B. Rule-making power of the Supreme Court

1. CONCEPT

a. 1987 Constitution

SECTION 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:
x x x
(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 underprivileged. 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. (Article VIII, 1987 Constitution)

The rule making power of [the Supreme Court] was expanded [in the 1987 Constitution]. This 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 this Court with Congress, more so with the Executive. (Baguio Market Vendors Multi-Purpose Cooperative v. Cabato-Cortes, G.R. No. 165922, 26 February 2010)

b. Exclusive power

The Supreme Court has described its exclusive power to promulgate rules on pleading, practice and procedure as “one of the safeguards of this Court’s institutional independence.” (Ibid.)

The power to promulgate rules of pleading, practice and procedure is now [the Supreme Court’s] exclusive domain and no longer shared with the Executive and Legislative departments. (Estipona v. Lobrigo, G.R. No. 226679, 15 August 2017)

While the power to define, prescribe, and apportion the jurisdiction of the various courts is, by constitutional design, vested unto Congress, the power to promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts belongs exclusively to this Court. (Ibid.)

Baguio Market Vendors Multi-Purpose Cooperative v. Cabato-Cortes (February 2010)
[When the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) made a request] for exemption from payment of legal fees based on Section 39 of its Charter, Republic Act No. 8291, exempting GSIS sought exemption for paying legal fees in court basing their exemption from “all taxes, assessments, fees, charges or dues of all kinds.” Reaffirming Echegaray’s construction of Section 5(5), the Court described its exclusive power to promulgate rules on pleading, practice and procedure as “one of the safeguards of this Court’s institutional independence”:
[T]he payment of legal fees is a vital component of the rules promulgated by this Court concerning pleading, practice and procedure, it cannot be validly annulled, changed or modified by Congress. As one of the safeguards of this Court’s institutional independence, the power to promulgate rules of pleading, practice and procedure is now the Court’s exclusive domain. x x x
In Re: Exemption of the National Power Corporation from Payment of Filing/Docket Fees, En Banc (March 2010)
[When the National Power Corporation (NPC), a GOCC, sought clarification from the Court on whether or not it is exempt from the payment of filing fees, appeal bonds and supersedeas bonds, based on Section 13, Republic Act No. 6395 (An Act Revising the Charter of the National Power Corporation, it was denied as it contravened Section 22 of Rule 141 of the Rules of Court, which reads:
Sec. 22. Government exempt. – The Republic of the Philippines, its agencies and instrumentalities are exempt from paying the legal fees provided in this rule. Local government units and government-owned or controlled corporations with or without independent charters are not exempt from paying such fees.
x x x
The separation of powers among the three co-equal branches of our government has erected an impregnable wall that keeps the power to promulgate rules of pleading, practice and procedure within the sole province of this Court. The other branches trespass upon this prerogative if they enact laws or issue orders that effectively repeal, alter or modify any of the procedural rules promulgated by this Court. Viewed from this perspective, the claim of a legislative grant of exemption from the payment of legal fees under Section 39 of RA 8291 necessarily fails.

c. Rationale

The power to promulgate rules of pleading, practice and procedure was granted by our Constitutions to this Court to enhance its independence, for in the words of Justice Isagani Cruz “without independence and integrity, courts will lose that popular trust so essential to the maintenance of their vigor as champions of justice.: Hence, our Constitutions continuously vested this power to this Court for it enhances its independence.” (Espitona v. Lobrigo, G.R. No. 226679, 15 August 2017)

d. Coverage

The power to promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure in all courts is a traditional power of this Court. It necessarily includes the power to address all questions arising from or connected to the implementation of the said rules. (In re: Recognition of the Exemption of the GSIS for Payment of Legal Fees, En Banc, A.M. No. 08-02-01-0, 11 February 2010)

1) Rules of Court, Filing Fees

The Rules of Court was promulgated in the exercise of the Court’s rule-making power. It is essentially procedural in nature as it does not create, diminish, increase or modify substantive rights. Corollarily, Rule 141 is basically procedural. It does not create or take away a right but simply operates as a means to implement an existing right. In particular, it functions to regulate the procedure of exercising a right of action and enforcing a cause of action. In particular, it pertains to the procedural requirement of paying the prescribed legal fees in the filing of a pleading or any application that initiates an action or proceeding. (Ibid.)

