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I.

INTRODUCTION

Statutory Construction is one of the most important subjects in as far as


studying the law is concerned. It is so important that it is defined as, the art or process
of discovering and expounding the meaning and intention of the authors of the law,
where that intention is rendered doubtful by reason of the ambiguity in its language
or of the fact that the given case is not explicitly provided.1 Some laws are simple
that no need to further dig into its meaning. However, there are laws which are not
expressed in a clear form that it needs a thorough analysis and understanding as to
how it should be properly interpreted. Law scholars themselves recognizes that
sometimes laws are susceptible to misinterpretations and misapplications. These are
the main reasons why statutory construction is very important to study and re-study
in the course of law journey whether one is a lawyer or a law student, in order for
those who are in the law profession to properly use the provisions of the law. In other
words, using statutory construction as a guide in studying law must be continuous.
After all, a misused law is not considered as a law since the essence of the law is to
uplift justice and to give it as a favor to those who deserve it. Studying statutory
construction; therefore, is an indispensable matter. Moreover, this subject matter
teaches the law students to draw unwarranted conclusions from the direct expression
of law text itself, conclusions which are in the spirit, though not within the letter of
the text.2 Drawing conclusion is also important and it must be done by those who are
studying law. Drawing out the spirit of the law itself, is not an easy task because on
needs to see the very intention of the authors of the law. The intention must be
specifically identified and defined. Finding the spirit of the law through mechanical
endeavor is not advisable and sometimes impossible. Even the most advanced

1
Caltex (Phils.), Inc. v. Palomar, G.R. No. 19650, September 29, 1996, 18 SCRA 247, citing Black,
Interpretation of Laws, p.1.
2
U.S. v. Farenhalt, 206 US 226, 51L. ed. 1036 (1907)

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machines cannot do the task because of infirmities of language and the limited scope
in legislative drafting, inevitably there enters the construction of statutes the play of
judicial judgment within the limits of the relevant materials.3

Drawing from the definition itself, the very purpose of statutory construction
is to provide a workable interpretation of laws. The word “statutory interpretation”
is a word that we automatically connect with the legal field of studies. It is the
application of legislation and interpretation of courts when a statute involved.4 The
words being expressed by the law maybe that so simple but at some points, the
phrases of the law may be in conflict with the laws being passed; thus, sometimes
the judge will be left on his own to interpret such provisions of the law. In
interpreting the laws, it is important that the judge use various ways to interpret such
laws. Among the techniques are the following: traditional canons of statutory
interpretations, legislative history and purpose.5 In terms of the common laws, the
judiciary applies the laws that were delegated and those that were enacted. In other
words, those laws made by the Congress will be competently applied by the
Judiciary, for example, the Supreme Court. This is the primary role of the Judiciary.
It unthinkable if laws are enacted without proper interpretation and application made
by the Judiciary. It is unthinkable that people will just use their own knowledge and
interpretation about the laws. If such is the case, then there is an obscurity of the
concept of justice. Justice treated as a norm and must be done with reference to a
standard and such standard must be made by a competent authority. In this case, the
Judiciary is the competent authority. But such competent authority does not just
interpret the statutes in the way they like it to be. Instead, such endeavor follows

3
Local 1976, U.B.C. & J. v. National Labor Relations Board, 357 US 93, 2 L. ed. 2d 1186 (1958).
4
<https://www.abcassignmenthelp.com/blog/importance-of-statutory-interpretation-in-the-field-of-law-
studies> (visited November 16, 2019)
5
Id.

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some rules of statutory construction. They may use the old interpretation and apply
such rules in a particular situation but it is a must that they should re-study and
formulate some statutory principles because there may be some problems, if it is not
totally new, that demands a new way of solutions and sometimes what can be done
is that there is a new principle that must be adopted. In other words, in the dynamic
system of justice system, there is a need to really use the rules in the statutory
construction. In studying the law, one must be receptive to the changes that may take
place. One must not delimit its own horizon of understanding of laws.

