Rule-making power no longer shared with Congress

Until the 1987 Constitution took effect, the two previous constitutions of the Philippines textualized a power sharing scheme between the legislature and the Supreme Court in the enactment of judicial rules. Thus, both the 1935[1] and the 1973[2] Constitutions vested on the Supreme Court the "power to promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, and the admission to the practice of law." However, these constitutions also granted to the legislature the concurrent power to "repeal, alter or supplement" such rules.[3]The 1987 Constitution textually altered the power-sharing scheme under the previous charters by deleting in Section 5(5) of Article VIII Congress' subsidiary and corrective power.[4] This glaring and fundamental omission led the Court to observe in Echegaray v. Secretary of Justice[5] that the Supreme Court's power to promulgate judicial rules "is no longer shared by this Court with Congress."

The 1987 Constitution molded an even stronger and more independent judiciary. Among others, it enhanced the rule making power of the Court [under] Section 5(5), Article VIII.[6]

The rule-making power of the Court was expanded. The Court for the first time was given the power to promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights. The Court was also granted for the first time the power to disapprove rules of procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies. But most importantly, the 1987 Constitution took away the power of Congress to repeal, alter, or supplement rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure. In fine, the power to promulgate rules of pleading, practice and procedure is no longer shared by the Court with Congress, more so with the Executive.

For example, the matter of payment of legal fees was declared by the Supreme Court as a vital component of the rules promulgated by the Court concerning pleading, practice and procedure. Therefore, it cannot be validly annulled, changed or modified by Congress. As one of the safeguards of the Court's institutional independence, the power to promulgate rules of pleading, practice and procedure is now the Supreme Court’s exclusive domain.[7]

[1] Article VIII, Section 13.

[2] Article X, Section 5(5).

[3] The 1935 Constitution provides: "The Congress shall have the power to repeal, alter or supplement the rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure, and the admission to the practice of law in the Philippines." (Section 13, Article VIII). Similarly, the 1973 Constitution provides: "The Supreme Court shall have the following powers: x x x (5) Promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law, and the integration of the bar, which, however, may be repealed, altered or supplemented by the Batasang Pambansa." (Section 5(5), Article X).

[4] In Re Cunanan, 94 Phil. 534 (1954).

[5] 361 Phil. 73, 88 (1999).

[6] The provision reads in full:

Section 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers: [xxx]

(5) Promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law, the integrated bar, and legal assistance to the under-privileged. Such rules shall provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and shall not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights. Rules of procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court.

[7] G.R. No. 165922.

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