What "law" means and requires publication


In one case, the issue presented to the Highest Court was the meaning of "laws" in Article 2 of the Civil Code which provides, "Laws shall take effect after fifteen days following the completion of their publication in the Official Gazette, unless it is otherwise provided. This Code shall take effect one year after such publication."

The term "laws" should refer to all laws and not only to those of general application, for strictly speaking all laws relate to the people in general albeit there are some that do not apply to them directly. An example is a law granting citizenship to a particular individual, like a relative of President Marcos who was decreed instant naturalization. It surely cannot be said that such a law does not affect the public although it unquestionably does not apply directly to all the people. The subject of such law is a matter of public interest which any member of the body politic may question in the political forums or, if he is a proper party, even in the courts of justice. In fact, a law without any bearing on the public would be invalid as an intrusion of privacy or as class legislation or as an ultra vires act of the legislature. To be valid, the law must invariably affect the public interest even if it might be directly applicable only to one individual, or some of the people only, and t to the public as a whole.

The Supreme Court held in Tañada v. Tuvera that all statutes, including those of local application and private laws, shall be published as a condition for their effectivity, which shall begin fifteen days after publication unless a different effectivity date is fixed by the legislature.

Covered by this rule are presidential decrees and executive orders promulgated by the President in the exercise of legislative powers whenever the same are validly delegated by the legislature or, at present, directly conferred by the Constitution. administrative rules and regulations must a also be published if their purpose is to enforce or implement existing law pursuant also to a valid delegation.

Interpretative regulations and those merely internal in nature, that is, regulating only the personnel of the administrative agency and not the public, need not be published. Neither is publication required of the so-called letters of instructions issued by administrative superiors concerning the rules or guidelines to be followed by their subordinates in the performance of their duties.

Accordingly, even the charter of a city must be published notwithstanding that it applies to only a portion of the national territory and directly affects only the inhabitants of that place. All presidential decrees must be published, including even, say, those naming a public place after a favored individual or exempting him from certain prohibitions or requirements. The circulars issued by the Monetary Board must be published if they are meant not merely to interpret but to "fill in the details" of the Central Bank Act which that body is supposed to enforce.

However, no publication is required of the instructions issued by, say, the Minister of Social Welfare on the case studies to be made in petitions for adoption or the rules laid down by the head of a government agency on the assignments or workload of his personnel or the wearing of office uniforms. Parenthetically, municipal ordinances are not covered by this rule but by the Local Government Code.
The days of the secret laws and the unpublished decrees are over. This is once again an open society, with all the acts of the government subject to public scrutiny and available always to public cognizance. This has to be so if our country is to remain democratic, with sovereignty residing in the people and all government authority emanating from them.

Laws must come out in the open in the clear light of the sun instead of skulking in the shadows with their dark, deep secrets. Mysterious pronouncements and rumored rules cannot be recognized as binding unless their existence and contents are confirmed by a valid publication intended to make full disclosure and give proper notice to the people. The furtive law is like a scabbarded saber that cannot feint parry or cut unless the naked blade is drawn. (G.R. No. L-63915. December 29, 1986)

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