Judiciary in the Philippines

The judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and such in lower courts as may be established by law.

Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and 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.

Meaning of Judicial Power

JUDICIAL POWER is the power to apply the laws to contests or disputes concerning legally recognized rights or duties between the Sate and private persons, or between individual litigants in cases properly brought before the judicial tribunals.

Scope of Judicial Power

It includes the duty of courts of justice:

  • to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable;
  • to determine whether there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction(infra) on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government
  • to pass upon the validity or constitutionality of the laws of the state and the acts of the other departments of the government;
  • to interpret and construe them;
  • to render authoritative judgments
  • It likewise includes the incidental powers necessary to the effective discharge of the judicial functions such as the power to punish persons adjudged in contempt.

Giving of Advisory Opinions not a Judicial Function

The judiciary is entrusted by the Constitution with the function of deciding actual cases & controversies.

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It cannot be required by law to exercise any power or to perform any duty not pertaining to, or connected with, the administration of judicial functions. It is not its function to give advisory opinions. It is a function of executive officials.

The doctrine of separation of powers calls for the other departments being left alone to discharge their duties as they see fit. The president and congress are not bound to seek the advice of the Judiciary as to what to do or not to do. It is a prerequisite that something had been accomplished or performed by either of them before a court may enter into the picture. At such time, it may pass in the validity of what was done but only when properly challenged in an appropriate legal proceeding.

Furthermore, with so many cases pending in courts where in there is an actual and antagonistic assertion between the parties, it would not serve public interest at all if on matters moot and academic their time and attention would still have to be devoted.

Judicial Power Vested in One Supreme Court & in Lower Courts

Judicial power, under the constitution is “vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law.” The judiciary composed of the courts is one of the three main divisions of power in our government.

Under the provision, only the Supreme Court is a constitutional court in a sense of being a creation of the constitution. All other courts including the Sandiganbayan are statutory courts in the sense that they are creations of law. They are referred to as lower courts in the Constitution, meaning courts below the Supreme Court.

In the exercise of its legislative power, congress may abolish any or all lower courts and replace them with other courts to the limitation that the reorganization shall not undermine the security of tenure.

It cannot, however, abolish the Supreme Court; neither can it create an additional supreme court because the constitution provides for only “one Supreme Court”. Neither can it abolish the Sandiganbayan because it existence is constitutionally recognized although congress, in the exercise of legislative power, may determine its functions and jurisdiction. The decisions of the Supreme Court are binding all lower tribunals.

Organization of Courts

Regular courts the Phil. judicial system consist of hierarchy of courts resembling a pyramid with the Supreme Court at the apex. Under the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 are:

  • A Court of Appeals (w/ 51 justices headed by a presiding justice) which operates in 17 divisions each comprising 3 members. The court sits en banc only to exercise administrative, ceremonial, or other non-adjudicatory functions;
  • A Regional Trial Court presided by 720 Regional Trial Judges in each of 13 regions in the country; and
  • A Metropolitan Trial Court in each Metropolitan area established by law; a Municipal Trial Court in every city not forming part of a metropolitan area and in each of the municipalities not comprised within a metropolitan area and a municipal circuit; and a Municipal Circuit Trial Court in each area defined as a municipal circuit comprising one or more cities and/or more municipalities grouped together according to law. A court may consist of several branches.

Special courts

  • The Court of Tax Appeals was created under RA No. 1125, as amended which has exclusive appellate jurisdiction to review on appeal decisions of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue taxes and decisions of the Commissioner of Customs involving custom duties.
  • The Sandiganbayan was created by PD No. 1606 pursuant to the mandate of the 1973 constitution. It “ shall continue to function and exercise its jurisdiction” as provided in said decree or as may be provided by subsequent law.

Quasi-judicial agencies

•administrative bodies under the executive branch performing quasi –judicial functions, like the National Labor Relations of the integrated judicial system. The same thing may be said of courts martial. The authority for the ordering of courts martial pertains to the President as Commander-in-Chief independently of legislation to aid him in properly commanding the Armed Forces and enforcing discipline.

The Court & Judge


The body to which the public administration of justice is delegated. It is an entity or body in which a portion of judicial power is vested.


A public officer so named in his commission and appointed to preside and to administer the law in a court of justice.

Court & Judge Distinguished

A court is an incorporeal entity composed of one or more judges. Judge alone does not necessarily constitute a court for a while he is an indispensable part he is only a part of the court.

Court cannot exist without a judge.

Importance of Judiciary

“ Nothing is more clearly touches the welfare and security of the average citizen than his sense that he can rely on the certain and prompt administration of justice. Law is respected and supported when it is trusted as the shield of innocence and the impartial guardian of every private civil right. But if the law is dishonestly administered, salts has lost its savour; if it be weakly or unfaithfully enforced, the guarantees of order fail, for it is more by uncertainty than by severity of punishment that offenses are repressed.”


“ where there is no judicial department to interpret and execute the law, to decide controversies, and to enforce right, the government must either perish by its own imbecility or the other departments of government must usurp powers for the purpose of commanding obedience, to the destruction of liberty.”


“It is in the court and not in the legislature that our citizens primarily feel the keen cutting edge of the law, If they have respect for the works of the courts, their respect for law will survive the shortcomings of any other branch of the government; but if they lose their respect for the works of the courts, their respect for law and order will banish with it to the great detriment of society.”

Independence of the Judiciary

  • Congress may not deprive the supreme court of the constitutional powers granted to it
  • Congress cannot prescribe the manner in which the supreme Court should sit, and determine the number of justices composing the court.
  • The Supreme Court is given the authority to appoint all officials and employees of the judiciary.
  • The members of the Supreme Court and judges of lower courts enjoy security of tenure.
  • Their salaries cannot be decreased during their continuance in office.
  • The members of the supreme court can only be removed trough the difficult process of impeachment.
  • The judiciary enjoys fiscal autonomy.


