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General words construed generally

Generalia verba sunt generaliter intelligenda - what is

generally spoken shall be generally understood; general
words shall be understood in a general sense.

Generale dictum generaliter est interpretandum -

a general statement is understood in a general

In case word in statute has both restricted and

general meaning, GENERAL must prevail; Unless
the nature of the subject matter & context in
which it is employed clearly indicates that the
limited sense is intended.
General words should not be given a restricted
meaning when no restriction is indicated.

Rationale: if the legislature intended to limit the

meaning of a word, it would have been easy for it
to have done so.
Gatchalian v. COMELEC

Petitioner Esmeraldo M. COMELEC promulgated Petitioner filed a petition

Gatchalian alleges that he is a Comelec Resolution No. with the Comelec
candidate for delegate to the
Constitutional Convention for RR 707 and Resolution impugning the validity of
the first district of Rizal, having No. RR 731 the 2 resolutions as
filed his certificates of candidacy violative of Sec. 56 of the
with the Commission on Revised Election Code.
Elections on September 8, 1970.
Sec. 56 of the Revised Election Code, as
amended, provides that.
No foreigner shall aid any candidate, directly or
Comelec denied the
indirectly, or to take part in or to influence in any
petitioners petition.
manner any elections.
The prohibited active intervention of foreigners
thereunder may consist of:.
(1) aiding any candidate, directly or indirectly, in any
(2) taking part in any election; and
(3) influencing in any manner any election.
Under Sec. 39 of Art. III of the Revised Election Code, "the term
"person" includes an individual, partnership, committee,
association, corporation and any other organization or group of

Sec. 39 refers to contributions from or expenditures by any person

for the purpose of influencing or attempting to influence the
election of candidates.

To limit the term "foreigner" to natural persons would be

unrealistic and would remove much of the bite in the prohibition.
It should not be disputed that juridical persons or organized groups
— whether civic, fraternal, religious, professional, trade, or labor —
have more funds than individuals with which to subsidize a
candidate. Consequently, the influence of a juridical person or
organized group, which is a contributor or donor, is greater than
that of any natural person. Furthermore, any, juridical person
organized group has more interests to protect than any of its
component members or stockholders.
It has likewise been held that in the absence of an expressed
statutory provision or instruction the word "person"
comprehends private corporations unless it appears that it is
used in a more limited sense.

There is nothing in the Revised Election Code, much less in Sec.

56 itself, indicting that the term "foreigner" is limited only to
natural persons. Neither is there any provision in the same
Revised Election Code expressly or impliedly suggesting that the
circumstances of an artificial person in law are not identical to
those of natural persons covered by the prohibition in the
Revised Election Code. On the contrary, there is greater reason
to believe that the law-maker feared more the assistance and
influence of artificial persons in the elections than the aid of
natural persons. Hence, the law utilizes the more generic term
C & C Central Bank vs CA
The main issue in this appeal is, whether or not the call for bids for the
supply of steel and centrifugal cast iron pipes for the waterworks projects
in Manila and suburbs, and in the cities of Davao and Iloilo, the National
Waterworks & Sewerage Authority (NAWASA) violated the provisions of
Republic Act 912, section 1 of which provides as follows:

Sec. 1. In construction or repair work undertaken by the Government,

whether done directly or through contract awards, Philippine made
materials and products, whenever available, practicable and usable, and
will serve the purpose as equally well as foreign made products or
materials, shall be used in said construction or repair work, upon the
proper certification of the availability, practicability, usability and
durability of said materials or products by the Director of the Bureau of
Public Works and/or his assistants.
A comparative analysis of Republic Act 912 and
Commonwealth Act 138 discloses that both relate to
the same subject matter and have the same
nationalistic purpose or object: to give preference to
locally produced materials in purchases, works or
projects of the Government.

Being statutes in pari materia they should be

construed together to attain the purpose of an
expressed national policy.
On the presumption that whenever the legislature enacts
a provision it has in mind the previous statutes relating to
the same subject matter, it is held that in the absence of
any express repeal or amendment therein, the new
provision was enacted in accord with the legislative policy
embodied in those prior statutes, and they all should be
construed together.

We have to declare, therefore, that the NAWASA, like any

other corporation exercising proprietary or governmental
functions should be deemed embraced within the term
"Government" found in Republic Act 912, and in the repair
or construction of their works or projects or the purchase
of materials therefor, local materials should be given
preference when available, practicable and usable.
Central Bank vs CA
that contracts entered into by petitioner Central Bank are not within the
contemplation of Sections 607 and 608 cited by it. Immediately to be noted, Section
607 specifically refers to "expenditure(s) of the National Government" and that the
term "National Government" may not be deemed to include the Central Bank.
Under the Administrative Code itself, the term "National Government" refers only to
the central government, consisting of the legislative, executive and judicial
departments of the government, as distinguished from local governments and other
governmental entities and is not synonymous, therefore, with the terms "The
Government of the Republic of the Philippines" or "Philippine Government", which
are the expressions broad enough to include not only the central government but also
the provincial and municipal governments, chartered cities and other government-
controlled corporations or agencies, like the Central Bank.

