Hierarchy of Philippine Courts (And their Jurisdictions) The judicial System of the Philippines provides courts both of law and equity which have jurisdiction over all civil, criminal and probate cases unlike those courts in other countries. The Final Arbiter: The Supreme Court The supreme law of the land decrees that the judicial power be vested in one Supreme Court and such lower courts as may be established by law. [Section 1, Art. VIII, 1987 Constitution). Thus the Supreme Court of the Philippines composed of 14 Associate Justices and one Chief Justice is established. Seated in division or en banc the Supreme Court is duty bound to adjudicate on 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 latter obligation being unique to the 1987 Constitution. Section 5 of Article VIII of our present constitution declares the powers of the Supreme Court. Paragraph 2 of the same Article and section provides for the court’s authority to: Review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal or certiorari, as the law or the Rules of Court may provide, final judgments and orders of lower courts in: 1. All cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, international or executive agreement, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation is in question. 2. All cases involving the legality of any tax, impost, assessment, or toll, or any penalty imposed in relation thereto. 3. All cases in which 4. the jurisdiction of any lower court is in issue. 5. All criminal cases in which the penalty imposed is reclusion perpetua or higher. 6. All cases in which only an error or question of law is involved. Thus the Supreme Court is the court of last resort for its decisions are final: doctrines established through jurisprudence either by the court sitting en banc or in division can only be reversed by the same court seated en banc. “The Supreme Court is final not because it is right, but rather it is right because it is final” The Courts as Provided for by Law Batas Pambansa 129, also known as Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 established the four levels of the Philippine Judicial Courts. Appelate Courts:The Court of Appeals Composed of a Presiding Justice and sixty eight Associate Justices, the CA is vested with general appellate jurisdiction over the decisions of the Regional Trial Courts and specific quasi-judicial agencies, boards or commissions as provided for in Rule 40-43 of the 1997 Rules of Procedures, National Amnesty Commission, the Ombudsman and the National Labor Relation Commission. The justices sit in divisions composed of three members, where a unanimous determination is required for a decision otherwise two additional justices will sit temporarily with them forming a special division of five and the majority shall be necessary of a decision. Special Appellate Courts Court of Tax Appeals A special collegiate court, created by RA 1125 (as amended by RA 9282,) the Court of Tax Appeals is composed of a Presiding Judge and 5 Associate Judges vested with the exclusive appellate jurisdiction over appeals from the decisions of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue and the Commissioner of Customs on civil and criminal tax cases filed by private persons. The CTA has authority toto review by appeal the following: 1. Decisions of the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue in cases involving disputed assessment, refunds of Internal Revenue taxes, fees or other charges, penalties imposed in relation thereto, or other matters arising under the National Internal Revenue Code or other law or part of the law administered by the BIR; 2. Decisions of the Commissioner of Customs in cases involving liability for custom duties, fees or other money charges; seizures, detentions or release of property affected; fines, forfeitures or other penalties imposed in relation thereto; or other matters arising under the Custom Law or other law or part of law administered by the Bureau of Customs; 3. Decisions of the Secretary of Finance, such as in the imposition of dumping or countervailing duty, and in automatic review, cases where such decision of the Secretary of Finance is adverse to the taxpayer. Sandiganbayan A special Graft court, the Sandiganbayan, composed of a Presiding Justice and 14 Associate Justices, has exclusive jurisdiction over violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act [Republic Act No. 3019], the Unexplained Wealth Act [Republic Act No. 1379] and other crimes or felonies committed by public officials and employees in relation to their office, including those employees in government-owned or controlled corporations. Presidential Decree 1606 (as amended by RA 7975 and RA 8249,) Sandiganbayan exercises exclusive original jurisdiction in all cases involving: 1. Violations of RA 3019, as amended, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and corrupt Practices Act, RA 1379 and Chapter II, Sec 2, Title VII, Book II of the RPC, where one or more of the accused are officials occupying the following positions in the government, whether in a permanent, acting or interim capacity, at the time of the commission of the offense; I. Officials of executive branch occupying the positions of regional director and higher otherwise classified as grade “27” and higher, of the Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989; II. Members of Congress and officials thereof as