The Philippine Government in a nutshell
The Judicial power of the Philippines is vested in the Supreme Court. Lower courts under it including the Court of Appeals, Regional Trial Courts, and the Sandiganbayan. The Supreme Court consists of 14 Associate Justices and one Chief Justice.
The Supreme Court’s powers may be generally divided into two namely judicial and administrative functions. The Court has an administrative role over the Philippine judiciary and its employees, and the members of the Philippine bar. The judicial purpose of the Court is stated in Section 1 of Article VIII that states:
Judicial power includes the duty of 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.
The Chief Justice and Associate Justices
The Chief Justice presides over the Supreme Court, the Chairman of the Judicial and Bar Council, and is the presiding officer in any impeachment trial of the President.
The Chief Justice however is not considered as the administrative superior of the other 14 Justices. He/she only carries one vote in the Court and is only treated as primus inter pares or “first among equals”.
The President chooses the members of the Supreme Court from a list of nominees prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council, the body that recommends appointees on vacant positions in the Supreme Court and the lower courts.
There is no distinct difference in the process of selecting a Chief Justice and the Associate Justices.
To be appointed to the Supreme Court, one must be:
- A natural-born citizen of the Philippines
- At least 40 years old.
- Must have been a judge of a lower court or engaged in the practice of law for at least 15 years.
Also according to Section 7, a member of the Supreme Court “must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence.”
The Chief Justice has no term limit and, like the rest of the members of the Supreme Court, is compelled to retire at age 70.
Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals of the Philippines is the second-highest judicial court and its main function is to review the decisions and orders made by the Regional Trial Courts. The Court of Appeals consists of 68 Justices and one Presiding Justice. The members of the Court of Appeals are also appointed by the President from a list drafted by the Judicial and Bar Council.
The Sandiganbayan (People’s Advocate), is a special appellate court and is in equal rank with the Court of Appeals. The Sandiganbayan has the jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases that involve graft and corruption and other offences committed by government officers and employees, including those in government-owned or controlled corporations. The Sandiganbayan is composed of one Presiding Justice and 14 Associate Justices.
Court of Tax Appeals
The Court of Tax Appeals of the Philippines is a special court and has the same level with the Court of Appeals and Sandiganbayan. It has a limited jurisdiction on decisions, judgment and rulings of the Commissioners of Internal Revenue and Customs, the Secretaries of Finance, Agriculture and Trade and Industry involving the National Internal Revenue Code and the Tariff and Customs Code. It also has the jurisdiction over matters involving criminal violation and collection of revenues as well as cases involving local and real property taxes.
The Court of Tax Appeals consists of eight Associate Justices and one Presiding Justice.
Regional Trial Courts
The Regional Courts are the highest trial courts in the Philippines and at least one is present in every province. The Regional Trial Courts decide on the particular classes of civil and criminal cases assigned to them by law. They also handle cases which are not within the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Trial Courts.
Shari’a District Courts
The Shari’a District Courts were established in some municipalities in Mindanao where the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines is being enforced, including the rules on special proceedings for the settlement of the estate of a deceased Muslim.
Judicial courts under the Regional Trial Courts are the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, Municipal Trial Courts and the Municipal Circuit Trial Courts.
In a nutshell, the President is the head of the Executive Branch that executes the law. Under him is the Vice President, the Cabinet, and Local Government Units. But through the Local Government Code of 1991, LGU’s have relative autonomy from the National Government. The Legislative Branch is made up of the Congress that consists of 24 Senators and the House of Representatives that has no more than 250 members. The Congress has the power and is responsible for passing, amending and in repealing laws. The Judicial Branch is headed by the Supreme Court of the Philippines with 14 Associate Justices and one Chief Justice. The Judiciary has the power to interpret and apply the law of the land.