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What is law? The regime that orders human activities and relations through systematic
application of the force of the politically organized society. The aggregate of legislation, judicial
precedents, and accepted legal principles, the body of authoritative grounds of judicial and
administrative action, especially the body of rules, standards, and principles that the courts of a
particular jurisdiction apply in deciding controversies brought before them. In its general and
abstract science, the science of moral laws founded on the rational nature of man that governs
his free activity for the realization of the individual and social ends of life under an aspect of
mutual conditional dependence.2
What is ignorance? From old French ignorance from Latin word ignorantia (want of
knowledge) Basically, ignorance in the Philippines is lack of knowledge, understanding, education
or learning, and awareness or information. How does law influence the day-to-day existence of
every individual in a civilized society? Laws have daily impact on our lives, whether they relate to
social services, education, housing, nutrition, food safety, consumer rights or the environment
and among others. Public policies such as legislation, resolutions, appropriations, new regulations
for a current law or court decisions are used as solutions to problems expressed by the public.
These actions are the result of public issues that have been debated and compromised through
the policy making process. The basic element is the process used to solve a public problem.
There is a tendency for us to take these rules and regulations for granted as long as they
keep society running smoothly. On the other hand, we tend to become more involved with the
public policy decision-making when rules or regulations have negative impact on our life.
Does ignorance of the law have legal effect on people? How does it apply? According to
Article 3 of the Civil Code of the Philippines; Ignorance of the law excuses no one from
compliance therewith. (2) When can you say that a person is ignorant and how does it affect his
legal standing? Some people, especially in the Philippines use ignorance (if possible) as an
excuse to escape from their legal obligations. How does the law react to such excuses? Or is it
even possible? On the succeeding topic we wish to elaborate further so that we will a better
understanding with regards to the maxim Ignorance of the law, excuses no one from compliance
Ignorantia legis non excusat ignorance of the law does not excuse is a centuries-old
criminal law maxim familiar to lawyers and layperson alike. Under the doctrine, an accused finds
little protection in the claim But we did not know the law, for all are presumed either to be
familiar with the laws commands or to proceed in ignorance at their own peril. The ignorant
must be punished along with the knowing, the maxim teaches, to achieve a better educated and
more law abiding populace and to avoid the easy-to-assert and difficult-to dispute claim of
ignorance that would otherwise flow from the lips of any person facing criminal punishment
The maxim can be traced back to the Ancient Roman Empire Legal scholars have
described the Roman maxim primarily as a concept of civil law, which was founded on the
straightforward (if fictitious) rationale that the law was certain and capable of being
ascertained. Thus, in litigation, positive proof of a citizens knowledge of the laws requirements

or proscriptions was not required. Rather, citizens were presumed to be familiar with the law, for
it was not the function of Roman law to aid the fools. However, despite widespread use of the
rule, the Romans permitted exceptions of certain group of people including the young, the
soldiers away at war, the woman and farmers and all who were considered as people with little
In the Philippines, the maxim was also greatly used since ancient trail set-up and our
ancestors were conducting legislations; however, the Spanish and American laws that were
passed to us by our colonizers formally introduced it. Along with its introduction to our laws is
also the introduction of its exceptions. Furthermore, it also provided the construing of laws on
mens rea requiring the willfulness of an act as proof of an accusers knowledge of such laws.
On present Philippine law, this maxim is being incorporated in the Article 3 of the Civil
Code of the Philippines. It is also present in other jurisdictions such as Canada (criminal Code),
the United States of America (Model Penal Code), and is common practice in other stats. The
Maxim has also brought about the creation of the laws on the publication of almost all
This is not only to show the maxims history and use in Philippine laws but to show the
statutory laws and jurisprudences construed either in the aid or the present exception on the
application of such maxim
Ignorantia legis non excusat ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance
therein, this maxim was originally formulated at a time when the list of crimes, broadly speaking,
represented current morality, but we now have many other crimes that are the result of
administrative or social regulation, which are equally governed by the maxim. The rule is, then,
that whereas ignorance of fact can excuse to the extent that it negatives or fault, ignorance of
the law generally does not. (Glanville Williams, Textbook of Criminal Law 405, 1978)
Everyone is conclusively presumed to know the law. This presumption is very far from
reality; but it has been established because of the obligatory force of law. Once the law has been
promulgated and has taken effect, it is the duty of everyone to know it. Compliance with it
becomes unavoidable, and nobody can escape its effects by alleging, in good faith, or in bad
faith, that he does not know its provisions (1Tolentino 18 citing Toyuelos 2) Some says that this
maxim will be unfair if we would just rely on the publication of the Official Gazette as a main
source of information of the newly passed laws due to its limited accessibility and untimely
publication. In addition, only few among Filipinos have access and get the chance to read the
Official Gazette. Avoiding from such controversy, former President Corazon C. Aquino rendered
Executive Order No. 200 providing the publication of laws either in the Official Gazette or in a
newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines as a requirement for their effectivity. This
helps improve and create awareness among the sovereignty, and people within the Philippine
In relation to Article 2 of the Civil Code, Laws shall take effect after fifteen days following
the completion of their publication in the Official Gazette, unless it is otherwise provided. This
code shall take effect one year after such publication. (1a) Therefore, being guided by this

