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Statutory Construction

- Where the meaning of the statute is ambiguous, the courts may avail itself of all legitimate
aids to construction in order that it can ascertain the true intent of statute.
- These aids of construction are those found in the printed page of the statute itself, while;
- Those extraneous facts and circumstances outside the printed page.
1. Title
2. Preamble
3. Context of the whole
4. Punctuation Marks
5. Capitalization of letters
6. Head notes or epigraphs
7. Language / Lingual Text

- In statute serves as aid in case of doubt in its language, to its construction and to
ascertaining legislative will
- May indicate the legislative intent to extent or restrict the scope of the law, and a statute
couched in a language of doubtful import will be construed to conform to legislative intent
as disclosed in its title.
- The title of the statute may properly serve as a guide to ascertaining legislative intent
carries more weight in this jurisdiction because of the constitutional requirement that
every bill shall embrace only one subject which shall expressed in the title thereof.
- This constitutional injunction makes the title an indispensable part of the statute, and what
may inadequate be omitted in the text may be supplied or remedied by its title.

City of Baguio v Marcos

- Illustrate the rule one title one subject thereof, that makes an indispensable part of the
statute, and what may inadequately be omitted in the text may be supplied or remedied by
its title.


When the text of the statute is clear and free from doubt.

Ebarle v Sucaldito
- Dismissal several criminal charges of graft and corruption due to non- compliance to EO
264, outlining the procedures for complaints against government officials with commissions
of irregularities.
- Is that part of the statute written immediately after its title which states the purpose,
reason or justification for the enactment of law.
- Usually expressed in the form Whereas clause.
- Although not essential part of statute, it is important if there is ambiguity in the meaning
since it states the purpose, reason or justification for the enactment of the law.
People v Purisima
- PD 9 was promulgated making carrying of bladed weapons of criminal.\
- The court issuing the Whereas clause said that in order for this to be crime, it should be
in furtherance rebellion , sedition and coup detat.
3. Context of the whole text
- Best source from which to ascertain the legislative intent is the statute itself, the words
phrases, sentences, sections, clauses, provisions, taken as a whole and in whole relation to
one another.
4. Punctuation Mark
- It is the rule of legal hermaneutics that punctuation marks are aids of low degree and can
never control against the intelligible meaning of written words
- Punctuation marks are not part of the statute, nor are they part of the English Language.
Punctuation marks used?
- If it gives the statute a meaning which is reasonable and in accord with the will of the
Semi colon (;)
- Indicates separation in relation of the thought but what follows it should be related to the
one preceding it.
Period (.)
- Is a mark used to indicate end of sentence.

Comma (,)

Neither is used to introduce of the new idea.

5. Capitalization of Letters
- Aids of low degree in the construction of statute; almost have reason a that of punctuation
6. Head notes or epigraphs
- They are prefix to sections or chapters of a statute for ready classification.
- They are not part of statute, but mere catchwords of reference.
- When text of state of a statute is clear.
7. Language / lingual text
- The original language when a statute is officially promulgated will prevail.
General rule;
- The English text shall control unless otherwise provide.
8. Intent or spirit of the Law
- Considered as the law itself, hence it is the controlling facto, the leading star and guiding
light in the interpretation of a statute.
- The statute must read according to its spirit or intent For what is within the statute
although it is not within the letter but not within the spirit is not within the statue.
9. Policy of Law
- A construction which would carry into effect the evident policy of the law should be
adopted in favor of interpretation which would defeat them.
10. Purpose of Law or Mischief to be suppressed
- The purpose or object of the law or the mischief intended to be removed or suppressed
and causes which induced the enactment of the law are important factors to considered in
its construction.
11. Dictionaries
General rule:
- Generally define words in their natural, plain and ordinary acceptance and significance.
- Lawmakers, ordinarily untrained philologist and lexicographers, use words in their common

When the statute has defined the words use and / or the legislative has intended a
technical or special legal meaning to these words.

