Similarities of the U.S. and Philippine Legal Systems
The Philippines and the United States have a shared history, which is why English is the main language used in business, law, government, and education in the Philippines, and is common in everyday communications. The Philippines has also modeled its government institutions on those of the United States. And most Philippine laws, official notices and court decisions – including those promulgated by the Supreme Court – are in English. Even the Philippine Constitution is virtually a duplicate of the Constitution of the United States, specifically the portion containing the Bill of Rights.
Similar to the government structure of the United States, the Philippine government is an organized framework consisting of three separate, sovereign, and interdependent branches. Because the Philippines also has a democratic form of government, separation of powers and checks and balances are fundamentally recognized principles.
The executive power rests in the president, who is also the commander in chief. The president of the Philippines functions as both the head of state and the head of government. Elected by popular vote, the president has the power to appoint and dismiss cabinet members.
Just as the U.S. president’s official residence is the White House in Washington, D.C., the executive seat of the Philippine government is officially located Malacañang Palace—also the official residence of the president—in Manila.
The second highest official, the vice president is first in the line of succession should the president resign, be impeached or die in office. Often, the vice president is a member of the president’s cabinet.
Congress holds the legislative power in the Philippines. It includes the Senate and the House of Representatives, and has the ability to make, alter, and repeal laws.
Judicial power in the Philippines, including the duty to settle controversies involving legally demandable and enforceable rights, resides in the Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law. The Philippine Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and 14 associate justices, similar to the United States Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is charged with determining whether any branch or instrumentality of the country’s government has abused its discretion by failing to assume jurisdiction or exceeding its jurisdictional rights. The Supreme Court also regulates the practice of law in the Philippines, promulgates rules for admission to the bar, and is tasked with enforcing legal ethics and disciplining lawyers.
Professional standards for attorneys in the Philippines are similar to those of the United States. In fact, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines has a code of professional responsibility that borrows heavily from the American Bar Association’s rules.
Also similar to the United States, Philippine Supreme Court decisions assume the same authority as the statutes they apply or interpret. Only decisions of the Supreme Court establish jurisprudence and are binding on all other courts. Philippine law is derived from cases. The Civil Code provides that, “judicial decisions applying to or interpreting the laws or the Constitution shall form part of the legal system of the Philippines.”
Judicial System and Process
The formal system of trials, appeals, and prisons in the Philippines is likewise very similar to that of the United States. The most important statutes governing trade and commerce, such as corporate law, negotiable instruments, taxation, insurance, banking and currency, labor relations and governmental operations, were all derived from laws in place in the United States.
American laws and jurisprudence are considered to be persuasive mandatory authority. Therefore, when no Philippine authority is available as a precedent, jurisprudence can be based on American law. For this reason, Philippine law libraries specifically include U.S. reference materials, law dictionaries, and court reports. Some law libraries in the Philippines also subscribe to U.S. legal research databases.
The Philippine Constitution is patterned on that the United States. Some constitutional rights can be found in the Bill of Rights, including freedom of speech and expression, rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, freedom of religion, due process, equal protection under the law, and right against double jeopardy, as well as others.
Rules of Evidence
Evidentiary rules in the Philippines are based on the rules of evidence as developed, applied, and interpreted in American courts. These include the rules concerning confessions and rules about the disqualification of witnesses, which are patterned after the rules applied in the State of California.
The Securities Regulation Code of the Philippines is based on several United States laws: the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and the Uniform Securities Act of orc 2002. Similar to U.S., Philippine securities laws were created to protect investors and ensure disclosure to minimize fraudulent behavior in the market.
The current governing law as codified in the Insurance Code of the Philippines, the Insurance Code of 1978, is American in origin and was modeled principally on the Civil Code of California. And most Philippine treatises on insurance law continue to refer to American jurisprudence to interpret that law.
In the absence of applicable provisions in the Insurance Code, the provisions of the new Civil Code regarding contracts govern. In the absence of applicable provisions in either law, the general principles on the subject in the United States, particularly in California, are applied. Just asin the United States, the insurance industry in the Philippines is also regulated. In the U.S., state insurance departments regulate insurance. In the Philippines, it is the Insurance Commission, an agency attached to the Department of Finance, that has regulatory authority.
Philippine Criminal Justice System
The Philippine legal system is a combination of both civil and common law. Similar to the U.S. legal system, the main sources of law are the Philippine Constitution, statutes enacted by Congress, treaties and conventions, judicial decisions, and customary law.
The Philippine criminal justice system is composed of five pillars (which are comparable to the components of the U.S. criminal justice system):
- Law enforcement. The Philippine National Police are responsible for this pillar, ensuring that the laws of the land are followed and that peace and order are maintained. When a crime is committed, the National Police are tasked with investigating the circumstances around the incident.
- Prosecution. The Office of the Prosecutor has the obligation of determining whether there is enough evidence to show probable cause to file a case in court. In the event probable cause is found, the prosecutor will file the case in court and serve as the lawyer for the complainant.
- Courts. The courts are tasked with settling actual controversies involving rights that are legally demandable and enforceable, and filed with the judiciary. Civil and criminal cases are decided by a judge.
- Corrections. The corrections pillar focuses on the reformation and rehabilitation of offenders rather than on punishment. This pillar is under the direct control of the Bureau of Corrections under the Department of Justice.
- Communities. Upon release of reformed offenders, communities are responsible for helping offenders assimilate back into society.
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Jimenez, J. (2016, March 3). The Difference between US and Phl Politics. The Freeman, available at http://www.philstar.com/freeman-opinion/2016/03/03/1558956/difference-between-us-and-phl-politics
Section 18, Article VII, The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines
Section 1, Article I, The Constitution of the United States
Article III, 1987 Philippine Constitution
Section 2, RA 8799
Section 3, Executive Order No. 386, ESTABLISHING A NATIONAL CRIME INFORMATION SYSTEM (NCis), PROVIDING THE MECHANISMS THEREFOR AND FOR OTHER SIMILAR PURPOSE, 19 December 1989
Section 1, Article VIII, 1987 Philippine Constitution