Furthermore, legal statutory is the understanding of whether a law applies to


a certain circumstance and if applicable, what are the consequences? It is not enough
to just state that this law applies to this situation. There is also a need to include the
consequences of such application. Consequences are very important to determine
because they are the manifestations of whether the application produces a good
outcome, or does it fulfill the demands of justice. If it produces a good outcome, then
the laws are effectively applied. But if does not produce a good outcome, an unjust
outcome instead, then the laws are being misused. It can be said that such law is
being misused when the presumption that the framers of the law intended that justice
will prevail failed to manifest. If there is a misuse of law; then, justice failed to
prevail.

II. LAWS BEING INTERPRETED

In the above discussion, it was expressed that the importance of the statutory
construction in the continuing study of law is due to the need to constantly interpret
the laws being studied and applied. Now, it is also important to know what the laws
are being interpreted upon. The following are the various types of statutes:

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First, the Private statutes, while usually laws are public in nature, there are
also some private acts. Since it is a private statute, it will only be applied to a group
of people or even to an individual.

Second, Subordinate or delegated acts, these are the acts that can grant
permission to a certain authority to make decisions. These are done based on:
ordinance, by-laws, rules and regulations. The power to delegate these laws is the
Congress itself. Under Article VI Section 23(2) of the 1987 Philippine Constitution,
“In times of war or other national emergency, the Congress may, by law, authorize
the President, for a limited period and subject to such restrictions as it may prescribe,
to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared policy. Unless sooner
withdrawn by resolution of the Congress, such powers shall cease upon the next
adjournment thereof.”6 In other words, the Congress will enact law that will allow
the President to exercise the power delegated to him by the Congress. This is the
beauty of the statutory construction because it will clarify that the President has no
vested power to exercise such power and it will need an enabling law coming from
the Congress for the President to validly and constitutionally exercise his power.

Third, Consolidated statues, these are the laws that are brought together as one
since they are just similar in nature. It also replaces the amended laws. These statutes
aim to simplify the laws and not to make it complicated. If laws are complicated,
then people will get confused and in turn, chaos may happen especially to the justice
system itself.

Fourth, Code, the code incorporates changed legislation and common laws.
The effect of the code is that it states all the laws that can be applied in the same
case. When confusion occurs in the common law, a statute law takes birth. Statutes

6
Constitution (1987), Art VI, Sec. 23(2).

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are interpreted by common law judges. There are no legislations where there exist
no flaws. The importance of this has become more prevalent in the modern times
when the usage of legislation is available and it is utilized by the poorest sector. In
some instances, the judges and lawyers are unaware of the use the techniques to
statutory interpretation. This unawareness has created important yet legally
unwarranted developments.

III. REASONS FOR INTERPRETATION

All these laws need statutory interpretation. There is a need for statutory
interpretation because of the following:

First, the complex nature of the statute after being subjected to changes can
result in vagueness. It cannot be denied that changes can sometimes cause obscurity
of the essential concept of the statute. This is the reason why when one study the
law, one should know how to apply the rules of statutory construction in order to
unveil the hidden meaning of the complex statute.

Second, anticipating every possible version of a case can result to incoherence


and such gaps in the law demand a right interpretation of the law. The gap must be
properly clarified. The gap that is being pertained here is the unclear or obscure
interpretation that should agree with the understanding of law.

Third, the use of certain words can lead to mistakes and the parties might
utilize the various meanings to their advantage and it becomes the liability of the
court to interpret the right meaning for further use. There are already many instances
that the laws are being used in a very inappropriate manner. Sometimes their
interpretation is different from the real interpretation that the authors of the law
intended. And one of the problems in the practice of law is that some lawyers tend
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to take advantage of the law in favor of the parties who does not deserve the favor
of justice. This is the reason why interpretation made by court must be properly made
in order to eradicate those who took advantage of the law and to clarify those
misinterpretations. After all, the court is responsible to create an interpretation that
it will enable the people to understand the law.