12. Consequences of various construction

- The objective should always arrive at a reasonable and sensible interpretation in accord
with legislative intent.
General Rule:
- Construction that will lead to injustice, hardship, result in absurdity, defeat the legislative
intent or spirit, preclude accomplishment of legislative purpose or object render certain
words or phrases or surplus age, nullify the statute or make any of it provisions nugatory
should be rejected or avoided.
- The legislature did not intent to cause injustice in enacting statute.
- When the law is clear and unambiguous.
- Based on logic, experience and common sense.
- In absence of compelling reasons to the rule otherwise, doubt should be in favor of the
presumption on that matter.
# Legislative history
General Rule:
- It is well settled rule of statutory construction that where a statute is susceptible of several
interpretations or where there is ambiguity in its language, there is no better means of
ascertaining will and intention of the legislature that which is afforded by the history of the
- Refers to all its antecedents from its uncertain until its enactment into law.
- Covers the period and steps done from the time bill is introduced until it is finally passed by
the legislature.
Kinds of Legislative History
1. Presidents message to legislature
2. Explanatory note
3. Legislative debates, views and deliberations
4. Reports of commissions
5. Prior laws from which statute is based.
6. Amendment of statute
7. Adopted statutes

8. Conditions at the time of enactment

9. History of the time
Presidents message to legislature
- The presidents address usually contains proposed legislative measures.
- It indicates his thinking on the proposed legislation which when enacted into law, follows
his line of thinking.
Explanatory Note
- Short exposition or explanation accompanying a proposed legislation by its author or
- Contains reason or purpose of bill
- Arguments advanced by the author in urging its passage
- An explanatory note is resorted to only for clarification in case of doubt, and not where
there is any ambiguity in law.
Legislative debates, views and deliberations
- Actual proceedings of the legislative body (committee reports of legislative investigations
and public hearings, sponsorship speech, debates and deliberations)
- The discussion on the bill may contain the meaning of the provision.
- Statements made by a legislator during floor deliberations do not reflect the views of the
entire house. Those who did not speak may not have agreed with those who spoke might
differ with each other.
1. There are circumstances indicating a meaning other than expressed by a legislator.
2. Views expressed where conflicting
3. Intent deducible from such views is not clear
4. Statute is free from ambiguity
5. When the legislator is not member of the congress that enacted it.
Reports of the commission
- Usually present in the codification of laws for they compile and collate all laws on a
particular subject and prepare a draft of the proposed code.
Prior laws from which a statute is based
- This rule is specially applicable in the interpretation of codes, revised or compiled statutes
for the prior laws which have been codified, compiled or revised will show the legislative
history that will clarify the intent of the law or shed light on the meaning and scope of the
codified or revised statute.

Change in phraseology by amendments

Indicates a legislative intent to change the meaning of the provision from that it originally

Amendment by deletion
- Amendment by deletion of a certain words or phrases in a statute indicates that the
legislature intended to change the meaning of the statute for the presumption is that the
legislature would not have made the deletion had the intention been not to effect a change
in its meaning.
Exception to the rule that amendment indicate change:
- Do not apply where the intent is clear that the amendment is precisely to plainly express
the construction of the act prior to its amendment because its language is not sufficient
expressive of such construction.
Remember that the codification, revision and compilation of laws, condensation and brevity is
necessary. Words that do not materially affect the statute are omitted.
Adopted Statues
General rule:
- Is that where local statutes are patterned after or copied from those another country
construing those laws are entitled to great weight in the interpretation of such local
statutes and will generally followed if found reasonable and in harmony with justice, public
policy and other local statutes on the subject.
1. Where there is material difference between the foreign and local law.
2. Where the foreign construction is patently erroneous or has not been settled.
3. Where the foreign construction is not reasonable, not in harmony with justice, public policy
and other local statutes.
4. Where the local court has given its own construction to said statute.
Limitation of the Rule:
General rule:
- That a statute which has been adopted from that foreign country should be construed in
accordance in accordance with the construction given it in the country of origin is not
without limitations.
Principles of common law
- However, where there is a conflict between a common law principle and a statutory
provision, the latter prevails.

