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When the interpretation of a statute according

Outline No. 1 to the exact and literal import of its words


“Statutory Construction” by Ruben Agpalo would lead to absurd or mischievous
(2009) consequences, or would thwart or contravene
the manifest purpose of the legislature in its
enactment, it should be construed according to
BASIC GUIDELINES IN THE its spirit and reason, disregarding or
CONSTRUCTION AND INTERPRETATION modifying, so far as may be necessary, the
OF LAWS strict letter of the law.

LEGISLATIVE INTENT
 When the reason of the law ceases, the law
The object of all interpretation and itself ceases.
construction of statutes is to ascertain the
meaning and intention of the legislature, to the  Doctrine of necessary implications. What is
end that the same may be enforced. implied in a statute is as much a part
thereof as that which is expressed.
Legislative intent is determined principally
from the language of the statute.
CASUS OMISSUS
VERBA LEGIS
When a statute makes specific provisions in
If the language of the statute is plain and free regard to several enumerated cases or objects,
from ambiguity, and express a single, definite, but omits to make any provision for a case or
and sensible meaning, that meaning is object which is analogous to those enumerated,
conclusively presumed to be the meaning or which stands upon the same reason, and is
which the legislature intended to convey. therefore within the general scope of the
statute, and it appears that such case or object
STATUTES AS A WHOLE was omitted by inadvertence or because it was
overlooked or unforeseen, it is called a “casus
A cardinal rule in statutory construction is that omissus”. Such omissions or defects cannot be
legislative intent must be ascertained from a supplied by the courts.
consideration of the statute as a whole and not
merely of a particular provision. A word or The rule of “casus omissus pro omisso
phrase might easily convey a meaning which is habendus est” can operate and apply only if
different from the one actually intended. and when the omission has been clearly
established.
A statute should be construed as a whole
because it is not to be presumed that the
legislature has used any useless words, and STARE DECISIS
because it is dangerous practice to base the
construction upon only a part of it, since one It is the doctrine that, when court has once laid
portion may be qualified by other portions. down a principle, and apply it to all future
cases, where facts are substantially the same,
regardless of whether the parties and
SPIRIT AND PURPOSE OF THE LAW properties are the same.
Stare Decisis. Follow past precedents and do General terms or provisions in a statute may be
not disturb what has been settled. Matters restrained and limited by specific terms or
already decided on the merits cannot be provisions with which they are associated.
relitigated again and again.
Special terms in a statute may sometimes be
“Stare decisis et non quieta movere” (follow past expanded to a general signification by the
precedents and do not disturb what has been consideration that the reason of the law is
settled. general.

GENERAL TERMS FOLLOWING SPECIAL


CONSTRUCTION AND INTERPRETATION TERMS (EJUSDEM GENERIS)
OF WORDS AND PHRASES
It is a general rule of statutory construction
that where general words follow an
WHEN THE LAW DOES NOT enumeration of persons or things, by words of
DISTINGUISH, COURTS SHOULD NOT a particular and specific meaning, such general
DISTINGUISH words are not to be construed in their widest
extent, but are to be held as applying only to
When the law does not distinguish, courts persons or things of the same general kind or
should not distinguish. The rule, founded on class as those specifically mentioned. But this
logic, is a corollary of the principle that general rule must be discarded where the legislative
words and phrases of a statute should intention is plain to the contrary.
ordinarily be accorded their natural and
general significance. This rule is commonly called the “ejusdem
generis” rule, because it teaches us that broad
The courts should administer the law not as and comprehensive expressions in an act, such
they think it ought to be but as they find it and as “and all others”, or “any others”, are usually
without regard to consequences. to be restricted to persons or things “of the
same kind” or class with those specially named
in the preceding words.
 If the law makes no distinction, neither
should the Court. Rule of ejusdem generis merely a tool of
statutory construction resorted to when
legislative intent is uncertain.
EXCEPTIONS IN THE STATUTE

When the law does not make any exception, EXPRESS MENTION AND IMPLIED
courts may not except something unless EXCLUSION
compelling reasons exist to justify it.
It is a general rule of statutory construction
that the express mention of one person, thing,
GENERAL AND SPECIAL TERMS or consequence is tantamount to an express
exclusion of all others. “Expressio unius est
General terms in a statute are to receive a exclusio alterius”.
general construction, unless retrained by the
context or by plain inferences from the scope Except:
and purpose of the act.  When there is manifest of injustice
 When there is no reason for exception.
THE USE OF THE TERM “AND” AND THE
WORD “OR”
ASSOCIATED WORDS (NOSCITUR
SOCIIS) “And” means conjunction connecting words or
phrases expressing the idea that the latter is to
Where a particular word is equally susceptible be added or taken along with the first.
of various meanings, its correct construction
may be made specific by considering the “Or” is a disjunctive particle used to express as
company of terms in which it is found or with alternative or to give a choice of one among
which it is associated. two or more things. It is also used to clarify
what has already been said, and in such cases,
means “in other words,” “to wit,” or “that is to
USE OF NEGATIVE WORDS say.”

Negative words and phrases regarded as


mandatory while those affirmative are mere COMPUTATION OF TIME
directory.
When the laws speak of years, months, days or
The word “shall” emphasizes mandatory nights, it shall be understood that years are of
character and means imperative, operating to three hundred sixty five days each; months of
impose a duty which may be enforced. thirty days; days of twenty –four hours; and
nights from sunset to sunrise.

