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From the manner they are initiated, their effects while pending, to the resulting consequences, there are huge differences between criminal and civil cases. There are two major types of cases that can be encountered in regular courts in the Philippines: criminal and civil cases. Unlike in other countries however, regular courts try both types of cases. The State, through the government's prosecutory arm, always participates in criminal cases as a party, while only private parties are usually involved in civil cases. The State involves itself in civil cases only when it is one of the party litigants. Criminal cases stem from violations of penal statutes or laws that impose penalties for their violation. The principal penal statute in the Philippines is the Revised Penal Code, which defines various conducts or activities as crimes and provides penalties for their commission. Examples of crimes are murder, theft, robbery, swindling, arson, rebellion, slander, rape, etc. There are also laws being passed by Congress from time to time, violations of which can result in criminal cases, such as laws against possessing unlicensed firearms or issuing worthless checks. These are called special criminal laws. 2. Civil cases, on the other hand, are caused not by conduct prohibited by law, but personal dealings which give rise to certain obligations, such as entering into a contract or performing acts which result in damages (injuries or financial loss) to another. Examples are non-payment of indebtedness or rents, failure to deliver ordered goods or delivering defective ones, rendering defective service, negligently causing injuries to another or his property, etc.

As mentioned, in criminal cases the State is always a party. This is because crimes offend not only the victim, but the State which has an interest in maintaining peace and order in society; this is why all criminal cases are titled "People of the Philippines" versus the accused person. The people or the State is represented by a public prosecutor (formerly called fiscal) whose role is chiefly to prosecute the accused person by proving the charges against him or her. Although strictly speaking the public prosecutor's job is not to seek the conviction of the accused but to find the truth, in reality the prosecutor's disposition is almost always to secure a conviction. The victim of the crime is called the private offended party, but is properly considered merely as the principal witness to the crime, assuming of course he or she is alive or competent to testify. There are crimes, however, where there is no private offended party and are, therefore, called public crimes, such as prostitution, illegal possession of firearms or illegal drugs cases. 3. effect of punishment The notion that the threat of punishment will deter criminal conduct is based on the principle that human beings are rational. In practice, criminals are either impulsive (i.e., not rational) or believe that they will not be caught by the police. Therefore, the threat of punishment does not deter criminal conduct, as one is reminded every day by reading reports of journalists. Legal theory considers the possibility of loss of freedom (i.e., incarceration) as much more serious than merely paying damages to an injured plaintiff. As a result of this high value placed on personal freedom, legal dogma is that criminal litigation is more serious than civil litigation, therefore criminal defendants have more rights and protections than civil defendants, as explained later in this essay. The economic reality is that most people would prefer to spend, for example, one year in prison, than pay a million dollars from their personal assets.