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COURTS DUTY TO DECIDE EVERY CASE A judgment cannot decline to render judgment by reason of the silence, obscurity or insufficiency of the laws. In other words, he must decide the case assigned to him whether or not he knows what law shall be applied. In case of silence, obscurity or insufficiency of the laws, a judgment may still be guided by the following: 1. Customs which are not contrary to law, public order or public policy; 2. Court decisions, foreign or local, in similar cases; 3. Legal opinions of qualified writers and professors; 4. General principles of justice and equity; and 5. Rules of statutory construction. In criminal cases, however, it is an established rule that there is no crime when there is no law punishing it. NULLA POENA SINE LEGE. If there is no law, therefore, which punishes an act complained of, the judge must dismiss the case. INTERPRETATIONS OF LAWS It is the duty of the judge to apply the law without the fear or favor. In case of doubt in the interpretation or application of the laws, it is presumed that the lawmaking body intended right and justice to prevail. There are many rules of statutory construction but in order not to saddle and confuse the beginner in the study of law, it is enough in the meantime to know the most basic rules, namely: 1. When the law and its meaning is clear and unmistakable, there is no need to interpret it any further;

2. When construction or interpretation is necessary, the court should interpret the law according to the meaning the legislature intended to give it; 3. If there are two possible interpretations of a law, that which will be achieve the ends desired by Congress should be adopted; 4. Laws of pleading, practice and procedure are liberally construed in order to promote their object and to assist the parties obtaining just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding; 5. In case of doubt in the interpretation and application of laws and when all other rules of statutory construction fail, it is presumed that the lawmaking body intended right and justice to prevail.

APPLICATION OF LAWS In applying the law, the court should discover the real intent and purpose of the legislature. If that intent and purpose can be discovered within the law, it is duty of the court to carry out that intention. If the same cannot be discovered within the law, the court shall be guided by extrinsic aids. STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION, ITS CONCEPT, PURPOSE AND EFFECT Statutory construction is the act or process of discovering and expounding the meaning and intention of the authors of the law with respect to its application to a given case, where that intention is rendered doubtful, among others, by reason of the fact that the given case is not explicitly for in the law. CONSTRUCTION DISTINGUISHED FROM INTERPRETATION

Construction and interpretation have the same purpose and that is to ascertain and give effect to the legislative intent. A distinction, however, has been drawn between construction and interpretation. One who interprets makes use of intrinsic aids or those found in the statute itself, while one who constructs makes use of extrinsic aids or those found outside the written language of the law. Based on this distinction, the basic rule therefore is ONE MUST INTERPRET FIRST BEFORE HE CONTRUES. MEANING OF THE RULE: ONE MUST INTERPRET FIRST BEFORE HE CONSTRUES In trying to ascertain the legislative intent, courts should first be guided by intrinsic aids, or those found in the law itself. If the legislative intent could be ascertained by merely making use of intrinsic aids, there is no need to make use of extrinsic aids, or those found outside of the written language of the law. This is the consistent ruling of the Supreme Court in a long line of cases. INTRINSIC AIDS DISTINGUISHED FROM EXTRINSIC AIDS Intrinsic aids are any of the following: title, preamble, words, phrases and sentences context; punctuation; headings and marginal notes; and legislative definitions and interpretation clauses. All of these are found in the law itself. Extrinsic aids may consist of contemporaneous circumstances, policy, legislative history of the statute, contemporaneous or practical construction, executive construction, legislative construction, judicial construction, and construction by the bar and legal commentators. PURPOSE OF INTERPRETATION AND CONSTRUCTION

Interpretation and construction have the same purpose and that is to ascertain and give effect to the legislative intent. WHEN IS IT NECESSARY AND NOT NECESSARY TO INTERPRET AND CONSTRUCT? WHEN NECESSARY It is necessary to interpret or construct when any of the following reasons exists: 1. When the language of the statute is ambiguous, doubtful or obscure when taken in relation to a set of facts; 2. When reasonable minds disagree as to meaning of the language used in the statute. WHEN NOT NECESSSARY It is not necessary to interpret or construct when the law speaks in clear and categorical language. The duty of the court, in such a case, is to APPLY THE LAW, NOT TO INTERPRET IT. WHO INTERPRETS THE LAW AND WHO DETERMINES LEGISLATIVE INTENT? Anyone can interpret the law, Lawyers, policemen, arbiters, administrative boards and agencies, government as well as private executives are involved from time to time in the interpretation of laws. Their interpretation, however, is not necessarily conclusive nor can they bind the courts. Hence, in many occasions, the decisions of regulatory boards and administrative agencies have been elevated and appealed to the Supreme Court in cases where there is abuse of discretion and

