"Is the rule absolute?" is NOT a good argument

We all have that law school friend or classmate who, when losing an argument, simply asks, "Is the rule absolute?" and, when s/he gets a no, s/he would walk away or act as if the argument has been won. Here are reasons why the not-an-absolute-rule argument is NOT a very good argument.

Before you read on, please note that this refers to those who simply ask the question (Is that an absolute rule?) and feel that that is enough to win the debate. This does not mean that the question is not valid and legitimate. Of course, it is, at times, helpful to clarify whether the rule has exceptions or not.


There are probably very, very few rules that can be categorized as one of the "absolutes," especially in law and jurisprudence. This is why it does not make any sense at all to ask if a rule is absolute or not; of course, it statistically is not absolute but it being so does not make your argument or position automatically correct.


Exceptions are in derogation of the general rules. Therefore, they should be construed strictly.

For example, in tax law, taxation is the general rule and tax exemption is the exception. For this, anyone claiming an exemption should prove that s/he comes within the purview of the exempting law, provision or clause. Failing to satisfactorily show this (i.e. failing to satisfy his or her burden of proof), s/he should still be taxed. (G.R. No. L-16809. January 31, 1962)

Again, taxation is the general rule. It is a general rule for a reason, the reason being that, absent any condition that would reasonably justify veering away from the rule, taxes should be imposed.It would not make sense to simply argue by asking: "But, is that an absolute rule?" to escape taxation; it does not work that way. Plus, the question seems to project an underestimating tone against general rules. At this point, it must be noted that general rules have strong presumptive effect and application in law and jurisprudence. Simply because they are general rules does not mean they can easily be ignored. In fact, exceptions are not welcome unless clear and convincing proof is shown to justify or permit a drift away from well-respected rules.

Moreover, under the rules of statutory construction, exceptions, as a general rule, should be strictly but reasonably construed. They extend only so far as their language fairly warrants, and all doubts should be resolved in favor of the general provisions rather than the exception. Where a general rule is established by statute with exceptions, the court will not curtail the former nor add to the latter by implication. (G.R. No. 107135. February 23, 1999, citing Samson vs. Court of Appeals)


Since the person invoking the exception to the general rule wants to derogate upon a settled principle or doctrine, the burden of proof lies in him or her to show that the set of facts (i.e. the situation) really does call for an exception.

An example of this would be the rule on presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties vis-a-vis the rule on chain of custody in drugs cases. Remember that the general rule is presumption of regularity. Therefore, if the accused wants to question the validity of his arrest by identifying a breach in the chain of custody, s/he must overcome the presumption of regularity in the performance of police duties. In short, s/he must show satisfactory, clear and convincing proof that the police did fail to preserve the integrity and identity of the drugs allegedly seized from him.

It would not help the accused at all to simply ask: "But, is that rule absolute?" S/he cannot rest assured that, by asking this question, s/he can win the argument in court.