Clearly, therefore, the payment of legal fees under Rule 141 of the Rules of Court is an integral part of the rules promulgated by this Court pursuant to its rule-making power under Section 5(5), Article VIII of the Constitution. In particular, it is part of the rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure in courts. Indeed, payment of legal (or docket) fees is a jurisdictional requirement. It is not simply the filing of the complaint or appropriate initiatory pleading but the payment of the prescribed docket fee that vests a trial court with jurisdiction over the subject-matter or nature of the action. Appellate docket and other lawful fees are required to be paid within the same period for taking an appeal. Payment of docket fees in full within the prescribed period is mandatory for the perfection of an appeal. Without such payment, the appellate court does not acquire jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action and the decision sought to be appealed from becomes final and executory. (Ibid.)

2) Grant of law license

Espitona v. Lobrigo (August 2017)
x x x In In re: Cunanan Congress in the exercise of its power to amend rules of the Supreme Court regarding admission to the practice of law, enacted the Bar Flunkers Act of 1953 which considered as a passing grade, the average of 70% in the bar examinations after July 4, 1946 up to August 1951 and 71 % in the 1952 bar examinations. This Court struck down the law as unconstitutional. In his ponencia, Mr. Justice Diokno held that “x x x the disputed law is not a legislation; it is a judgment – a judgment promulgated by this Court during the aforecited years affecting the bar candidates concerned; and although this Court certainly can revoke these judgments even now, for justifiable reasons, it is no less certain that only this Court, and not the legislative nor executive department, that may do so. Any attempt on the part of these departments would be a clear usurpation of its function, as is the case with the law in question.” The venerable jurist further ruled: “It is obvious, therefore, that the ultimate power to grant license for the practice of law belongs exclusively to this Court, and the law passed by Congress on the matter is of permissive character, or as other authorities say, merely to fix the minimum conditions for the license.” By its ruling, this Court qualified the absolutist tone of the power of Congress to “repeal, alter or supplement the rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure, and the admission to the practice of law in the Philippines.
In Re: Cunanan, En Banc (March 1954)
It will be noted that the Constitution has not conferred on Congress and this Tribunal equal responsibilities concerning the admission to the practice of law. the primary power and responsibility which the Constitution recognizes continue to reside in this Court. Had Congress found that this Court has not promulgated any rule on the matter, it would have nothing over which to exercise the power granted to it. Congress may repeal, alter and supplement the rules promulgated by this Court, but the authority and responsibility over the admission, suspension, disbarment and reinstatement of attorneys at law and their supervision remain vested in the Supreme Court. The power to repeal, alter and supplement the rules does not signify nor permit that Congress substitute or take the place of this Tribunal in the exercise of its primary power on the matter. The Constitution does not say nor mean that Congress may admit, suspend, disbar or reinstate directly attorneys at law, or a determinate group of individuals to the practice of law. Its power is limited to repeal, modify or supplement the existing rules on the matter, if according to its judgment the need for a better service of the legal profession requires it. But this power does not relieve this Court of its responsibility to admit, suspend, disbar and reinstate attorneys at law and supervise the practice of the legal profession.
Being coordinate and independent branches, the power to promulgate and enforce rules for the admission to the practice of law and the concurrent power to repeal, alter and supplement them may and should be exercised with the respect that each owes to the other, giving careful consideration to the responsibility which the nature of each department requires. These powers have existed together for centuries without diminution on each part; the harmonious delimitation being found in that the legislature may and should examine if the existing rules on the admission to the Bar respond to the demands which public interest requires of a Bar endowed with high virtues, culture, training and responsibility. The legislature may, by means of appeal, amendment or supplemental rules, fill up any deficiency that it may find, and the judicial power, which has the inherent responsibility for a good and efficient administration of justice and the supervision of the practice of the legal profession, should consider these reforms as the minimum standards for the elevation of the profession, and see to it that with these reforms the lofty objective that is desired in the exercise of its traditional duty of admitting, suspending, disbarring and reinstating attorneys at law is realized. They are powers which, exercise within their proper constitutional limits, are not repugnant, but rather complementary to each other in attaining the establishment of a Bar that would respond to the increasing and exacting necessities of the administration of justice.

