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The Republic of Philippines, comprises 80 provinces and 120 chartered cities. The capital of the Philippines is Manila.

The Philippine islands were a Spanish colony during the 16th century. In 1898, they were ceded to the US, following the Spanish-American War. In 1935, the Philippines became a self-governing commonwealth. In 1942, the Philippines fell under Japanese occupation, and on 4 July 1946 the country gained independence, with the name of Republic of the Philippines.

A 20-year rule by Ferdinand Marcos ended in 1986, when a people movement in Manila ("EDSA 1") forced him into exile, and installed Corazon Aquino as president. The current president, Benigno S. Aquino III, was elected on 30 June 2010.

Type of System

The judicial branch is composed of the Supreme Court, court of appeals, sandigan-bayan (special courts for hearing corruption cases of government officials), inferior courts (called regional trial courts, metropolitan trial courts, municipal trial courts in cities, municipal trial courts, and municipal circuit trial courts) Shari’a courts, and quasi-courts or quasi-judicial agencies for administrative matters.

The legal system is based on Spanish and Anglo-American law, and Shari’a law for Muslims.

Sources of Defendants' Rights

The Constitution was promulgated on 2 February 1987. Its preamble affirms that the Filipino people promote the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace. Moreover, Article II Section 2 declares that the Philippines adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation, and amity with all nations. Article III is called “Bill of Rights”, and its content resembles the American Bill of Rights.

The sources of procedural criminal law are, besides the Constitution, the revised Penal Code of 1930, the New Rules of Court of 1964 Part III, IV, special laws, certain presidential orders, and letters of instruction.

The Bill of Rights lists rights such as the right to life, the respect for human rights, the due process of law, the right to counsel, the right to remain silent, the freedom from excessive punishments and torture, the right to bail, the right against self incrimination, the habeas corpus, the double jeopardy, and the prohibition of ex post facto laws.


A warrant is normally required to make an arrest, according to Rule 112 of the New Rules of Court.

Rule 113 states that “no violence or unnecessary force shall be used in making an arrest. The person arrested shall not be subject to a greater restraint than is necessary for his detention”. The officer must inform the person of the cause of the arrest, except when he flees or forcibly resists.

The officer shall deliver the accused to the nearest police station or jail without unnecessary delay. At the request of the arrestee, any member of the Philippine Bar has the right to visit and confer privately with the person in detention, anytime.

In all criminal cases, the court shall, after the arraignment and within 30 days from the date the court acquires jurisdiction over the accused (unless a shorter period provided by Supreme Court) order a pre-trial conference to consider preliminary matters, and, in general, all such matters “which will promote a fair and expeditious trial of the criminal and civil aspects of the case”. All agreements or admissions made during this hearing must be recorded in writing, and signed by the accused and counsel, otherwise, they cannot be used against the accused (Rule 118 Sections 1 and 2 of the New Rules of Court).


According to Rule 115 of the New Rules of Court, the accused is entitled to the following rights in all criminal proceedings.

To be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved beyond reasonable doubt. To be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. To be present and defend in person and by counsel at every stage of the proceeding. The accused may, however, waive his presence at the trial. Upon motion, the accused may be allowed to defend himself in person when it sufficiently appears to the court that he can properly protect his rights without the assistance of counsel. To testify as a witness in his own behalf but subject to cross-examination on matters covered by direct examination. His silence shall not in any manner prejudice him. To be exempt from being compelled to be a witness against himself. To confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him at the trial. To have compulsory process issued to secure the attendance of witnesses and production of other evidence in his behalf. To have speedy, impartial and public trial. To appeal in all cases allowed and in the manner prescribed by law. After a plea of not guilty is entered, the accused shall have at least 15 days to prepare for trial, and the trial commences within 30 days from receipt of the pre-trial order. The accused who has been held to answer for an offense may, upon motion, have witnesses conditionally examined in his behalf (Rule 119 Section 12 of the New Rules of Court).

According to Rule 119 Section 12 of the New Rules of Court, the public attorney assigned to defend a person must promptly obtain the presence of the prisoner for trial or cause a notice to be served on the person having custody of the prisoner requiring such person to so advise the prisoner of his right and demand trial. If the accused is not brought to trial within the time limit, the information may be dismissed. The accused has the burden of proving the motion but the prosecution has the burden of going forward with the evidence to establish the exclusion of time.

Civil action for recovery of civil liability, within the criminal action, is admissible, and the offended party may intervene with the aid of a counsel, in the prosecution of the offense (Rules 110, 111 of the New Rules of Code).

The prosecution shall present evidence to prove the charge and the civil liability, and the accused may present evidence to prove his defense. They may also present rebuttal evidence.

After the discovery, the case is then submitted for decision, unless the court requires the parties to argue orally or to submit written memoranda (Rule 119 Section 11 of the New Rules of Code). The judgment must contain a clear statement of the facts and the law upon which it is based. The judgment is promulgated by reading it in the presence of the accused and any judge of the court in which it was rendered. However, if the conviction is for a light offense, the judgment may be pronounced in the presence of his counsel or representative (Rule 120 Sections 1, 2, 6 of the New Rules of Court).


At any time before a judgment of conviction becomes final, the court may, on motion of the accused or at its own instance but with the consent of the accused, grant a new trial or reconsideration (Rule 121 of the New Rules of Court).

Any party may appeal from a judgment or final order, unless the accused will be placed in double jeopardy (Rule 122 Sections 1 and 2 of the New Rules of Court). An appeal taken by one or more of several accused shall not affect those who did not appeal, except if the judgment of the appellate court is favorable and applicable to the latter (Rule 122 Section 11 of the New Rules of Court).

See Criminal Justice Systems Around the World


  • Prison population: 102.267 based on an estimated national population of 91.98 million at June 2009. 63.3% are pre-trial detainees and remand prisoners.