authority or when there is violation of due process or denial of substantial justice or erroneous interpretation of the law. The judiciary has the delicate task of ascertaining the significance of a constitutional or statutory provision, an executive order, a procedural or a municipal ordinance. It discharges a role no crucial than the roles played by the two other departments in maintaining the rule of law. To assure stability legal relations and avoid confusion, it has to speak with one voice. Logically and rightly, it does so with finality through the highest judicial organ, the Supreme Court. What it says is definite and authoritative binding on those who occupy the lower ranks in the judicial hierarchy. WHICH PREVAILS THE LETTER OF THE LAW OR THE SPIRIT OF THE LAW? When the language of the law is clear and unequivocal, the courts duty is to apply it, not to interpret it. The Supreme Court in the case of Chartered Bank Employees Association vs Ople, G.R. No. 44747, August 28, 1985, restated the said rule in more elaborate language. It said: If the language of the law is clear and unequivocal, then the read the law to mean exactly what it says. If not, look for the intention of the legislature What if the letter of the law conflicts with its spirit, which prevails? There are two schools of thought on his matter. In the case of People vs. Sales, et al., G.R. No. 66469, July 29, 1986, Justice Isagani Cruz articulated his thought on this matter. He said: A too literal reading of the law is apt to constrict rather than fulfill is usually found not in the letter that killeth but in the spirit that vivifieth, which is not really evanescent or elusive. Judges must look beyond and be bound by the language of the law seeking to discover by their own lights the reason and

the rhyme for its enactment. That they may properly apply in accordance to its ends, they need and must use not only learning but also vision. The thinking of Justice Isagani Cruz is more in line with Article 10 of the Civil Code which says: In case of doubt in the interpretation or application of the laws, it is presumed that the lawmaking body intended right and justice to prevail. This is also the gist of the decisions of the Supreme Court on the old cases of Torres vs. Limhays, 56 Phil. 141, De Coster vs. Olondriz and Esendero, 50 Phil. 725 and in the celebrated case of Dominador Aytona vs. Andres Castillo, et al. Former Chief Justice Ramon Aquino on the other hand, finds it risky to rely on the so-called spirit of the law. He said: It is dangerous to rely on the so-called spirit of the law which we cannot see nor handle and about which we do not know very much. AIDS IN INTERPRETATION AND CONSTRUCTION USE INTRINSIC AIDS BEFORE RESORTING TO EXTRINSIC AIDS In determining the intention of the legislature, courts should resort first to intrinsic aids before resorting to extrinsic aids. Intrinsic aids are any of the following: title; preamble; the words, phrases and sentences context; punctuation; headings and marginal notes; legislative definition and interpretation clauses. 1. TITLE. That which expresses the subject matter of the law. It can help in the construction of statutes but it is not controlling and not entitled to much weight.

2. PREAMBLE. That part of the statute following the title and preceding the enacting clause which states the reasons or the objectives of the enactment. It cannot enlarge or confer powers, or cure inherent defects in the statue. 3. WORDS, PHRASES AND SENTENCES CONTEXT. The intention of the legislature must primarily be determined words, phrases and sentences used therein. The meaning of the law should, however, be taken from any single part, portion or section or from isolated words and phrases, clauses or sentences used. 4. PUNCTUATION. It is an aid of low degree in interpreting the intelligible meaning of the written word. However, if the punctuation of the statute gives it a meaning which is reasonable and in apparent accord with the legislative will, it may be used as an additional argument for adopting the literal meaning of the words thus punctuated. 5. HEADINGS AND MARGINAL NOTES. If the meaning of the statute is clear or if the text of the statute is clear they will prevail as against the headings especially if the heading have been prepared by compilers and not by the legislature. 6. LEGISLATIVE DEFINITION AND INTERPRETATION. If the legislature has defined the words used in the used in the statute and has declared the construction to be placed thereon, such definition or construction should be followed by the courts. The rules are as follows: a) If a law provides that in case of doubt it should be constructed or interpreted in a certain manner, the courts should follow such instruction.