The congress shall have the power to define, prescribe, and apportion the jurisdiction of the various court but may not deprive the Supreme Court of its jurisdiction over cases enumerated in section 5 here of.

No law shall be passed reorganizing the Judiciary when it undermines the security of tenure of its Members.

3 Limitation to the Exercise of Power

1.No law shall be passed reorganizing the judiciary when it undermines security of tenure guaranteed for section 10; 2.The congress cannot diminish or other wise impair the original and appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court over cases enumerated in section 5; 3. No law shall be passed increasing the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court without its advice and concurrence.

Jurisdiction of Courts

  • General
  • Limited
  • Original
  • Appellate
  • Exclusive
  • Concurrent
  • Criminal
  • Civil


The judiciary enjoys 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.


The Supreme Court shall be composed of a chief justice and fourteen associate justices. It may sit en banc or in its sit discretion, in division of three, five, seven Members. Any vacancy shall be filled within ninety days from the occurrence thereof.

All cases involving the constitutionality of a treaty, international or executive agreement, or law, which shall be heard by the Supreme Court en banc, and all other cases which under the rules of are required to be hear en banc, including those involving the constitutionality, application, or operation of presidential decrees, proclamation, orders, instructions, ordinances and other regulations, shall be decided with the majority of the members who actually took part in the deliberations on the issues in the case and voted thereon.

Cases or matters heard by the division shall be decided or resolve with the concurrence of the majority of the members who actually took part in the deliberations on the issues in the case and voted thereon, and in no case, without the concurrence of at least three of such members. When the required number is not obtained, the case shall be decided en banc: Provided that no doctrine or principle of law laid down by the court in a decision rendered en banc or in division may be modified or reversed except by the court sitting en banc.

Composition of the Supreme Court

The new constitution retained the membership of the supreme court of 15 members including the chief justice under the 1973 charter (sec.4).

The phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in the 1935 constitution was deleted in the 1973 constitution clearly showing the intention to withdraw from congress the power to alter the composition of the supreme court.

The constitution requires any vacancy to be filled within 90 days from the occurrence thereof.

Sitting Procedure

The supreme court may sit in en banc (i.e..as one body) or in division of three, five or seven members. On the basis of fifteen members the number of division will be five, three or two meeting separately.

Cases to be heard or decided en banc and vote required

  1. All cases involving the constitutionality of a treat, international .or executive agreement, or law (statute).
  2. All other cases including those involving the constitutionality, application or operation of presidential decrees, proclamations, orders, instructions, ordinances and other regulations.
  3. Administrative cases where the decision is for the dismissal of a judge of a lower court.
  4. Cases heard by a division.
  5. 5.Cases modifying or revising a doctrine or principle of law.

Meaning of Executive Agreement

Is an agreement entered into by the resident on behalf of the Philippines with the government of another country and is effective and binding upon the Philippines without the concurrences of congress.

Classes of Executive Agreements

Those made purely as executive acts affecting external relations and independent of legislative authorization.. They may be taken the form of a protocol, an instrument supplementary to a treaty or convention, exchange of notes, and other types of documents.

Those entered into in pursuance of acts of congress. They affect internal affairs and domestic rights. They include tariff and postal arrangements, visa fees, commercial relations, and matters affecting trademarks and copyrights, and the like.

Meaning of Power of Judicial Review

Is the power of the courts, ultimately of the Supreme Court, to interpret the Constitution and to declare any legislative or executive act invalid because it is in conflict with the fundamental law.

Limitations on exercise of power of judicial review

  1. There must be a concurrence of at least a majority of the members who actually took part in the deliberations on the issues in the case and voted thereon.
  2. A law, etc., must be sustained unless clearly repugnant to the Constitution in view of the presumption of validity.
  3. The question of wisdom, propriety, or necessity of a law, etc.,is not open to determination by the court.
  4. Political questions are generally addressed to the political (i.e., elective) branches (namely, the Presidentand congress) of the government and are, therefore, not jusiciable.

Justiciable distinguished from Political question

  • A justiciable question- is one which affects personal or property rights accorded to every member of the community in cases if properly brought before the judical tribunals.
  • A political question – is one which under the Constitution, “is to be decided by the people in their sovereign capacity, or in regard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the legislative or executive branch of the government.”


The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:

  1. Exercise original jurisdiction over cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and the consuls, and over petitions for certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and the habeas corpus.
  2. Review, revise, reverse, modify or affirm on appeal or certiorari as the law or the Rules of Court may provide final judgments and orders of lower courts in:
    a.All cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, international or executive agreement, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regular is in question.
    b.All cases involving the legality of any tax, impost assessment, or toll, or any penalty imposed in relation thereto.
    c. all cases in which the jurisdiction of any lower court is in issue.
    d.All criminal cases in which the penalty imposed is reclusion perpetua or higher.
    e.All cases in which only an error or question of law is involved.
  3. Assign temporarily judges of lower courts to other stations as public interest may require. Such temporary assignment shall not exceed six months without the consent of the judge concerned.
  4. Order a change of venue or place of trial to avoid a miscarriage of justice.
  5. Promulgate rules concerning the protection and the enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to practice of law, the Integrated Bar, and legal assistance to the underprivileged. Such rules shall provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and shall not diminish, or increase or modify substantive rights. Rules of procedure of special courts and quasi-judical bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court.
  6. Appoint all officials and employees of the Judiciary in accordance with the Civil Service Law.

Cite this page

Judiciary in the Philippines. (2016, Sep 28). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/judiciary-in-the-philippines-essay

Judiciary in the Philippines
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