The eight most important Philippine laws

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

The Filipinos are among the top three most litigious people in the world. Many cases are filed in court, not because the law is actually violated but due to the gross misunderstanding of the law by both complainants and respondents.


Ignorance of the law excuses no one, and many judges and public officials have been dismissed for gross ignorance of the law. That is why many people believe that in a government of laws like ours, actors, boxers, folk singers, retired soldiers and policemen, rebels, and radio and TV celebrities should not be elected senators and congressmen. They are not lawyers, how can they make laws? That is their opinion. Mine is that we can perhaps elect some of them, to make sure some sectors are represented, but at least majority should be learned in Law, or have some fundamental knowledge about laws --their making, nuances, letter, spirit, and all.

The Supreme Court requires that all aspiring lawyers should master the eight most important laws in the Philippines. The first of these laws is Political Law, which governs the relationship between citizens and the State, defines the scope of Philippine territory, outlines the structures of the government, and establishes how the legislative branch interacts with the executive and the judiciary, and vice-versa. The Constitution establishes how such principles as separation of powers, checks and balances, and coordination should operate.

The second most important law is Labor Laws, governing the relationship between labor and capital, and which directly affects about 70 million out of the 110 million Filipinos.

The third is Civil Law, which includes the Family Code, the law on property ownership, the modes of acquiring properties including succession, all contracts like sales, mortgage, partnership, agency, pledge and loans. The fourth is Criminal Law, which defines crimes and imposes corresponding penalties for murder, homicide, parricide, infanticide, robbery, theft, estafa, falsification, malversation, forgery, and crimes against national security, like treason, sedition, insurrection, etc. The fifth is Commercial Laws, which include private corporations, negotiable instruments, transportation or common carriers, contract of carriage, whether air, land, or sea.

The sixth is Taxation, the one that is most hated, and most difficult, especially with the TRAIN Law that has burdened the people. The most challenging of all and the one with biggest value in the Bar exams is Remedial Law, which deals with how to file complaints, the jurisdictions of different courts and tribunals, the procedures to follow, the periods and venues, the documents to attach, as well as the weights and purposes of evidence, what proof is admissible and inadmissible, which are material, relevant, and pertinent. The seventh is International Law, both private and public. In an era of globalization where borders are shattered and people travel and work across territories, it is imperative that we focus on this law apart from its mother, Political Law.

The last and the most difficult is Remedial Law, which includes the procedures and remedies governing cases and remedies, evidence and reliefs, jurisdictions and venues, pleadings and deadlines. This is the subject that commands the highest weight in the Bar exams. For non-lawyers, it is important that they have a working knowledge of the fundamentals so that they can instruct their lawyers fairly and with confidence. There is no weapon more useful than knowledge, and ignorance can be disastrous and even fatal.

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