Court's judgment v. Court's opinion


QUESTION: What is the difference between a judgment and an opinion of the court?

ANSWER: There are three senses in which "judgment" is understood.

First, judgment is the last order of the court that fully disposes of a case. It is not only the act of the court of issuing said order but also the physical paper on which the decision is written, signed by the judge. A decision is directly prepared by a judge and signed by him, containing clearly and distinctly a statement of the facts proved and the law upon which the judgment is based. 

Second, it may also refer to the fallo or the dispositive portion which reflects what the court wants the parties to do or a declaration of the legal status or obligation of a party or the parties.

Third, it may refer to the discussion by the court of the reasons for its conclusions. This is called "ratio decidendi."

On the other hand, an opinion of the court is the informal expression of its views and cannot prevail against its final order. The opinion of the court is contained in the body of the decision that serves as a guide or enlightenment to determine the ratio decidendi of the decision. The opinion forms no part of the judgment even if combined in one instrument, but may be referred to for the purpose of construing the judgment. (G.R. No. L-477)

The reason for this is that opinion can be "ratio decidendi" or "obiter dictum." The first is the reason for the decisions which is controlling because it relates to why the court arrived at a certain conclusion and the second is simply a side comment, saying "by the way."

Every judge knows or ought to know that the Constitution mandates that no decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based, and that under the Rules, a judgment must be written in the official language, personally and directly prepared by the judge and signed by him, shall contain clearly and distinctly a statement of the facts proved as admitted by the accused and the law upon which the judgment is based, and must be filed with the Clerk of Court. The filing is the rendition of the judgment, as distinguished from the promulgation thereof. As of the respective dates of promulgation as aforementioned, the respondent had not yet rendered her decision; there was then nothing yet to promulgate. Compounding the irregularity was the antedating of the decision subsequently rendered. (A.M. No. RTJ-91-758)

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