article, everybody within the jurisdiction of the Philippines are presumed to be aware of the laws
being passed by legislative and other authorized bodies. Though there are laws that need not be
published due to some exemption, yet it does not suffice for the offender not to comply
We are all aware that there are thousands of laws, statutes, executive orders and others to
get to know of. Even the legislative bodies themselves, judiciary and lawyers can hardly
memorize each and every law they made and read. However such ignorance cannot be used as
an excuse for the authority to be lenient to the offender. Evasion of the law would be facilitated,
and the administration of justice defeated, if persons could successfully upload ignorance of the
law to escapes legal consequences of their acts, or the excuse non-performance of their legal
duties. Actual ignorance of the law would thus afford immunity from punishment for crimes and
from liability for violations of personal and property rights of others. The rule in Ignorance of the
law is therefore, dictated not only by expediency but also by necessity. (Zulueta vs. Zulueta 1
Phil 254)

Applicability of the Maxim

Article 3 applies to all kinds of domestic laws, whether civil of penal (Luna vs. Linatoc 74
Phil 15; Delgado vs. Alonzo 44 Phil 739) or whether substantive or remedial (Zulueta vs. Zulueta
1 Phil 258) on grounds of expediency, policy and necessity. However, the maxim refers only to
mandatory or prohibitive laws, not to permissive or suppletory laws. (See 1 Manresa 56).
Ignorance of foreign law is not ignorance of law, but ignorance of the fact because foreign laws
must be alleged and proved as matters of fact, there being no judicial notice of said foreign laws.
(Adong vs. Cheong Seng Gee, 43 Phil 43; Sy Joc Lieng vs. Syquia, 16 Phil 137) (Phil. Civil Code,
Article 3, Chapter 1, p20)
Zulueta Vs Zulueta
GR NO. 428
Facts: Don Jose Zulueta and his sister, Dona Francisca Zulueta, are sole heirs under
the will of their father, Don Clemente Zulueta, who died in Iloilo in 1900. During the
voluntary testamentary proceedings, the Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil was followed
and auditors were nominated. The reports of two auditors, were disagreeing, so, the
umpire auditors report was considered wherein the umpire auditor favored the
report of the auditor nominated by Don Zulueta. Dona Zulueta opposed the report
of the umpire auditor so the court required a meeting. However, no agreement was
made, thus, the court made a decision ordering Dona Zulueta 15 days to file her
demands. The term was subsequently enlarged seven days.
Due to the upcoming new Code of Procedure, which was going to be operative,
Dona Zulueta decided through her petition to suspend the proceeding. However, the

court denied it and proceeded with approval of the partition proceedings in favor of
the petition of Don Zulueta.
Issue: Whether Dona Francisca is entitled to relief against the consequences of her
failure to interpose her appeal against the decision of the court within the period
fixed by the law.
Ruling: No. Nothing is shown in the facts except the bare fat that Dona Zulueta
acted under ignorance or misconception of the provisions of the law is regard to the
time within which the appeal could be taken, and there is no reason why the general
principle, a principle founded no only on expediency and policy but on necessity,
that ignorance of the law does no excuse from compliance therewith (Civil Code,
art. 2), should be relaxed. The framers of the law 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
Application of Rules:
The Ignorance suffered by contracting parties because of their ignorance of the law must
be born by them, because ignorance of the law does not favor or prejudice anyone, non justify
the amendment or annulment of contract as reiterated in the case of (Luna vs Linatoc, 74 phil
Luna vs Linatoc
GR No. L-48403
FACTS: The wife of Agustin de Luna sold a parcel of lands together with those lands
under her husbands name. After the sale, they bring an action to ask for annulment
of the sales since according to article 1432, the wife could not sell her portions of
those lands in the name of her husband because the partition is illegal and void as it
was made during the marriage and there was no judicial order authorizing
separation of property between husband and wife. Consequently, the characters of
these positions of lands are conjugal partnership assets. And the wife may bind the
conjugal partnership with the consent of the husband, according to article 1614 of
the Civil Code.
The Court of Appeals upheld the validity of the three sales made since the instant
case is one of recognition because the husband was not trying to cleanse the sales
of all, such as fraud, violence or mistake, nor was it his purpose to confer authority
to his wife. Thus the requirement in the statue of frauds that in a sale of real
property the authority of the agent should be in writing has been complied with.
Therefore, she is only acting as his agent.