Conditions at the time of enactment

- Physical conditions of the country at the then circumstances that may affect the legislative
- The court should place itself in the situation of the legislature during the time.
- Statutes do not operate in a vacuum. In enacting a statute, the legislature is presumed to
have taken into account the existing conditions of things at the time of enactment.
History of the time
- Almost similar to taking into consideration the condition at the time of enactment.
- The law, being a manifestation of social culture and progress, must be interpreted taking
into consideration the stage of such culture and progress including all concomitant
- Law is not a watertight compartment sealed or shut off from the contact with the drama of
life which unfolds before our eyes. It is not a cloistered realm but a busy state in which
events are held up to our vision and touch our elbows.
Contemporaneous Construction:
- Also called practical constructions
- Construction placed upon statutes at the time of or after, their enactment by the executive,
legislature or judicial authorities as well as by those who, because of their involvement in
the process of legislation, are knowledgeable of the intent and purpose of the law, such as
draftsmen and bill sponsors.
Maxim: contemporenea est optima et fortissimo in lege (the contemporary construction is
strongest in law.

What is commonly understood, and usually referred to, as contemporaneous construction

is the construction placed upon the statute by an executive or administrative officer called
upon to execute or administer such statute.
With the duty to enforce the laws come the interpretation of its ambiguous provisions.

3 types of Executive interpretations:

1. The construction by an executive or administrative officer directly called to implement the
2. The construction by the Secretary of Justice in his capacity as the chief legal adviser of the
3. The interpretation handed down in an adversary proceeding in the form of ruling by an
executive officer exercising quasi-judicial power.
Weight accorded to contemporaneous construction

It is entitled to great weight and respect by the courts in the interpretations of ambiguous
provisions of law.

- Executive officials are presumed to have familiarized themselves with all considerations
pertinent to the meaning and purpose of the law, and to have formed an independent,
conscientious and competent expert opinion.
Weight accorded to usage and practice
- The principle of contemporaneous exposition, common usage and practice under the
statute, or a course of conduct indicating a particular undertaking of it, is frequently of
great value in determining its real meaning, especially where the usage has been
acquiesced in by all the parties concerned and has extended over a period of time.
Reason why contemporaneous constructions is given much weight
1. It comes from the particular branch of government called upon to implement the law thus
2. Competence, expertness, experience and informed judgment and the fact that they
frequently are drafters of the law they interpret.
3. Need for certainty and predictability in the law.
When contemporaneous construction disregard
1. There is no ambiguity in the law
2. Where the construction is clearly erroneous
3. Where strong reason to the contrary exists
4. Where the court has previously given the statute a different interpretations.
Erroneous contemporaneous construction does not preclude correction nor create rights;
1. The doctrine of estoppel does not preclude correction of the erroneous construction by the
officer himself, by his successor in office, or by the court in an appropriate case.
2. A person who has relied upon such construction by the executive or administrative officer
and that, therefore, the court should not apply an interpretation at variance therewith.
3. Those who benefited from the erroneous contemporaneous construction may not prevent
correction of such construction, nor excuse themselves from complying with the
construction corrected, nor can they set up such error as legal obstacle against recovery
from them of what they received pursuant to and on the basis of, erroneous application of

Legislative Interpretation
- Take the form of an implied acquiescence to or, approval of an executive or judicial
construction of a statute.

Legislative approval
- May take action or inaction, approve or ratify such contemporaneous construction.
Many ways to approve:
1. When it reenact a statute previously given a contemporaneous construction
2. Uses words in their import to the language of an earlier law which has received a
practical interpretation
3. Amends a prior statute without, in amending act, providing anything which would
restrict, change or nullify the previous cotemporaneous construction placed upon the
prior law.
Re enactment
- Most common act of legislative approval of a contemporaneous construction of a statute.
Stare Decisis
- It means one should follow past precedents and should not disturb what has been settled.
- In other words once has been decided one way, then another case, involving exactly the
same point at issue, should be decided in the same manner.
Obiter dictum
- As an opinion expressed by a court upon some question of law which is not necessary to
the decision of the case before it.
- It is a remark made, or opinion expressed by a judge, in his decision upon a cause by the
way, that is, incidentally and not directly upon the question before him, or upon a point
not necessarily involved in the determination of the cause, or introduced by way of
illustration or analogy or argument.
Tung Chin Hui v Rodriguez
- When the court has once laid down principle of law as applicable to a certain state of facts,
it will adhere to that principle and apply it to all future cases where the facts are
substantially the same.
- Only Supreme Court can change or abandon a precedent enunciated by it.
- Until it abandon or over rules a doctrine, the lower courts are duty bound to obey it.If
lower courts feel that the doctrine is against their way of reasoning , they may state their
personal opinion but must decide the case in accordance with the doctrine and not with
their personal view.