IV. APPROACHES IN INTERPRETATION

After discussing the necessity of construction and interpretation, it is also


important to consider the few approaches used by the court, to wit:

First, the literal approach, this approach aims to understand the statute by its
literal meaning and applying it to the case.7 This rule is based on the doctrine of
parliamentary supremacy, that is, judges are not allowed to make law. To prevent
allegations raised against the court, the judges usually prefer the literal methods as
it goes by the word meaning and thus preventing the clients to find potential
loopholes to create comfortable escapades.8 This rule merely points that one should
take the law as it is. Even the judges are not allowed to add something to the law
because their job only is to interpret it and construe on it. In relation to this, a latin
maxim also arises which states, “when the language of the law is clear, no
explanation of it is required.”9 The main reason why it is important to take the law
as it is because one needs to avoid interpreting the law in an inappropriate manner.
One should always adhere to the intent of the framers of the law. Also, one is not
allowed to expand or add something to what is has been clearly expressed. To add

7
Supare note 4.
8
Id.
9
Tawang Multipurpose Cooperative v. La Trinidad Water District, G.R. no. 166471, March 22, 2011.

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or expand the law is a sign of disrespect to the power vested upon the Congress, thus,
a violation of the separation of powers.

In addition to such concept when there is no need to construe such clear and
unambiguous text, the Supreme court made a good discussion on this matter
particularly on the case of Garcia v. Social Security Commission, G.R. No. 170735,
December 17, 2007, the court ruled:

Elementary is the rule that when laws or rules are clear, it is incumbent upon the
judge to apply them regardless of the personal belief or predilections—when the
law is unambiguous and unequivocal, application not interpretation thereof is
imperative. However, where the language of the statute is vague and unambiguous,
an interpretation thereof is resorted to. An interpretation thereof is necessary in
instances where a literal interpretation would be either impossible or absurd or
would lead to an injustice. A law is deemed ambiguous when it is capable of being
understood by reasonably well-informed persons in either of two or more senses.
The fact that a law admits of different interpretations is the best evidence that it is
vague and unambiguous.

It has also been held that a statute is ambiguous when it is capable of being
understood by reasonably well-informed persons in either of two senses. The fact
that a statute admits of different interpretations shows that the statute is vague and
ambiguous and requires that the correct interpretation consistent with legislative
intent be ascertained.10

Another case supplementing such idea is the case of Republic V. Lacap


wherein it describes this maxim as the “plain meaning rule”. The Court in this case
explained the doctrine of verbal egis, as follows:

The “plain meaning rule” or verba legis in statutory construction is that if the statute
is clear, plain and free from ambiguity, it must be given its literal meaning and

10
Del Mar v. Phil. Amusement and Gaming Corp., 138 SCAD 952, 346 SCRA 485 (2000)

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applied without interpretation. This rule derived from the maxim index animi sermo
est (speech is the index of intention) rests on the valid presumption that the words
employed by the legislature in a statute correctly express its intention or will and
preclude the court from construing it differently. The legislature is presumed to
know the meaning of the words, to have used words advisedly, and to have
expressed its intent by use of such words as are found in the statute. Verbal egis
non est recedendum, or from the words of a statute there should be no departure.11

The second rule to be considered is the golden rule, this rule is also dependent
on the meaning of the plain text but with slight modifications to avoid
misinterpretations.12 This falls under the shadow of the literal rule and it is backup
techniques that prevents the absurdities of literal rule. It demands the specific law to
be read as a whole and not with the literal sense.13 Reading the whole text will give
one the whole picture of the said text. It is important to always look at the whole
picture of things to further enrich the insights drawn from the text itself. The more
intense and deeper the reading, the more insights will be drawn.

The third rule is the Mischief approach that is to interpret according to what
is best for the situation.14 This method is used to determine whether the statute exists
to create or close loopholes. It is used to interpret the loopholes created and act
according to the need of the hour and practically approach the law without the
allowance of escapes for the guilty.15 To know situation fully is very essential in
terms of applying the law. This is also important in cases, when the case raises a
novel question of law which means it is a transcendental question of law. 16 In such
instance the Court En Banc, composing of fifteen justices will collaboratively decide

11
Republic v. Lacap, G.R. No. 158253, March 2, 2007.
12
Supra note 7.
13
Id.
14
Id.
15
Id.
16
Section 3, Rule 2 of the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court.

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on a given case. They do this to show that they are dealing with an important matter
and not just a simple thing. Other than those not mentioned under such internal rules
of the Supreme Court are subject to the Division cases wherein such case will be
heard by every division.

