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Philippines Table of Contents

Philippines

Penal Law

The Philippine legal system was a hybrid, reflecting the country's cultural and colonial history. The system combined elements of Roman civil law from Spain, Anglo-American common law introduced by the United States, and the customary systems used by minorities. The influence of Spanish law was slowly fading but was clearly evident in private law, including family relations, property matters, and contracts. The influence of American law was most visible in constitutional and corporate law, and taxation and banking (see National Government , ch. 4). Evidentiary rules also were adopted from the American system. In the Muslim areas of the south, Islamic law was employed.

Philippine law dates to the nation's independence from Spain at the end of the nineteenth century. Statutes were enacted by the colonial Philippine legislature (1900-35), the commonwealth legislature (1935-46), and by the republic, beginning July 4, 1946. Many modern laws were patterned after the United States, and United States case law was cited and given persuasive effect in Philippine courts. As of the mid-1980s, there were twenty-six codes in effect. These included the 1930 revised penal code, in effect since January 1, 1932, and the civil code, which replaced the Spanish civil code on July 1, 1950. In addition, numerous presidential decrees issued during and after the martial law period (1972-81) had the effect of law. During this era, President Marcos issued more than 2,000 decrees. Although some were rescinded by Aquino during her first year in office. Rule by presidential decree ended in February 1987 with the ratification of the constitution.

Substantive criminal law was embodied in the revised penal code, as amended, and based chiefly on the Spanish penal code of 1870, which took effect in 1887. The penal code set forth the basic principles affecting criminal liability, established a system of penalties, and defined classes of crimes. It also provided for aggravating and mitigating circumstances, stating, for instance, that age, physical defect, or acting under "powerful impulse causing passion or obfuscation" can affect criminal liability. Insanity or acting under irresistible force or uncontrollable fear were regarded by law as exempting circumstances. Under the code, penalties were classified as capital (requiring a death sentence), afflictive (six years to life imprisonment), correctional (one month to six years), and light (up to thirty days). These correspond to the classification of crimes as grave felonies, punishable by capital or afflictive penalties; less grave felonies, punishable by correctional penalties; and light felonies, punishable by light penalties. The 1987 constitution, however, outlaws the death penalty unless provided for by subsequent legislation.

Data as of June 1991