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INTRODUCTION Ignorance is defined as want or absence of knowledge.1 It is the state of unawareness of something or an act under consideration.2 Ignorance of law is want of knowledge or acquaintance with laws of the land in so far as they apply to the act, relation, duty, or matter under consideration. On the other hand, ignorance of fact is want of knowledge of some fact or facts constituting or relating to the subject matter in hand. It can be used as an excuse or can be a ground for relief. (Blacks Law Dictionary, 2004) I. LEGAL BASIS According to Article 3 of the Civil Code of the Philippines (R.A. No. 386, as amended), Ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance therewith. The Latin legal maxim Ignorantia legis non excusat (Ignorance of the law excuses no one) is in consonance with the above-mentioned article. Thus, all laws could easily be evaded by persons if there be no provision as Article 3 of the Civil Code. Individuals would merely invoke the useful defense of ignorance of law which could barely be overcome by evidence to the contrary because ignorance is a mental state. Rationale Reality would show us that inarguably, no person can be fully aware of the existence of all the laws. Even justices are not cognizant of all the laws. However, there is a presumption that all persons know the laws so long as they have been promulgated accordingly and any infraction or violation thereof is inexcusable by reason of ignorance. This presumption is conclusive. In the case of Zulueta v. Zulueta (1 Phil. 254), the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the general principle ignorance of the law does not excuse any one from compliance therewith is founded not only on expediency and policy but also on necessity. It was stated in the words of Dean Ernesto Pineda (2004) that remove said principle of law, violators of rights or criminals will have their feast in the midst of their violations and crimes by simply claiming or feigning ignorance of the law. Justice will easily be frustrated if the parties could successfully plead ignorance of the law and escape the legal consequences of their acts or be excused from the nonfulfillment of their obligations.
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Furthermore, in the case of Topelewsky v. Plankington Packing Co., it was held that the principle of ignorantia legis neminem excusat is a rule of necessity and is limited in its scope by the reason of it. Otherwise, mere ignorance in fact of the law
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would furnish immunity from liability for actual loss for violation of personal and property rights. The Need for Publication The Supreme Court held in the celebrated case of Tanada v. Tuvera that the conclusive presumption that every person knows the law presupposes that the law has been published if the presumption is to have any legal justification at all. Thus, without the notice and publication that a law was enacted, there would be no basis for the application of the maxim Ignorantia legis non excusat. Also, in the aforementioned case, it was said that it would be the height of injustice to punish or otherwise burden a citizen for the transgression of a law of which he had no notice whatsoever; not even a constructive one. Furthermore, the maxim Dura lex sed lex (the law may be harsh but it is the law) should likewise be taken into consideration in the need for publication to avoid such injustice. Coverage In the Article 3 of the Civil Code, the laws referred to are the Philippine laws. It applies to all kinds of domestic laws, whether civil law, which is defined by Justice Edgardo Paras in his book The Civil Code of the Philippines Annotated as a branch of law that generally treats of the personal and family relations of an individual, his property and successional rights, and the effects of his obligations and contracts (2008), or penal law, defined by Justice Luis Reyes in his book entitled The Revised Penal Code: Criminal Law as a branch or division of law which defines crimes, treats of their nature, and provides for their punishment (2008) and whether substantive law, which is a core law which determines rights and obligations or remedial law which provides means or method whereby causes of action may be effectuated, wrongs redressed and relief obtained (Diaz, 2007), on grounds of expediency, policy, and necessity so as to prevent non-observance of the law. As regards foreign laws, there is no conclusive presumption of knowledge of laws. Even our courts cannot take judicial notice of them, and foreign laws must be specially alleged and proved. (Adong v. Cheong, 43 Phil. 43; Sy Joc Lieng v. Syquia, 16 Phil. 137). Thus, ignorance of a foreign law is not a mistake of the law, but a mistake of the fact. Processual Presumption Doctrine The doctrine of processual presumption was defined in the case of Bank of America, NT and SA v. American Realty Corporation and Court of Appeals. The Court provided that, In a long line of decisions, this Court (Supreme Court) adopted the well-imbedded principle in our jurisdiction that there is no judicial notice of any foreign law. A foreign law must be properly pleaded and proved as a fact. Thus, if the foreign law involved is not properly pleaded and proved, our courts will presume
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that the foreign law is the same as our local or domestic or internal law. This is what we refer to as the doctrine of processual presumption. When the Rule May be Relaxed Generally, mistake of law does not vitiate consent. However, when there is a mistake on a dubious question of law, or in its construction and application, this is parallel to mistake of fact, and consequently, the maxim ignorantia legis neminem excusat should have no appropriate application. As contained in the report of the Code Commission, when even the highest courts are sometimes divided upon difficult legal questions, and when one-half of the lawyers in all controversies in a legal question are wrong, why should a layman be held accountable for his honest mistake on a doubtful legal issue? It was held in the case of People v. Navarro that the rule should not be applied with equal force to minors, who should be treated differently due to their lack of intelligence. Likewise, it was ruled by the Supreme Court in re Filart (40 Phil. 205) that a lawyer should not be disbarred due to the commission of an honest mistake or error of law. To support the foregoing, the provisions of the Civil Code which relaxed the rule are as follows:

ART. 526. HE IS DEEMED A POSSESSOR IN GOOD FAITH WHO IS NOT AWARE THAT THERE EXISTS IN HIS TITLE OR MODE OF ACQUISITION ANY FLAW WHICH INVALIDATES IT. HE IS DEEMED A POSSESSOR IN BAD FAITH WHO POSSESSES IN ANY CASE CONTRARY TO THE FOREGOING. MISTAKE UPON A DOUBTFUL OR DIFFICULT QUESTION OF LAW MAY BE THE BASIS OF GOOD FAITH. ART. 1334. MUTUAL ERROR AS TO THE LEGAL EFFECT OF AN AGREEMENT WHEN THE REAL PURPOSE OF THE PARTIES IS FRUSTRATED, MAY VITIATE CONSENT. ART. 2154. IF SOMETHING IS RECEIVED WHEN THERE IS NO RIGHT TO DEMAND IT, AND IT WAS UNDULY DELIVERED THROUGH MISTAKE, THE OBLIGATION TO RETURN IT ARISES.

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ART. 2155. PAYMENT BY REASON OF A MISTAKE IN THE CONSTRUCTION OR APPLICATION OF A DOUBTFUL OR DIFFICULT QUESTION OF LAW MAY COME WITHIN THE SCOPE OF THE PRECEDING ARTICLE. Ignorance of Law vis--vis Ignorance of Fact While ignorance of law is inexcusable, ignorance of fact may excuse a party from the legal consequences of his act. For instance, after a terrible earthquake, Alfredo could not find his wife Alicia, and due to his belief that his wife is dead, married a second time. Later on, Alicia turned out be alive. In this example, Alfredo is not liable for bigamy because he believed that his wife was dead though it was subsequently proved to be erroneous. Clearly, it was a mistake of fact and not of law and therefore, he may be excused.