To be sure the Central Bank is a government instrumentality. But it was created as an

autonomous body corporate to be governed by the provisions of its charter, Republic
Act 265, "to administer the monetary and banking system of the Republic."
As long as the meaning intended is apparent on the face of
the whole enactment and no specific provision is

This is not judicial legislation.

Qualification of rule (of correcting clerical errors)

- Only those which are clearly clerical errors or
obvious mistakes, omissions, and misprints;
otherwise, is to rewrite the law and invade the domain
of the legislature, it is judicial legislation in the guise
of interpretation
Rufino Lopez & Sons vs CTA
There is really a discrepancy between Sections 7 and 11 above
reproduced. Section 7 provides that the Court of Tax Appeals has
exclusive appellate jurisdiction to review by appeal decisions of
the Collector of Internal Revenue, decisions of the Commissioner
of Customs and decisions of provincial or city Board of
Assessment Appeals on cases mentioned in said section. On the
other hand, section 11 of the same Republic Act in listing and
enumerating the persons and entities who may appeal as well as the
effect of said appeal, mentions those affected by a decision or ruling
of the Collector of Internal Revenue, the Collector of Customs or
any provincial or City Board of Assessment Appeals, and fails to
mention the Commissioner of Customs.
We are in entire accord with the Tax Court and the Solicitor
General that a clerical error was committed in section 11,
mentioning therein the Collector of Customs. It should be, as it
was meant to be, the Commissioner of Customs.

These Collectors of Customs are subordinates of the

Commissioner of Customs over whom he has supervision and
control (section 1152, Revised Administrative Code). Pursuant
to said supervision and control, under section 1405 of the
Revised Administrative Code, when any new or unsettled
question shall be determined by the Collector of Customs, he
shall, if matter is not otherwise carried upon for review in
ordinary course, notify the Commissioner of his decision,
submitting an adequate statement of acts involved.
It is more reasonable and logical to hold that in Section 11 of the Act,
the Legislature meant and intended to say, the Commissioner of
Customs, instead of Collector of Customs in the first paragraph and
the first part of the second paragraph of said section.

Under the rules of statutory construction, it is not the letter but

rather the spirit of the law and intention of the Legislature that is
important and which matters. When the interpretation of a statute
according to the exact and literal import of its words would lead to
absurd or mischievous results, or would contravene the clear purposes
of the Legislature, it should be construed according to its spirit and
reason, disregarding as far as necessary, the latter of the law. Statutes
may be extended to cover cases not within the literal meaning of the
terms, for that which is clearly within the intention of the Legislature
in enacting the law is as much within the statute as if it were within
the latter. Here the error (clerical and misprint) is plain and obvious. It
is within the province of the courts to correct said error. This is not to
correct the act of the Legislature, but rather to carry out and give due
course to the true intention of said Legislature.
When the context of a statute so indicates, words in plural include the
singular, and vice versa.

A plural word in a statute may thus apply to a singular person or thing, just as
a singular word may embrace two or more persons or things

Art. 996 CC – (law on succession) such article also applies to a situation where
there is only one child because “children” includes “child”

Election Code – “candidate” comprehends “some candidates” or “all


On gender – the masculine, but not the feminine, includes all genders, unless
the context in which the word is used in the statute indicates otherwise
Santillon vs Miranda
Art. 892 of the New Civil Code falls under the chapter on Testamentary Succession; whereas
Art. 996 comes under the chapter on Legal or Intestate Succession. Such being the case, it is
obvious that Claro cannot rely on Art. 892 to support his claim to 3/4 of his father's estate.
Art 892 merely fixes the legitime of the surviving spouse and Art. 888 thereof, the legitime
of children in testate succession.

In the New Civil Code's chapter on legal or intestate succession, the only article applicable
is Art. 996.

The theory of those holding otherwise seems to be premised on these propositions: (a) Art.
996 speaks of "Children," therefore it does not apply when there is only one "child";
consequently Art. 892 (and Art. 888) should be applied, thru a process of judicial
construction and analogy.

It is a maxim of statutory construction that words in plural include the singular. So Art. 996
could or should be read (and so applied) : "If the widow or widower and a legitimate child
are left, the surviving spouse has the same share as that of the child." Indeed, if we refuse to
apply the article to this case on the ground that "child" is not included in "children," the
consequences would be tremendous.
Amon Trading Corporation vs CA
In China Banking Corp. v. Members of the Board of Trustees, Home Development
Mutual Fund and the later case of Romulo, Mabanta, Buenaventura, Sayoc and De
los Angeles v. Home Development Mutual Fund, the term and/or was held to
mean that effect shall be given to both the conjunctive “and” and the disjunctive
“or”; or that one word or the other may be taken accordingly as one or the other
will best effectuate the intended purpose. It was accordingly ordinarily held that
in using the term "and/or" the word "and" and the word "or" are to be used

By analogy, the words Lines & Spaces/Tri-Realty mean that effect shall be given
to both Lines & Spaces and Tri-Realty or that Lines & Spaces and Tri-Realty may
be used interchangeably. Hence, petitioners were not remiss when they believed
Eleanor Sanchez representation that Lines & Spaces/Tri-Realty refers to just one
entity. There was, therefore, no error attributable to petitioners when they
refunded the value of the undelivered bags of cement to Lines & Spaces only.
Director of Lands vs CA
The law used the term shall in prescribing the work to be done by the
Commissioner of Land Registration upon the latters receipt of the court order
setting the time for initial hearing. The said word denotes an imperative and thus
indicates the mandatory character of a statute. While concededly such literal
mandate is not an absolute rule in statutory construction, as its import ultimately
depends upon its context in the entire provision, we hold that in the present case
the term must be understood in its normal mandatory meaning.

