Procedure (FR Rules):

  • Upon the appointment of a rehabilitation receiver, the rehabilitation court shall instruct the former to notify all courts or tribunals before which the debtor has pending actions, by way of manifestation, of the following: the existence of the petition for rehabilitation; the court where the petition was filed; the date of filing; and the fact of the issuance of commencement and stay orders.
  • In cases where the petitioner is the debtor, the courts to be notified shall be those indicated in the verified petition and affidavit of general financial condition, as required by Section 2(A)(7) and (10), Rule 2(A) of the FR Rules.
  • In cases where the petitioner is the creditor, the rehabilitation court shall, together with the appointment of a rehabilitation receiver, instruct the latter to ascertain the existence of any pending actions or proceedings by or against the debtor.
  • The rehabilitation receiver shall report its compliance herewith to the rehabilitation court on the date of the initial hearing.
  • The rehabilitation court shall further require the rehabilitation receiver, should the latter learn of any other pending actions by or against the debtor, to notify such other court/tribunal of the following: the existence of the petition for rehabilitation, the court where the petition was filed; the date of its filing; and the fact of the issuance of commencement and stay orders, by way of manifestation within five calendar days from the rehabilitation receiver’s knowledge of such other actions. The rehabilitation receiver shall also report to the rehabilitation court of the former’s compliance within five calendar days.

G.R. Nos. 211089 and 211135, Spouses Maliga v. Spouses Tingao, July 11, 2023

In Spouses Maliga v. Spouses Ting, the Court reaffirmed the strengthened role of Shari’ah Courts in the Philippine Judicial System.

Under Article 143(1)(d) of Presidential Decree No. 1083 or the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines (the Muslim Code), Shari’ah District Courts (SDCs) have exclusive original jurisdiction over, among others, all actions arising from customary contracts where the parties are Muslims, if they have not specified which law shall govern their relations.

Article 143(2)(b) of the same law further states that SDCs have original jurisdiction, concurrent with existing civil courts, over all other personal and real actions not mentioned in Article 143(1)(d), where the parties are Muslims, except those for forcible entry and unlawful detainer. In effect, this acts as a catch-all provision that primarily hinges on the jurisdiction of the parties involved, and does not limit the SDCs’ jurisdiction to specific kinds of action. Thus, regardless of the subject matter of the action, the SDC may exercise jurisdiction so long as the parties are Muslims.

“By including a catch-all provision on all personal and real actions, the law clearly intended the SDCs to be self-sufficient adjudicatory bodies able to effectively resolve any dispute between and among Muslims,” said the Court. It also stressed that SDCs are equipped with the same capabilities as civil courts, with SDC judges possessing specific expertise in Muslim law and customary law.

G.R. No. 256700, People v. Soliman, July 25, 2023

In People v. Soliman, the Court ruled that for online libel, courts may impose alternative penalty of fine instead of imprisonment.

Section 6 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act imposes upon online libel, or libel committed through information and communication technologies, a penalty that is one degree higher than ‘traditional’ libel, or libel under the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

Under the RPC, as amended by RA 10951, the penalty for traditional libel is “prision correcional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from PhP40,000 to PhP1,200,000, or both.” [Emphasis supplied]

The Court ruled that the RPC recognizes that the penalty of fine may be imposed as a single or alternative penalty for libel, as evident in the RPC’s “plain use of the disjunctive word ‘or’ between the term of imprisonment and fine, such word signaling disassociation or independence between the two words.”

Thus, for traditional libel, a fine can be imposed in lieu of imprisonment.

G.R. No. 263227, People v. XXX, August 2, 2023

In People v. XXX, the Court held that the theory on Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSSAS) can help in determining the credibility of child rape victims.

Under CSAAS, there are five stages:

(1) The first stage, described as ‘secrecy,’ was explained in terms of both what an abuser does and why the child keeps the matter secret because of embarrassment or shame, ‘sometimes enforced’ by the adult telling the child to keep it secret or suggesting negative consequences if it is revealed. 
(2) The second stage is ‘helplessness’ or the absence of power a child has in a relationship with a parental figure or trusted adult. 
(3) The third stage is ‘entrapment’ and ‘accommodation’ which happen when the child fails to seek protection.
(4) The stage of ‘delayed disclosure’ which was opined to have the tendency to be delayed because of the child’s fear, shame, or emotional confusion. 