II. LANDMARK CASE

JOSE ZULUETA vs. FRANCISCA ZULUETA G.R. No. 428/ April 30, 1902

FACTS: Don Jose Zulueta and his sister, Doa Francisca Zulueta, are sole heirs under the will of their father, Don Clemente Zulueta, who died in Iloilo in 1900. In the course of the voluntary testamentary proceedings instituted in the Court of First Instance of Iloilo by Don Jose, three auditors were appointed to make a division of the estate under article 1053 of the Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil, of whom Don Jose and Doa Francisca each nominated one, the third or auditor umpire being chosen by common accord of the parties. The two auditors nominated by the parties respectively failed to agree, and each rendered a separate report. The auditor umpire, whose report was filed on March 29, 1901, agreed with and accepted in its entirety the report of the auditor nominated by Don Jose. The procedure marked out in articles 1062 and 1067 of the Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil was then followed, and upon the application of Doa Francisca, the record was delivered to her for examination. On April 25, she filed her opposition to the report of the auditor umpire, and a meeting of the interested parties having been had, as provided in Article 1069 of the Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil, the court, by a providencia of May 4, directed that the procedure prescribed for declarative actions be followed, and that the record be again delivered to Doa Francisca in order that she might formulate her demand in accordance with Article 1071 of the Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil. On petition of Don Jose, the court by a providencia of May 7 fixed the term of fifteen days as that within which Doa Francisca should formulate her demand, which term was
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subsequently enlarged seven days on petition of Doa Francisca. On June 5 Doa Francisca petitioned the court, stating that the new Code of Procedure enacted by the Civil Commission was soon to become operative, and that she deemed it more advantageous to her rights that the declarative action which she had to bring should be governed by the new Code rather than that then in force, and asking that proceedings in the action should be suspended till the new Code went into effect. This petition the court denied in an auto rendered June 15, declaring, furthermore, that the term fixed for the filing of the demand having expired, Doa Francisca has lost her right to institute the action. On June 29 Doa Francisca interposed an appeal against the auto of June 22, which the court declined to admit, on the ground that it was not presented within three days, as prescribed in article 363 of the Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil. ISSUE: Whether Doa Francisca is entitled to relief against the consequences of her failure to interpose her appeal against the auto of June 22 within the period fixed by the law. RULING: The Supreme Court held that the mistake in this instance was her own, but it was a mistake of law, and while the Court should be unwilling to say that special cases might not occur in which relief would be afforded in such a proceeding as this against a mistake of law made by a party, The Court is of opinion that the present is not such a case. Nothing is shown here except the basic fact that the party acted under ignorance or misconception of the provisions of the law in regard to the time within which the appeal could be taken, and there is no reason why the general principle, a principle "founded not only on expediency and policy but on necessity," that "ignorance of the law does not excuse from compliance therewith" should be relaxed. The framers of Act No. 75 could not have intended to totally abrogate this principle with reference to the class of cases covered by the act. If such were the effect of this legislation the court "would be involved and perplexed with questions incapable of any just solution and embarrassed by inquiries almost interminable." Petition is denied and the judgment appealed from affirmed, with costs to the appealing party both as to the petition and the appeal. So ordered. III. LATEST JURISPRUDENCE BERNIE G. MIAQUE, ET. AL. vs. JUDGE NILO P. PAMONAG A.M. No. MTJ-02-1412/ March 28, 2003 FACTS: On August 27, 1998, complainants, who are connected with the Daily Informer, a widely circulated newspaper in the Western Visayas, were charged before the Municipal
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Circuit Trial Court of Pototan-Mina, Iloilo, presided by respondent Judge Nilo P. Pamonag with the crime of libel entitled Fraulen Cordero, et al., v. Bernie Miraque, et al. Acting thereon, the respondent Judge conducted a preliminary investigation and thereafter issued on September 2, 1998 warrants for the arrest of the herein complainants, fixing the bail at P10, 000.00 each. Thereafter, on September 8, 1998, the latter filed a petition for prohibition with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin the respondent judge or any other officer from enforcing the assailed warrants of arrest. In 1999, complainants filed an administrative case against the respondent Judge for gross ignorance of the law, grave abuse of judicial functions and authority and issuing patently illegal orders. Complainants contended that under Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. No. 4363, the respondent Judge neither has the authority to conduct a preliminary investigation nor to issue warrants for their arrest. The respondent Judge in his Comment admitted his mistake and explained that the same was his first libel case and that he issued the challenged warrants in good faith. He said that he erroneously relied on a pamphlet of the Revised Penal Code quoting Article 360 which consisted only of four (4) paragraphs, without any word on the conduct of a preliminary investigation. He also expressed that had his attention been earlier called by the parties, he could have easily rectified the mistake by recalling the warrants of arrest. He added that he had been sufficiently chastised in several issues of the Daily Informer which publicized his blunder. Respondent likewise stressed that except for this single honest mistake, he had never brought dishonor to his family and to the court. For his lapse, he promised to keep himself updated on laws, as well as on jurisprudence and circulars of the Supreme Court. ISSUE: Whether the respondent judge had authority to conduct a preliminary investigation and to issue the corresponding warrants of arrest in the said libel case. RULING:

Under Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 4363, which took effect on June 19, 1965, jurisdiction to conduct preliminary investigation in libel cases is indeed lodged with the provincial or city prosecutor of the province or city or with the municipal court of the city or capital of the province. Moreover, as early as April 5, 1967 the Department of Justice issued a circular relative to the provisions of Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by R.A. No. 4363. Pertinent portion thereof reads: It should be noted from these provisions that a complaint or information for libel may be filed only in the Court of First Instance. The
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preliminary investigation of the criminal case may, however, be conducted by the city court of the city or the municipal court of the capital of the province where the case is filed. In the case at bar, the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Pototan-Mina, Iloilo, Branch 008, over which respondent Judge presided in an acting capacity, is not a court in the cities of Iloilo province (Iloilo City and Passi City), nor a court in Iloilo City, the capital of the province of Iloilo. He therefore had no authority to conduct a preliminary investigation and to issue the corresponding warrants of arrest in the said libel case. Although judges cannot be held to account or answer criminally, civilly or administratively for every erroneous judgment or decision rendered by him in good faith, it is imperative that they should have basic knowledge of the law. To be able to render justice and to maintain public confidence in the legal system, judges must keep abreast of the laws and jurisprudence. Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides that judges must be the embodiment of competence, integrity and independence. Obviously, they cannot live up to this expectation if they act in a case without jurisdiction through ignorance While we believe that the reliance of the respondent on the provisions of Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code, prior to its amendment by Republic Act No. 4363, was an honest mistake, we cannot, however condone his failure to keep himself updated with the amendments and latest jurisprudence on the said statute. Judges are expected to exhibit more than just cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural rules. They must know the laws and apply them properly in all good faith. Judicial competence requires no less Considering the good faith and candid admission by the respondent judge of his mistake, we find the recommended penalty of fine in an amount equivalent to one month salary too harsh and excessive. WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, respondent Judge Nilo P. Pamonag is ordered to pay a FINE in the amount of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00) and STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely. SO ORDERED.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Books: Diaz, N. (2007). Statutory construction. Manila, Philippines: Rex Book Store Garner, B. (2004). Blacks law dictionary. St. Paul, MN : Thomson/West Paras, E. (2008). Civil code of the Philippines: annotated. Manila, Philippines: Rex Book Store. Pineda, E. (2004). Persons. Quezon City, Philippines: Central Professional Books, Inc. Rabuya, E. (2006). Persons and family relations. Manila, Philippines: Rex Book Store. Reyes, L. (2008). Revised penal code: criminal law. Manila, Philippines: Rex Book Store

Table of Cases: Adong v. Cheong, 43 Phil. 43 (1922) Bank of America, NT and SA v. American Realty Corporation and Court of Appeals, 321 SCRA 659 (1999) In re Filart, 40 Phil. 205 (1919) Miaque v. Pamonag, A.M. No. MTJ-02-1412 (2003) People v. Navarro (CA), 51 OG 4062 (no date) Sy Joc Lieng v. Syquia, 16 Phil. 137 (1910) Tanada v. Tuvera, 146 SCRA 446 (1986) Topelewsky v. Plankington Packing Co., 126 NW 554 (no date) Zulueta v. Zulueta, 1 Phil. 254 (1902)

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