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Philippines Table of Contents


Criminal Procedure

The sources of procedural criminal law were the constitution, the revised penal code of 1930, the New Rules of Court of 1964, special laws, and certain presidential orders and letters of instruction. These governed the pleading, practice, and procedure of all courts as well as admission to the practice of law. All had the force and effect of law.

The rights of the accused under Philippine law are guaranteed under Article 3 of the 1987 constitution and include the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the right to enjoy due process under the law, and the right to a speedy, public trial. Those accused must be informed of the charges against them and must be given access to competent, independent counsel, and the opportunity to post bail, except in instances where there is strong evidence that the crime could result in the maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Habeas corpus protection is extended to all except in cases of invasion or rebellion. During a trial, the accused are entitled to be present at every proceeding, to compel witnesses, to testify and cross-examine them and to testify or be exempt as a witness. Finally, all are guaranteed freedom from double jeopardy and, if convicted, the right to appeal.

Criminal action can be initiated either by a complaint--a sworn statement by the offended party, a witness, or a police officer--or by "information." Information consists of a written accusation filed with the court by a prosecutor, known as a fiscal at the provincial levels of government and below. No information can be filed unless investigation by a judge, fiscal, or state prosecutor establishes a prima facie case. Warrant for arrest is issued by a judge. Warrantless arrest by a police officer can be made legally only under extraordinary circumstances. Aquino immediately discontinued Marcos-era practices of presidentially ordered searches and arrests without judicial process and prolonged "preventative detention actions."

Trial procedure consists of arraignment, trial, and the court's judgment and sentencing. The accused must be arraigned in the court where the complaint or information is filed. A defendant must be present to plead to the charge, except in certain minor cases where a lawyer can appear for him or her. All offenses are bailable, save the most serious cases when strong evidence of guilt exists. If a defendant has no lawyer, the court is required to supply one. Prosecution is carried out by the state prosecutor or provincial fiscal, who exercises broad discretion in screening cases and affixing charges. No jury is employed; the judge determines all questions of law and fact and passes sentence. A written sentence must be read to the court. Afterward, either party may appeal.

Data as of June 1991