3) Extends to special courts and quasi-judicial bodies

The 1987 Constitution gave this Court the exclusive power to promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure in all courts as well as the power to disapprove procedural rules in special courts and quasi-judicial bodies. (Gomez v. People, G.R. No. 216824, 10 November 2020)

4) Who may appear before courts and conduct litigation

Covered by this constitutional power to promulgate rules of procedure is the prerogative to define and prescribe guidelines on who are qualified to appear before the courts and conduct litigation on behalf of oneself or another. In other words, legal representation in the form of a court appearance is a component of law practice under this Court’s constitutional power to regulate the legal profession. As such, the conditions or requirements for such representation, being matters of procedure, are governed by the Rules of Court. (Ibid.)

Gomez v. People (November 2020)
In effect, the operative consequence of filing of an Information without a prior written authority or approval from the provincial, city or chief state prosecutor is that the handling prosecutor’s representation as counsel  for the  State  may  not  be  recognized  by  the  trial  court as sanctioned by the procedural rules enforced by this Court pursuant to its constitutional power to promulgate rules on pleading, practice and procedure. Courts are not bound by the internal procedures of the Executive Branch, most especially by its hierarchy of prosecution officers. Rightly so because, as pointed out earlier, the prosecution of crimes lies with the Executive Branch of the government whose principal power and responsibility is to see that the laws of the land are faithfully executed.

2. LIMITATIONS

a. Substantive law

Since procedural rules should yield to substantive laws, it should be understood that [the Supreme Court] cannot promulgate a rule of procedure which would defeat the trial courts’ power to acquire jurisdiction in criminal cases as conferred and outlined by Batas Pambansa Bilang 129155 (The Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980). (Gomez v. People, G.R. No. 216824, 10 November 2020)

b. Jurisdiction

Only a constitutional or statutory provision can create and/or vest a tribunal with jurisdiction. (Ibid.)

Gomez v. People (November 2020)
Jurisdiction is a matter of substantive law—it establishes a relation between the court and the subject matter. This is because Congress has the power to define, prescribe and apportion the jurisdiction of the various courts; although it may not deprive this Court of its jurisdiction over cases enumerated in Sec. 5, Art. VIII of the Constitution. More importantly, the authority of the courts to try a case is not embraced by the rule-making power of the Supreme Court to promulgate rules of “pleading, practice and procedure in all courts.” In other words, only a constitutional or statutory provision can create and/or vest a tribunal with jurisdiction.
Incidentally, the power to define, prescribe and apportion jurisdiction necessarily includes the power to expand or diminish the scope of a court’s authority to take cognizance of a case, to impose additional conditions or to reduce established requirements with respect to an adjudicative body’s acquisition of jurisdiction. This is because every statute is understood, by implication, to contain all such provisions as may be necessary to effectuate its object and purpose, or to make effective rights, powers, privileges or jurisdiction which it grants, including all such collateral and subsidiary consequences as may be fairly and logically inferred from its terms.168 In effect, only a law (or constitutional provision in the case of this Court) may add or take away any requirement affecting jurisdiction. Not even a rule of procedure or judicial decision can legally accomplish such act as both are not “laws” as used in the context of the Constitution. The purpose of procedural rules or “adjective law” is to ensure the effective enforcement of substantive rights through the orderly and speedy administration of justice; while judicial decisions which apply or interpret the Constitution or the laws cannot be considered as an independent source of law and cannot create law. As such, while the Rules of Court (specifically the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure) may impose conditions as to the proper conduct of litigation such as legal standing, it cannot by itself (and without any constitutional or statutory basis) impose additional conditions or remove existing requirements pertaining to a tribunal’s assumption or acquisition of jurisdiction.

Disclaimer: All information herein is for educational and general information only intended for those preparing for the bar exam. These should not be taken as professional legal advice or opinion. Please consult a competent lawyer to address your specific concerns. Any statements or opinions of the author are solely his own and do not reflect that of any organization he may be connected.

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