Editorial: Philippine Supreme Court 112th Anniversary

Manila Bulletin, June 11, 2013 | Go to article overview

Editorial: Philippine Supreme Court 112th Anniversary


The Supreme Court (SC) celebrates today its 112th Founding Anniversary. Since its formal organization on June 11, 1901, by virtue of Act 136 (Judiciary Law), the SC has maintained a reputation of independence, respectability, credibility, and stellar public performance among the country's government units.

Before the Spaniards came, early Filipinos already had institutions exercising judicial functions and authority. Judicial powers were vested in the barangay chiefs. During the Spanish time, the Royal Order of August 14, 1569, vested such powers upon Governor-General Miguel Lopez de Legazpi who administered civil and criminal justice.

On May 5, 1583, the Royal Audiencia was established as a collegial body composed of the President, four oidores (justices), and a fiscal. It was the highest tribunal in the country, next only to the Consejo de Indias of Spain. It exercised both administrative and judicial functions.

The arrival of the Americans saw the suspension of the Audiencias in 1898 and the creation of military commissions. In May the following year, the Audiencia was re-established and was conferred jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases insofar as this was compatible with the sovereignty of the United States of America. It had six Filipino members, namely, Gregorio S. Araneta, Manuel G. Araullo, Julio G. Llorente, Cayetano L. Arellano, Florentino Torres, and Dionisio Chanco, with Cayetano L. Arellano as the first Chief Justice. The enactment of Act 136 on June 11, 1901 abolished the Audiencia and formally organized the Supreme Court, along with Courts of First Instance and Justice of the Peace Courts.

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