Articles 9, 10 on the duty of courts

Under Article 9 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, "No judge or court shall decline to render judgment by reason of the silence, obscurity or insufficiency of the laws." On the other hand, Article 10 says: "In case of doubt in the interpretation or application of laws, it is presumed that the lawmaking body intended right and justice to prevail."
The above provisions speak of the duty of courts.

Simply because the laws are silent, obscure or insufficient does not mean that courts can dismiss the case and refuse to issue a decision. Courts must, if the complaint or petition is sufficient in form and substance, give it due course and arrive at a conclusion even though there is no applicable law and even though the law is not clear. This is because this is precisely the job of courts -- to interpret the law and render a decision.

If courts have to depend on clear laws and decide only when they are sufficient, the cogs of justice will not grind smoothly. Experience teaches us that the law is always behind social progress. Most of the time, something has already existed in reality for quite some time before it catches the attention of our lawmakers who will then write a law to regulate reality.
Law is not autonomous, standing outside of the social world, but is deeply embedded within society. While political scientists recognize the fundamentally political nature of law, the law and society perspective takes this assumption several steps further by pointing to ways in which law is socially and historically constructed, how law both reflects and impacts culture, and how inequalities are reinforced through differential access to, and competence with, legal procedures and institutions. (Law and Society. Lynn Mather. The Oxford Handbook of Political Science. Edited by Robert E. Goodin Print Publication Date: Jul 2011. Subject: Political Science, Law and Politics Online Publication Date: Sep 2013DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199604456.013.0015)
A good example of this would be the case of People v. Genosa (G.R. No. 135981, January 15, 2004). Admitting she killed her husband, appellant Genosa anchored her prayer for acquittal on a novel theory -- the "battered woman syndrome" (BWS), which allegedly constitutes self-defense. Under the proven facts, however, she was adjudged not entitled to complete exoneration because there was no unlawful aggression -- no immediate and unexpected attack on her by her batterer-husband at the time she shot him. Later, Congress passed Republic Act No. (RA) 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004.

In the Genosa case, the Court lamented its inability to help acquit the appellant because of the utter lack of law that recognizes BWS as an exculpatory defense. The High Tribunal said: "While our hearts empathize with recurrently battered persons, we can only work within the limits of law, jurisprudence and given facts. We cannot make or invent them. Neither can we amend the Revised Penal Code. Only Congress, in its wisdom, may do so."
The Court, however, is not discounting the possibility of self-defense arising from the battered woman syndrome. We now sum up our main points. First, each of the phases of the cycle of violence must be proven to have characterized at least two battering episodes between the appellant and her intimate partner. Second, the final acute battering episode preceding the killing of the batterer must have produced in the battered person's mind an actual fear of an imminent harm from her batterer and an honest belief that she needed to use force in order to save her life. Third, at the time of the killing, the batterer must have posed probable -- not necessarily immediate and actual -- grave harm to the accused, based on the history of violence perpetrated by the former against the latter. Taken altogether, these circumstances could satisfy the requisites of self-defense. Under the existing facts of the present case, however, not all of these elements were duly established. (G.R. No. 135981, January 15, 2004)
How, then, will a court decide a case if the laws are silent, obscure or insufficient? The answer is given by Article 10. Courts will presume that Congress, in writing the law, intended right and justice.

The court may also refer to related laws, analogous cases, decisions of foreign courts and writings of legal experts in order to write a decision that can be considered just and fair. This is called the "equity jurisdiction" of courts, which "fills the open spaces in the law." Read: JUSTICE BENJAMIN N. CARDOZO, THE NATURE OF THE JUDICIAL PROCESS 113 (1921).

In one case (Reyes v. Lim, G.R. No. 134241, August 11, 2003), the Supreme Court used Article 9 and 10 to decide the question of whether a "motion for deposit" is one allowed by the Rules of Court. Admittedly, it is not one of the provisional remedies provided therein. In the end, the High Tribunal ruled to allow it.
Reyes points out that deposit is not among the provisional remedies enumerated in the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. Reyes stresses the enumeration in the Rules is exclusive. Not one of the provisional remedies in Rules 57 to 61 applies to this case. Reyes argues that a court cannot apply equity and require deposit if the law already prescribes the specific provisional remedies which do not include deposit. Reyes invokes the principle that equity is "applied only in the absence of, and never against, statutory law or x x x judicial rules of procedure." Reyes adds the fact that the provisional remedies do not include deposit is a matter of dura lex sed lex.

The instant case, however, is precisely one where there is a hiatus in the law and in the Rules of Court. If left alone, the hiatus will result in unjust enrichment to Reyes at the expense of Lim. The hiatus may also imperil restitution, which is a precondition to the rescission of the Contract to Sell that Reyes himself seeks. This is not a case of equity overruling a positive provision of law or judicial rule for there is none that governs this particular case. This is a case of silence or insufficiency of the law and the Rules of Court. In this case, Article 9 of the Civil Code expressly mandates the courts to make a ruling despite the "silence, obscurity or insufficiency of the laws." This calls for the application of equity, which "fills the open spaces in the law."

Thus, the trial court in the exercise of its equity jurisdiction may validly order the deposit of the P10 million down payment in court. The purpose of the exercise of equity jurisdiction in this case is to prevent unjust enrichment and to ensure restitution. Equity jurisdiction aims to do complete justice in cases where a court of law is unable to adapt its judgments to the special circumstances of a case because of the inflexibility of its statutory or legal jurisdiction. Equity is the principle by which substantial justice may be attained in cases where the prescribed or customary forms of ordinary law are inadequate. (Reyes v. Lim, G.R. No. 134241, August 11, 2003)
However, experts in remedial law say that it was not even necessary for the Supreme Court to cite Article 9 in the Reyes v. Lim case because it was the Rules of Court that was being interpreted. The Supreme Court, in its awesome constitutional powers, can simply allow such a provisional remedy by writing so because it has the sole and exclusive power to promulgate rules regarding pleading, practice and procedure in all courts. (Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution) There is a view that the equity jurisdiction of courts should only be invoked if the issue is about substantive rights, not remedial or procedural matters.

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