G.R. No. 226176, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples v. Macroasia Corporation, August 9, 2023

In National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) v. Macroasia Corporation, the Court granted the joint motion of the parties to render judgment on a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 pending before it based on the Compromise Agreement that they had entered into concerning mining operations in Brooke’s Point, Palawan.

In the Compromise Agreement dated February 1, 2023, the NCIP, a government agency created and operating in accordance with The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997, and Macroasia acknowledged, among others, that the latter conducted a Free and Informed Consent (FPIC) process for Barangay Aribungos and Barong-barong in compliance with an En Banc Resolution of the NCIP; that the Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs) of the affected barangays issued a Pinagkaisang Pahayag dated 12 November 2022 which affirmed their continued approval and support of the mining activities in their respective barangays; and that during the pendency of their mining permit applications, Macroasia had continually supported the said barangays, especially their ICCs/IPs, at the height of the pandemic as part of its commitment and social responsibility.

Macroasia likewise agreed to continue to secure all necessary permits pursuant to all mining laws, rules and regulations, while the NCIP agreed to continue to review the processes conducted by Macroasia Mining and will provide orders, comments and recommendations for its compliance.

The Court, in approving and adopting the Compromise Agreement, found the same to have been validly executed and not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public policy, and public order. It enjoined NCIP and Macroasia to comply with the terms and conditions of the Compromise Agreement in utmost good faith, and deemed the case closed and terminated.

G.R. No. 248554, Valenzona v. People, August 30, 2023

In Valenzona v. People, the Court ruled that dispensing with proof of criminal intent for crimes mala prohibita, where criminal intent is not an element, does not discharge the prosecution’s burden of proving, beyond reasonable doubt, that the prohibited act was done by the accused intentionally.

The Court clarified that in violation of laws regarded as malum prohibitum, or such offenses which are prohibited regardless of the person’s intent, the prosecution nevertheless still needs to show that the prohibited act was done intentionally by the accused.

The Court thus proceeded to distinguish between ‘intent to commit the crime’ and ‘intent to perpetrate the act’: “[W]hile a person may not have consciously intended to commit a crime regarded as malum prohibitum, he or she may still be held liable if he or she did intend to commit an act that is, by the very nature of things, the crime itself. Thus, for acts that are mala prohibita, the intent to perpetrate the prohibited act under the special law must nevertheless be shown.”

“While volition or voluntariness refers to knowledge of the act being done (as opposed to knowledge of the nature of the act), criminal intent is the state of mind that goes beyond voluntariness, and it is this intent which is punished by crimes mala in se,” held the Court.

Thus, for crimes mala in se, there must be proof of criminal intent, while for crimes mala prohibita, it is sufficient that the prohibited act is done freely and consciously, provided that it is established that the accused had the volition or intent to commit the prohibited act.

G.R. No. 258805, St. Anthony College of Roxas City, Inc. v. COMELEC, October 24, 2023

In St. Anthony College of Roxas City, Inc. v. COMELEC, the Court ruled that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) cannot remove or destroy privately-owned campaign materials displayed on private property. 

The Court held that RA 9006, or the Fair Election Act, only permits the COMELEC to regulate election propaganda owned by candidates and political parties.  It does not allow the COMELEC to regulate the political speech of private persons on private property.  While COMELEC may validly implement “Oplan Baklas” against candidates and political parties, it cannot implement “Oplan Baklas” against private individuals expressing their political preferences or support for a candidate or political party. 

The Court emphasized that it “has always protected political speech as one of the most important expressions guaranteed by the Constitution, and freedom of speech and expression is at the core of civil liberties and must be protected at all costs for the sake of democracy.”  While acknowledging “the zeal and dedication with which the COMELEC performs its duties and fulfills its mandate to ensure free and fair elections,” the Court stressed that “the best intentions cannot justify impermissible infringements on constitutional rights.” (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

* As of September 30, 2023

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(b) Device; and

(c) Internet Protocol address.

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

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

Why do we collect your non-personal identification information?

The information collected through WordPress Statistics shall be processed to enable the Supreme Court, not only to effectively manage its website, but also to efficiently disseminate information to the public.

How do we process your non-personal identification information?

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

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. Such data is not shared with any other party. WordPress Statistics collects the following:

  • Browser;
  • Device; and
  • Internet Protocol address.

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

How do we protect your non-personal identification information?

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.

Upon expiration of the period of retention, the information collected through the Supreme Court website shall be disposed of and discarded in a secure manner that would prevent further processing, unauthorized access, or disclosure of your data.

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.

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 9566


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.

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