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Prospectivity of Laws

In general laws should be prospective

not retroactive. However, there are
some exceptions:
1. If the laws themselves povide for their retoractivity (Art. 4 Civil Code).

2. If the laws are remedial in nature.

3. If the statute is penal in nature, provided:

a. It is favorable to the accused or convict.

b. The accused or convict is not a habitual delinquent as defined in Art. 22 of the Revised Penal

4. If the laws are of an emergency nature and are authorized by the police power of the government.
(Santos vs. Alvarez 44 O.G. 4259)

5. If the law is curative (necessarily retroactive for the precise purpose to cure errors or
irregularities). This kind of law to be valid must not impair vested rights nor affect final judgments.
(Frivaldo vs. Comelec and Lee G.R. 120295, June 28, 1996)

When is a Law “Prospective” and When is

It “Retroactive”?

The prospectivity and retroactivity of laws are important concepts in the operation
of law.
First, let us define the terms.
A thing is prospective if it is expected to happen in the future. Meanwhile, a thing
is retroactive if it takes effect from a date in the past.
Now, let us look at what the law says about prospectivity and retroactivity.
“Laws shall have no retroactive effect, unless the contrary is
provided.”Art. 4, Civil Code.
Thus, a law is prospective at all times. Laws always take effect after they have
been enacted and published. A law may only be retroactive if such retroactive effect
is expressly provided for in the law.
Law A provides that it shall take effect after 15 days following its publication on Aug.
5, 2010. The law takes effect on Aug. 20, 2010 and will continue to take effect
thereafter until it is repealed or struck down. Law A is prospective.
Law B provides that it shall take effect after 20 days following its publication on Dec.
3, 2012, and that it shall have retroactive effect. The law takes effect on Dec. 23, 2012
and will continue to take effect thereafter, but the law shall also be applied to things
and events that have happened in the past—prior to Dec. 23, 2012. Law B is both
prospective and retroactive, but its retroactivity only comes into operation upon the
effectivity of the law itself, which is Dec. 23, 2012.
There are other exceptions to the rule that laws shall have no retroactive effect. The
following laws have retroactive effect even if retroactivity is not expressly provided
for in the law.
1. When the law is a penal statute and that it favors the accused who is not a habitual
criminal, even though at the time of the law’s enactment, final sentence has
already been rendered. (See Art. 22, Revised Penal Code.)
2. When the law is procedural and that it does not affect or change vested rights.
3. When the law creates new substantive rights.
4. When the law’s purpose is to cure defects in judicial or administrative
5. When the law’s purpose is to interpret other laws.
The reason for the rule that laws shall have no retroactive effect is the tendency of
retroactive laws to be unjust and oppressive. They may infringe upon vested rights or
disrupt the legal effect of transactions prior to the enactment of the law.

 Civil Law Reviewer by Desiderio P. Jurado