ISSUE: Whether or not they can ask for the annulment of the sales of the
aforementioned parcels of lands.
HELD: The Supreme Court held that they couldnt examine the question whether or
not the Court of Appeals is right when it concluded that there has been deceit. Thus,
the decision made by the Court of Appeals is hereby affirmed.
Some writers as Toullier and Goyena, believe that when for some reason, as flood, fire,
war, etc., the Official newspaper does not reach some region and the interruption of
communication is clearly shown, the article should not be applied because it would be unjust to
do so. However, the rule base on public interest and is designed precisely to avoid abuse through
allegation that the law has not come to the knowledge of the party.
If, through mistake or ignorance of law a person does an act, which prejudices him, and
the injury, cannot be remedied without impairing anothers rights, the mistake cannot be
corrected to the prejudice.
Limitations of Ignorance:
The law is not reasonable, realizing that even courts and the lawyers avoid errors in the
interpretation of the law. The law therefore provides exception to this rule: as provided in Art
1334 of the Civil Code.
Art. 1334 Mutual error as to the legal effect of an agreement when the real purpose of the
parties is frustrated may vitiate consent.
Ignorance of the Law on the Part of Lawyers:
No man is supposed to know any branch of the law perfectly, particularly when called
upon to act at once without time for reflection, the knowledge which we use the outmost industry
to acquire, is often forgotten at the moment when most needed. The science of law is a most
extensive and difficult one. Cases frequently occur learned men differ after the greatest pains is
taken to arrive at correct result: no one, therefore, would dare to pursue the profession of law, if
he were held responsible for the consequences of a casual failure of his memory, or a mistaken
course of reasoning. It has there held that lawyers cannot be disbarred for an honest mistake or
error of the law (in re Filart40 Phil 205)

In re Filart
40 PHIL 205
FACTS: Proceedings was instituted by 37 residence of Asingan, Pangasinan alleging
that following against the respondent:


That while Filart was deputy fiscal of Pangasinan he received of them the
sum of P111 as fees for drafting a memorandum in connection with


Registration Case No. 3, Record No. 8540;

That Filart was guilty of fraud and negligence in prosecuting the appeal to
the Supreme Court, he having practically abandoned the case.

It is however noted that Filart did not take up the case of his own volition but was
ordered by the court to defend the rights of petitioners because the attorney they
formerly retained was almost always in a state of intoxication. In connection to the
allegations, the respondent allegedly made assurances to the clients but however
failed to deliver success due to his negligence and incompetence.
The Acting Attorney-General however believes that the facts are not sufficient to
support the complaint, and recommends dismissal of the case.
RULING: The court agreed to the extent that such gross misconduct or negligence
has not been shown as warrants disbarment or suspension pursuant to sections 21
and 22 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which is applicable at that time.
It was ruled that although it is the duty of a n attorney to be liberal and reputable,
as well as useful to the public, when they conduct themselves with honor and
integrity, the y should be protected when they act in the best of their abilities as it
quoted jurisprudence from Montorious vs. Jeffrey, 2 Car. & P., 113; as summarized:
Yet no one will say that a counsel who has been mistaken shall be charged Not
only counsel duty judges may differ, or doubt, or take time to consider. Therefore,
an attorney ought not to be liable in case of reasonable doubt. No attorney is bound
to know all the law; God forbid that it should be imagined that an attorney or a
counsel, or even a judge, is bound to know all the law.
However, he court, having in mind the many appeals which have been dismissed
because of the lack of diligence of counsel, cannot let the occurrence pass without
expressing a strong disapproval of such criminal carelessness. So, it is the duty then
the court to reprimand him for his carelessness in attending to the needs of his poor

Ignorance of the law on the Part of the Judge:

Members of the judiciary should uphold a competent and independent judicial system,
being the expert in the law, in applying and interpreting them. Ignorance of the law on the part
of the judge diminishes the professional integrity of the whole judicial system as reiterated in the
code of judicial Conduct.


CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT (promulgated on September 5, 1989 and took effect

on October 20, 1989)

An honorable, competent and independent judiciary exists to administer justice and thus
promote the unity of the country, the stability of government, and the well being of the
Office of the court administration vs. Gines
224 SCRA 261
FACTS: This administrative complaint is against Judge Genaro Gines, Presiding
Judge, Branch 26; Ma. Gorgonia L. Flores, Court Interpreter and Officer-inCharge, Branch 256; Rosie M. Munar, Stenographic Reporter, Branch 26;
Pacita B. Diaz, Staff Assistant IV, Office of the Clerk of Court; Ma. Concepcion
B. Diaz, Staff Assistant I, Branch 26; and Mr. Alfredo V. Lacsamana, Jr., Staff II,
Branch 26, all of the RTC, San Fernando, La Union, for Dishonesty, deliberated
and surreptitious assignment of cases at the Docketing and Receiving
Section, Office of the Clerk of Court, RTC San Fernando, La Union.
HELD: The continuing deliberate violations of Administrative Order No. 6
(dated 30 June 1975), Circular No. 7 (dated 23 September 1974) and
Administrative Order No. 1 (dated 28 January 1988) for the years reported in
Atty. Sanglays report, and their belated discovery boggle our minds.
Respondent judge by his own admission that he solemnized the marriage
between complainant and Marcelo Moreno without the required marriage
license, has dismally failed to live up to his commitment to be the
embodiment of competence, integrity and independence and to his
promise to be faithful to the law.

Asuncion Vs Anunciacion 18AUG1992

FACTS: Respondent Metropolitan Trial Court Judge K. Casiano P. Anunciacion, Jr. of
Manila was being charged with 1.) Ignorance of the law and judicial incompetence,
2.) Oppression and arbitrary exercise of power, and 3.) Violation of human rights in
line with his exercise of judicial decision-making in a previous ejectment case, which
involved the complainants (as respondents) and a Herminio Samson (who filed the
ejectment case and stood as the complainant).

During the said ejectment case hearing, the said respondent judge allegedly hastily
adjourned the proceedings after the complainant Marcelo Asuncion gave his
statement, which the respondent judge saw as an admission of the contempt being
charged against the respondents of the said ejectment case, and issued an Order.
Furthermore, during the said ejectment case, Asuncion requested a postponement
because his lawyer was not available at that time. However, it was denied by the
respondent judge and, In a loud voice, declared that he would but asuncions wife
and daughters in jail, where he indeed called a branch sheriff to enforce his order to
put Asuncions wife and daughters in jail.
ISSUES: Whether or not the respondent, Judge K. Casiano P. Anunciancion, displayed
and is guilty of serious misconduct, oppression, and ignorance of the law, which
further resulted to a violation of the complainants human rights
HELD: After reviewing the records of the proceedings before respondent Judge, the
Court agrees with the investigating Judge that respondent Judge Anunciacion acted
arbitrarily, despotically and with complete disregard for the complainants rights,
when he ordered them to be jailed without even informing them of the charge
against them, either by furnishing them with a copy of the contempt motion or
reading it to them, Respondent Judge did not inform the complainants of the nature
and cause of the accusation against them contrary to the directive in Sec. 3, Rule 71
of the Rules of Court. Neither did he give the complainants a chance to explain their
Moreover, respondent Judge denied them the right to be assist by counsel and the
right to defend themselves, even as their father, Marcelo Asuncion, pleaded for
postponement of the proceedings because his lawyers was not available at the time
but his oppressive and precipitate action, respondent Judge displayed arrogance
and gross Ignorance of the law and violated the complainants human rights.

Moreno vs. Bernabe

246 SCRA 120
FACTS: Marilou Moreno filed the complainant against Judge C. Bernabe of the
MTC of Metro Manila for grave misconduct and gross ignorance of the law.
Complainant alleges that on October 4, 1993, she and Marcelo Moreno were
married before respondent Judge Bernabe, She avers that respondent Judge
assured her that the marriage contract will be released ten (10) days after
October 4, 1993. Complainant then visited the office of the Respondent Judge
on October 15, 1993 only to find out that she could not get the marriage
contract because the Office of the Local Civil Registrar failed to issue a
marriage with the relatives of Marcelo Moreno to deceive her.