And lastly, the use of explore extrinsic materials, this refers to other resources
to implore the meaning of the written text. This includes dictionary or earlier cases
to clear the absurdities caused is another method that the judges use to interpret the
tricky statements of the law.17 The importance lies in the appropriate interpretation
of the law despite the chaos it is in the written form. The rules of language and the
help of intrinsic materials for reference and citation in case of confusion is the
practical solution to the approach towards this system. The use of such statutes is to
implement and carry out the laws in the way it is supposed to serve, the main purpose
is to serve justice to the deserving.18

V. LIMITATIONS OF INTERPRETATION

Other than what have been expressed above as importance of the statutory
construction, it is also important to know the limitations of power on the part of the
Supreme Court to construe. In studying the law using the Statutory Construction, it
is also important to know the limitations of the power to construe.

First, the Courts may not enlarge nor restrict statutes, there is a disparity
between initiating policy, often involving a decided break with the past and merely
carrying out a formulated policy indicates the relatively narrow limits within which
choice is rarely open to courts and the extent to which interpreting law is inescapably
making law.19 This aims to restrict judicial freedom in the construction of a statute.

17
Supra note 4.
18
Id.
19
Morales v. Subido, G.R. No. 29658, November 29, 1968, 26 SCRA 150.

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While statutory construction involves choice, the court should resist the temptation
to roam at will and rely on its predilections as to what policy should prevail.
Interpolation must be eschewed, and evisceration avoided. Common sense and good
faith are the leading stars that should guide judicial construction. The search must
be for, and the result should be, reasonable interpretation.20

Courts may not, in the guise of interpretation, enlarge the scope of a statute
and include therein situations not provided nor intended by the lawmakers. An
omission at the time of enactment, whether careless or calculated, cannot be
judicially supplied however later wisdom may recommend the inclusion.21 Courts
are not authorized to insert into the law what they think should be in it or to supply
what they think the legislature would have supplied if its attention had been called
to the omission.

Second, the Courts should not be influenced by questions of wisdom. “It is


the duty of the Legislature to make the law; of the Executive to execute the law; and
Judiciary to construe the law.”22 The division of responsibility as mandated by the
Constitution, restricts one department from encroaching upon the power of the other.
Accordingly, since the legislature, by the very nature of its function, is primarily the
judge of the necessity, adequacy, wisdom, reasonableness and expediency of any
law,23 courts may not take any of these matters into account in construing or
interpreting the law.24

The Courts do not pass upon the questions of wisdom, justice, or expediency
of legislation, for it is within their province to supervise legislation and keep it within

20
Republic Flour Mills, Inc. v. Commissioner of Customs, G.R. No. 28463, May 31, 1971, 39 SCRA 268.
21
Morales v. Subido, supra.
22
U.S. v. Ang Tang Ho, 43 Phil. 1, 6 (1992).
23
Inchong v. Hernandez, 101 Phil 1155 (1957).
24
De los Santos v. Mallare, 87 Phil. 289 (1950).

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their province to supervise legislation and keep it within the bounds of propriety and
common as long as laws do not violate the Constitution, the courts merely interpret
and apply them regardless of whether or not they are wise or salutary. 25 While
“judges may regard a certain law as harsh, unwise or morally wrong, and may
recommend to the authority or department concerned its amendment, modification
or repeal, still, as long as said law is in force, they must apply it and give it effect as
decreed by the law-making body.”26

VI. CONCLUSION

Indeed, Statutory Construction is of great importance in the continuing study


of law. There are principles that needs to be followed in order to construe a
meaningful interpretation of law. These rules should be carried every now and then
and they must be applied constantly. Students of law, lawyers and others who live
and work in the field of law, studying law is an indispensable matter. One cannot
escape the importance of statutory construction. One must always adhere to the
system of construction in order to unveil the real beauty of the law. A law that
governs the people in the society, and individuals’ minds and hearts. In the end, the
end of justice is harmony, equality and peace which can only be attained if our laws
are in coherence with these important values in our society.

25
Angara v. Electoral Commission, 63 Phil. 139 (1936).
26
People v. Limaco, 88 Phil. 35, 44 (1951).

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