THE USE OF THE WORD “MAY” AND If months are designated by their name, they
“SHALL” IN THE STATUTE shall be computed by the number of days
which they respectively have.
Use of the word “may” in the statute generally
connotes a permissible thing, and operates to In computing a period, the first day shall be
confer discretion while the word “shall” is excluded, and the last day included (Art. 13,
imperative, operating to impose a duty which New Civil Code).
may be enforced.
A “week” means a period of seven consecutive
The term “shall” may be either as mandatory days without regard to the day of the week on
or directory depending upon a consideration which it begins.
of the entire provision in which it is found, its
object and consequences that would follow
from construing it one way or the other. FUNCTION OF THE PROVISO

Proviso is a clause or part of a clause in the


USE OF THE WORD “MUST” statute, the office of which is either to except
something from the enacting clause, or to
The word “must” in a statute like “shall” is not qualify or restrain its generality, or to exclude
always imperative and may be consistent with some possible ground of misinterpretation of
an exercise discretion. its extent.

“Provided” is the word used in introducing a


proviso.
the literal command without regard to its cause
and consequence.

PRESUMPTIONS IN AID OF PRESUMPTION AGAINST IMPLIED


CONSTRUCTION AND INTERPRETATION REPEALS

The two laws must be absolutely incompatible,


PRESUMPTIONS and clear finding thereof must surface, before
the inference of implied repeal may be drawn.
In construing a doubtful or ambiguous statute,
the Courts will presume that it was the In the absence of an express repeal, a
intention of the legislature to enact a valid, subsequent law cannot be construed as
sensible and just law, and one which should repealing a prior law unless an irreconcilable
change the prior law no further than may be inconsistency and repugnancy exists in terms
necessary to effectuate the specific purpose of of the new and old laws.
the act in question.

PRESUMPTION AGAINST
PRESUMPTION AGAINST INEFFECTIVENESS
UNCONSTITUTIONALITY
In the interpretation of a statute, the Court
Laws are presumed constitutional. To justify should start with the assumption that the
nullification of law, there must be a clear and legislature intended to enact an effective
unequivocal breach of the constitution. statute.

The theory is that, as the joint act of the


legislative and executive authorities, a law is PRESUMPTION AGAINST ABSURDITY
supposed to have been carefully studied and
determined to be constitutional before it was Statutes must receive a sensible construction
finally enacted. such as will give effect to the legislative
intention so as to avoid an unjust and absurd
All laws are presumed valid and constitutional conclusion.
until or unless otherwise ruled by the Court.
Presumption against undesirable consequences
were never intended by a legislative measure.
PRESUMPTION AGAINST INJUSTICE

The law should never be interpreted in such a PRESUMPTION AGAINST VIOLATION OF


way as to cause injustice as this never within INTERNATIONAL LAW
the legislative intent.
Philippines as democratic and republican state
We interpret and apply the law in consonance adopts the generally accepted principles of
with justice. international law as part of the law of the land
and adheres to the policy of peace, equality,
Judges do not and must not unfeelingly apply justice, freedom, cooperation, and amity with
the law as it is worded, yielding like robots to all nations. (Art. II, Sec. 2, Phil. Constitution).
If the statute is ambiguous and admits of two
reasonable but contradictory constructions,
that which operates in favor of a party accused
under its provisions is to be preferred.
STRICT AND LIBERAL CONSTRUCTION
AND INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES
TAX LAWS

GENERAL PRINCIPLES Taxation is a destructive power which


interferes with the personal and property
If a statute should be strictly construed, rights of the people and takes from them a
nothing should be included within the scope portion of their property for the support of the
that does not come clearly within the meaning government.
of the language used.
Accordingly, in case of doubt, tax statutes must
But the rule of strict construction is not be construed strictly against the government
applicable where the meaning of the statute is and liberally in favor of the taxpayer, for taxes,
certain and unambiguous , for under these being burdens, are not to be presumed beyond
circumstances, there is no need for what the applicable statute expressly and
construction. clearly declares.

On the other hand, there are many statutes


which will be liberally construed. The meaning Any claim for exemption from a tax statute is
of the statute may be extended to matters strictly construed against the taxpayer and
which come within the spirit or reason of the liberally in favor of the state.
law or within the evils which the law seeks to
suppress or correct.
NATURALIZATION LAW
Liberal interpretation or construction of the
law or rules, however, applies only in proper Naturalization laws should be rigidly enforced
cases and under justifiable causes and and strictly construed in favor of the
circumstances. While it is true that litigation is government and against the applicant.
not a game of technicalities, it is equally true
that every case must be prosecuted in
accordance with the prescribed procedure to INSURANCE LAW
insure an orderly and speedy administration of
justice. Contracts of Insurance are to be construed
liberally in favor of the insured and strictly
against the insurer. Thus, ambiguity in the
PENAL STATUTES words of an insurance contract should be
interpreted in favor of its beneficiary.
Penal laws are to be construed strictly against
the state and in favor of the accused. Hence, in
the interpretation of a penal statute, the LABOR AND SOCIAL LEGISLATIONS
tendency is to subject it to careful scrutiny and
to construe it with such strictness as to Doubts in the interpretation of Workmen’s
safeguard the right of the accused. Compensation and Labor Code should be
resolved in favor of the worker. It should be
liberally construed to attain their laudable
objective, i.e., to give relief to the workman
and/or his dependents in the event that the
former should die or sustain in an injury.

The sympathy of the law on social security is


towards its beneficiaries and the law by its
own terms, requires a construction of utmost
liberality in their favor.

RETIREMENT LAWS

Retirement laws are liberally interpreted in


favor of the retiree because the intention is to
provide for the retiree’s sustenance and
comfort, when he is no longer capable of
earning his livelihood.

ELECTION RULES

Statute providing for election contests are to be


liberally construed to the end that the will of
the people in the choice of public officer may
not be defeated by mere technical objections.

RULES OF COURT

Rule of court shall be liberally construed in


order to promote their objective of securing a
just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of
every action and proceeding.