In Republic vs. Marasigan,[16] the Court through Mr. Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr.
held that Section 23 of PD 1529 requires notice of the initial hearing by means of
(1) publication, (2) mailing and (3) posting, all of which must be complied with. If
the intention of the law were otherwise, said section would not have stressed in
detail the requirements of mailing of notices to all persons named in the petition
who, per Section 15 of the Decree, include owners of adjoining properties, and
occupants of the land. Indeed, if mailing of notices is essential, then by parity of
reasoning, publication in a newspaper of general circulation is likewise
imperative since the law included such requirement in its detailed provision.
Capati vs Ocampo
The rule on venue of personal actions cognizable by the courts of first instance is
found in Section 2 (b), Rule 4 of the Rules of Court, which provides that such "actions
may be commenced and tried where the defendant or any of the defendants resides or
may be found, or where the plaintiff or any of the plaintiffs resides, at the election of
the plaintiff.

It is well settled that the word "may" is merely permissive and operates to confer
discretion upon a party. Under ordinary circumstances, the term "may be" connotes
possibility; it does not connote certainty. "May" is an auxillary verb indicating liberty,
opportunity, permission or possibility.

We hold that the stipulation as to venue in the contract in question is simply

permissive. By the said stipulation, the parties did not agree to file their suits solely
and exclusively with the Court of First Instance of Naga. They merely agreed to submit
their disputes to the said court, without waiving their right to seek recourse in the
court specifically indicated in Section 2 (b), Rule 4 of the Rules of Court.
Office of the Ombudsman vs
The use of the word ―may is ordinarily
construed as permissive or directory, indicating
that a matter of discretion is involved. Thus, the
word ―may, when used in a statute, does not
generally suggest compulsion. The use of the
word ―may‖ in Section 20(5) of R.A. 6770
indicates that it is within the discretion of the
Ombudsman whether to conduct an
investigation when a complaint is filed after one
year from the occurrence of the complained act
or omission.
There is merit in the contention of petitioner that it is the duty of
respondent NTC to promulgate rules and regulations. In the separate
opinion of Justice Abad Santos, it is said that the case involves a simple
problem of statutory construction - that of Section 2 of Presidential Decree
No. 217. The decision sustained the petitioner's contention that it is the
duty of NTC to first promulgate rules and regulations. The resolution does
not subscribe to the view that the NTC should or must promulgate rules and
regulations because the decree must be given its ordinary meaning; the
word used is the permissive "may" and not the mandatory "shall." The non-
unanimous resolution thus relies on the canons index animi sermo
est (speech is the indication of intent) and a verba legis non est
recedendum (from the words of the statute there should be no departure).
Any lawyer of modest sophistication knows that canons of
statutory construction march in pairs of opposite. Thus with the
canons above mentioned we have the following opposite: verba
intentioni, non e contra, debent inservire (words ought to be more
subservient to the intent and not the intent to the words). It is
an elementary rule in statutory construction that the word
"may" in a statute is permissive while the word "shall" is
mandatory. The rule, however, is not absolute. The literal
interpretation of the words of an act should not prevail if it
creates a result contrary to the apparent intention of the
legislature and if the words are sufficiently flexible to admit of
a construction which will effectuate the legislative intention. In
the case at bar compelling reasons dictate that the provision of
the decree should be construed as mandatory rather than merely
Berces vs Guingona
Petitioner filed two administrative cases against respondent Naomi C. Corral, the
incumbent Mayor of Tiwi, Albay with the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Albay.

Consequently, respondent Mayor appealed to the Office of the President

questioning the decision and at the same time prayed for the stay of execution
thereof in accordance with Section 67(b) of the Local Government Code.

Petitioner then filed a Motion for Reconsideration questioning the aforesaid Order
of the Office of the President.

On September 13, 1990, the Motion for Reconsideration was denied.

Hence, this petition.

In the absence of an express repeal, a subsequent law cannot be
construed as repealing a prior law unless an irreconcible
inconsistency and repugnancy exists in the terms of the new and
old laws.

The first sentence of Section 68 merely provides that an "appeal

shall not prevent a decision from becoming final or executory."
As worded, there is room to construe said provision as giving
discretion to the reviewing officials to stay the execution of the
appealed decision.

The term "shall" may be read either as mandatory or directory

depending upon a consideration of the entire provisions in
which it is found, its object and the consequences that would
follow from construing it one way or the other (cf. De Mesa v.
Mencias, 18 SCRA 533 [1966]). In the case at bench, there is no
basis to justify the construction of the word as mandatory.