b) In case of conflict between the interpretation clauses and the legislative meaning, as revealed by the statute considered in its totality, the latter shall prevail. c) A term is used throughout the statute in the same sense in which it is first defined. d) Legislative definition of similar terms in other statutes may be resorted to EXCEPT where a particular expressly declares that its definition there in is limited in application to the statutes in which they appear. EXTRINSIC AIDS Extrinsic aids are of the following contemporaneous

circumstances, policy, legislative history of the statute, contemporaneous or practical construction, legislative construction, judicial construction by the bar and legal commentators. Extrinsic aids can be resorted to only after the intrinsic aids have been used and exhausted. 1. CONTEMPORANEOUS CIRCUMSTANCES. These are the conditions existing at the time the law was enacted: a) History of the times and conditions existing at the time the law was enacted; b) Previous state of the law; c) The evils sought to be remedied or corrected by the law; and d) The customs and usages of the people. The above-mentioned circumstances constitute the reasons why the law was enacted. Hence, the one interpreting the law should place

himself in the position and circumstances of those who used the words in question and be able to feel the atmosphere, the conditions and the reasons why the law was enacted. 2. POLICY. The general policy of the law or the settled policy of the state may enlighten the interpreter of the law as to the intention of the legislature in enacting the same. Hence, if a new agrarian law is enacted and few years from now, there will arise the need to find out why such a law is enacted, the conditions prevailing sentiment of the people, the policy of the state and the executive order issued by the Office of the President preceding the legislative enactment will throw light upon the intention of the legislative in enacting said law. The same thing is true if death sentence is imposed for drug pushers and for those currently involved in the so-called Satanism offenses. The conditions of the times and the very destructive and heinous crimes committed even in broad daylight, whether in the city or in the provinces, will convince future interpreters of the law that such a penalty is needed to protect society. 3. LEGISLATIVE HISTORY OF THE STATUTE. Such history may be found in reports of legislative committee, in the transcript of stenographic notes taken during a hearing, legislative investigation, or legislative debates. Are personal opinions of some legislators appropriate aids of construction? As a general rule, they are not appropriate aids of construction. However, if there is unanimity among the supporters and depositors to a bill with respect to the objective sought to be accomplished, the debates may then be used as evidence of the purpose of the act.


4. CONTEMPORANEOUS AND PRACTICAL CONSTRUCTION. Those who lived at or near the time when the law was passed were more acquainted with the conditions and the reasons why that law was enacted. Their understanding and application of the law, especially if the same has been continued and acquiesced by the judicial tribunals and the legal profession, deserve to be considered by the courts. 5. EXECUTIVE CONSTRUCTION. The construction given by the executive department deserves great weight should be respected of said construction has been formed and observed for long period of time. The rules to remember are as follows: a) Congress is deemed to have been aware of the

contemporaneous and practical construction made by the officers with the administration and enforcement of the law. b) The courts should respect that contemporaneous construction EXCEPT if it is clearly erroneous. c) Executive construction has more weight if it is rendered by the Chief Legal adviser of the government who can issue opinions to assist various departments of the government charged with the duty to administrator the law. d) The opinion, however, of the Chief Legal adviser is subservient to the ruling of the judiciary which is in charge of applying and interpreting laws. 6. LEGISLATIVVE CONSTRUCTION. Legislative construction is entitled to consideration and great weight but it cannot control as against the courts prerogative to decide on what is the right or wrong interpretation.


7. JUDICIAL CONSTRUCTION. It is presumed that the legislature was acquainted with and had in mind the judicial construction of former statutes on the subject. It is also presumed that the statute was enacted had received. With respect to a statute adopted from another state, it is presumed that it was adopted with the construction placed upon it by courts of that state. Should this construction be followed. It should be followed only if it is reasonable, in harmony with justice and public policy and consistent with the local law. 8. CONSTRUCTION BY THE BAR AND LEGAL

COMMENTATORS. It is presumed that the meaning publicly given a statute by the members of the legal profession is a true one regarded as one that should not be lightly changed. The opinion and commentaries of text writers and legal commentators, whether they are Filipinos or foreigners, may also be consulted as, in fact they are oftentimes cited or made as references in court decisions. SIMPLICATION OF THE RULE REGARDING THE USE EXTRINSIC AIDS Extrinsic aids, such as those mentioned above, are entitled to respect, consideration and weight but the courts are at liberty to decide whether they are applicable or not to the case brought to it for decision.


Source: Introduction to Law By: Rolando A. Suarez 2009 Edition