The Philippine Barangay Justice System

Katarungang Pambarangay, or the Barangay Justice System is a local justice system in the Philippines. It is operated by the smallest of the local government units, the barangay, and is overseen by the barangay captain, the highest elected official of the barangay and its executive. The barangay captain sits on the Lupon Tagapamayapa along with other barangay residents, which is the committee that decides disputes and other matters. They do not constitute a court as they do not have judicial powers.

[1] The barangay captain is officially and legally known as the "Punong Barangay" which literally means "head of the village."
[2] Lupong Tagapamayapa means "committee on peace" or "peacemaking committee."
[3] Barangay means "village." Hence, katarungang pambarangay means "village justice."
[4] The first attempt in the village justice system is conciliation. The village head attempts to end the dispute by giving each party the chance to voice out his side of the issue and gives the other party the chance to listen.
[5] If conciliation proves ineffective, the Pangkat Tagapagkasundo or "mediation group" will be constituted from the peacemaking committee. This group will attempt at mediation.
[6] Since the village court is not a court in the legal sense, there is no judgment rendered. The fruit of a successful conciliation-mediation process is a compromise agreement which the Barangay has the power to enforce within the period provided for by law. Beyond this period, a separate petition must be filed with the first-level court to enforce the compromise agreement.
[7] In case all efforts are ineffective, a certificate to file action (CFA) is issued to allow the disputants to bring their controversy to court. Without such certification, an action may be dismissed on the ground that there has been no compliance with a condition precedent.

The system exists to help decongest the regular courts and works mostly as "alternative, community-based mechanism for dispute resolution of conflicts," also described as a "compulsory mediation process at the village level."

[1] Village-level settlement of disputes is mandatory because an action may be dismissed on the ground that this prior resort has not been exhausted. Nevertheless, this remedy is waivable. This means that, if the defendant fails to raise this defense, he is barred from invoking it later.
[2] The remedy for noncompliance with a compromise agreement forged in the Barangay is not an appeal but enforcement.

Throughout the Philippines the Barangay Justice Systems handles thousands of cases a year. Since officials have more flexibility in decision-making, including from complex evidence rules, and receive some resources from government, the courts are more numerous and accessible than other courts and therefore the courts are able to hear more cases and to respond more immediately.

[1] The village justice system is not strictly bound by the rules of civil procedure or the rules on evidence. As such, it can settle a case with less regard for technicalities and more attention to the merits of each case.
[2] Moreover, since officials in the Barangay are not expected to have lawyer-like understanding of the law, they rely more on equity and justice in resolving cases. Because of this, people have a better understanding of how the compromise agreement was forged.
[3] In Barangay proceedings, lawyers are not allowed unless they are one of the disputants.
There has long been a traditional, local system of resolving disputes. Presidential Decree 1508 talks an unofficial "time-honored tradition of amicably settling disputes among family and barangay members at the barangay level without judicial resources." This decree was replaced by the Local Government Code of 1991.

[1] The Barangay is a local government unit and the Punong Barangay has executive powers and functions. Hence, under the Local Government Code's provisions on village justice, he has the power the enforce a compromise agreement.
[2] Since compromise agreements are a contract between the disputants, they are bound by it.
[3] Due to the village head's familiarity with the people in his community, he is seen as having a heavier influence in dispute settlement than the courts, especially on small matters.
[4] One disadvantage is that some parties in a dispute have more knowledge in law and jurisprudence than the village head and this normally results in a deadlock.

The Lupon Tagapamayapa is the body that comprises the Barangay justice system and on it sit the baranagy captain and 10 to 20 members. The body is normally constituted every three years and holds office until a new body is constituted in the third year. They receive no compensation except honoraria, allowances and other emoluments as authorized by law or barangay, municipal or city ordinance.

Almost all civil disputes and many crimes with potential prison sentences of one year or less or fines 5,000 pesos or less are subjected to the system. In Barangays where a majority of members belong to an indigenous people of the Philippines, traditional dispute mechanisms such as a council of elders may replace the Barangay judicial system.

Upon receipt of the complaint, the chairman to the committee, most often the Barangay captain, shall the next working day inform the parties of a meeting for mediation. If after 15 days for the first meeting, the mediation is not successful then a more formal process involving the pangkat or body must be followed. There is another 15-day period to resolve the dispute through this more formal process, extendable by the pangkat for yet another 15-day period. If not settlement has been reached, then a case can be filed in the regular judicial system of the Philippines.

The discussion above is based on an outline in "Katarungang Pambarangay" from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.