Held: Respondent Judge displayed his ignorance of the law when he

solemnized the marriage without a marriage license. As a judge, he is
presumed to be aware of the existence of Article 3(2) of the Family Code of
the Philippines (E.O. 209, as amended by E.O. 227). Absence of a valid
marriage license will make the marriage void from the beginning (Article 35
(3) Family Code of the Philippines). Judges are enjoined to show more than
just a cursory acquaintance of the law and other established rules.
Jaucian vs. Espinas
FACTS: Judge Salvacion B. Espinas of the RTC of Legaspi City, was charged by Gerry
Jaucian with gross ignorance of the law gross partiality, bias, incompetence and
willful delay in the adjudication of cases.
Complainant, as losing mayoral candidate for Daraga, Albay, in the May 11, 1998
local elections, filed a petition, dated May 22, 1998, denominated as an election
protest and/or revision/recounting of votes, on the ground that fraud and anomalies
were allegedly committed during the aforesaid local elections, both in the course of
voting and during the counting and tabulation of the ballots to his prejudice. He
prated for the issuance of an order directing the revision or recounting of the ballots
in the contested 114 precincts as enumerated in his petition, the nullification and
setting aside of the proclamation of Wilson Andres as mayor, and his own
proclamation as major.
Respondent judge issued the assailed order that contained a finding that only
thirteen (13) ballot boxes were found well supported to warrant the approval of the
relief being sought by the protestant.
HELD: Responded erred in her appreciation of election laws.
The pertinent provisions of law that she should have relied on are Section 255 of the
Omnibus Election Code and Section 12 of the 1993 Comelec Rules of Procedure.
Sec. 255. Judicial counting of votes on election contest. Where allegations in a
protest or counter-protest so warrant, or whenever in the opinion of the court the
interests of justice so require, it shall immediately order the book of voters, ballot
boxes and their keys, ballots and other documents used in the election be brought
before it and that the ballots be examined and the votes recounted.
Respondent by his own admission that he solemnized the marriage between complainant
and Marcelo Moreno without the required marriage license, has dismally failed to live up to his

commitment to be the embodiment of competence, integrity and independence and to his

promise to be faithful to the law.
The Fact that complaint has lost interest in prosecuting the administrative case against
therein-respondent judge will not necessarily warrant a dismissal thereof. Once charges have
been filed, the Supreme Court may not be divested of its jurisdiction to investigate and ascertain
the truth of the matter alleged in the complaint. The Court has an interest in the conduct of
members of the judiciary and in improving the delivery of justice to the people, and its efforts in
the direction may not be derailed by the complainants desistance from further prosecuting the
case he or she initiated.
Ignorance of the facts excuses but not ignorance of the law. In theory every one is supposed to
know the law, except children under a certain age and insane persons. Ignorance of a material
fact may excuse a party from legal consequences of his conduct, as in, in the absence of fraud,
money paid with full knowledge of the facts but through ignorance of the law is not reasonable,
but not in ignorance of the facts. Thus, there credit was not paid in a n account for a sum already
paid by the plaintiff, who in mistake and in the hurry of business, paid the balance shown to be
due, recovery of the over payment is allowed. (Vol. X, 31 March 1996, The Layers Review)
Mistake of law does not generally vitiate consent, BUT when there is a mistake on a doubtful
question of law, or on the construction or application of law, this is analogous to a mistake of
fact, and the maxim ignorantia legis neminem excusat should have no proper application.
When even the highest courts are sometimes divided upon difficult legal questions, and when
one-half of the lawyers in all controversies on a legal question are wrong, why should a layman
be held accountable for his honest mistake on a doubtful legal issue? (Report of the Code
Commission, p. 136)
Knowledge of Law of the ones own land is one of the most effective vehicles of
development of its country. Ignorance of law of the land is no excuse. Ignorance of law can be
wiped out only by spreading legal awareness amongst the people. A Legal literate person knows
his rights, duties and privileges. He knows what he should do or what he should not do in his dayto-day life. A legal literate person can fight for the injustice in the society. It is the knowledge of
law that resoles the grievances of a person. It is also helpful in effective administration of justice.
Many times ignorance of law becomes a main cause of instituting cases.
Everyone is supposed to know about the law of land where he lives. If he does not know
about it then he cannot take it as plea of ignorance. ignorantia juris non excusat which is
applied universally, provides that ignorance of law is no excuse. This principle is applied to all
either the advocates students or even the laymen. In a society everyone should be legally aware.
For the legal awareness amongst the people in a society, imparting legal education is must.
Legal education in a society is one of the key of success, prosperity, peace and popularity of a


country. It is the foundation of judicial system in a society. By the knowledge of law in the society
justice delivery system can develop effectively because law is the science to make people aware
about the good and just.
Legal literacy is also compulsory for the proper dispensation of the justice in the society
because its way goes to provide justice in the society. The failure of execution of many laws also
depends upon the lack of awareness about these laws. Legal literacy is comprehensive in its

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