grade “27” and up under the Compensation and position clarification Act 0f 1989; III. Members of the Judiciary with out prejudice to the provisions of the Chairman and members of the Constitutional Commissions with out prejudice to the provisions of the Constitution and IV. All other national and local officials classified as grade “27” and higher under the compensation and Position Classification Act. 2. Violations of the law on Plunder and Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 committed by the aforementioned public officials and employees in relation to their office; 3. Other offenses and felonies whether simple or complexed with other crimes committed by the aforementioned public officials and employees in relation to their office; 4. Civil and Criminal cases filed pursuant to and in connection with EO 1, 2, 14 and 14-A issued in 1986; 5. Petition for the issuance of writs of mandamus, certiorari, habeas corpus, injunction and other ancillary writs and processes in aid of its appellate jurisdiction and over petitions of similar in nature, including quo warranto, that may arise in cases filed under EO 1, 2, 14, 14-A issued in 1986: Provided, that the jurisdiction over these petitions shal not be exclusive of the Supreme Court Courts of General Jurisdiction: REGIONAL TRIAL COURTS Formerly known as the Court of First Instances (CFI) Regional Trial Courts were established among the thirteen regions in the Philippines consisting of Regions I to XII and the National Capital Region (NCR). There are as many Regional Trial Courts in each region as the law mandates. These courts have authority to try cases, without limitations as to the issue or monetary restrictions, to which Municipal, Metropolitan and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts are subjected to. Thus Civil claims or Criminal prosecutions which involves an amount of money or a potential criminal sentence, beyond the jurisdiction of Municipal, Metropolitan and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts must be filed and heard in this Court. R.A. 7961 expands the Regional Trial Courts exercise of exclusive original jurisdiction in civil cases: 1. Actions in which the subject of litigation is incapable of Pecuniary estimation; 2. Actions which involves the title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest therein, where the assessed value of the property involved exceeds twenty thousand pesos, or for civil actions in Metro Manila, where such value exceeds fifty thousand pesos, except actions for forcible entry and unlawful detainer; 3. Actions in admiralty and maritime jurisdiction where the demand or claim exceeds two hundred thousand pesos or, in Metro Manila four hundred thousand pesos; 4. Matters of probate, both testate and intestate, where the gross value of the estate exceeds two hundred thousand pesos or in Metro Manila four hundred thousand pesos; 5. Actions involving the contract of marriage and marital relations (now under the jurisdiction of the Family Court); 6. Cases not with in the exclusive jurisdiction of any court, tribunal, person or body exercising judicial or quasi judicial functions; 7. Civil actions and special proceedings falling with in the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Juvenile and domestic relation court (now Family Court) 8. Other cases in which the demand, exclusive of interest, damages of whatever kind, attorney’s fees, litigation expense and costs, or the value of the property in controversy exceeds to hundred thousand pesos or, in such other cases in Metro Manila, where the demand, exclusive of the abovementioned items exceeds four hundred thousand pesos. However, in cases where the claim for damages is the main cause of action, or one of the causes of action, the amount of such claim shall be considered in determining the jurisdiction of the court. The Muslim Courts: The Shari'a PD 1083 recognizes the legal system of the Muslims in the Philippines as part of the law of the land and seeks to make Islamic institutions more effective. The Sharia’s Courts under the Muslim code are equivalent to the Municipal Circuit Trial Courts with Jurisdiction over Muslim Filipinos in Mindanao. Equivalent to the Regional Trial Courts in rank are the Shari'a District Courts which were established in certain specified provinces in Mindanao where the Muslim Code on Personal Laws is being enforced. Courts of Limited Jurisdiction: Municipal and City Courts I. Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts Municipalities in the Philippines have their own Municipal Trial Court, which try cases limited to civil suits involving relatively smaller amounts of money and minor violations of criminal laws. Labeled as “inferior courts”, they hears and adjudicate most of the controversies that occur in the Community and these are the courts closest to the people. They are referred to as Municipal Trial Court (MTC) if one covers only one municipality; otherwise, it is called Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) if it covers two or more municipalities. Municipal Trial Courts in the towns and cities in the Metropolitan Manila area, as distinguished from the other political subdivisions in the Philippines, are referred to as Metropolitan Trial Courts (MeTC). The equivalent of the Municipal Trial Courts in cities outside Metropolitan Manila is referred to as Municipal Trial Courts in Cities (MTCC).