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Whether statute is to be given strict/ liberal
construction will depend upon:
a. nature of statute
b. purpose to be subserved (promote)
c. mischief to be remedied

Test employed if statute is penal: whether a penalty is

imposed for punishment of a wrong to the public
Penal statutes strictly construed
- where a statute penalized commission of an act on
certain occasions, it cannot be construed to penalize it
on all occasions.
Reason why penal statute are strictly construed
- to provide a precise definition of forbidden acts

Strict or liberal interpretation will be given a statute

that will best accomplish end desire and result
legislative intent.

- to establish certain rule by conformity to which

mankind would be safe and discretion of court is

Strict construction
- only recognizes what is expressed, takes the
language used in its exact meaning and admits no
equitable consideration.
-scope of statute shall not be extended or enlarged by
implication, intendment, or equitable consideration
beyond the literal meaning of its terms.
-close and conservative adherence to literal meaning
of its terms.

Mala in se and Mala prohibita

- to constitute crime, evil intent must combine with
an act
- actus non facit reum nisi mens rea = act itself does
not make a man guilty unless his intentions were so

Liberal construction defined

- equitable construction will enlarge the letter of the
statute to accomplish its intended purpose or promote
- expands the meaning of statute to meet cases which
are clearly within the spirit thereof, or within the evil
which statute was designed to remedy, or which gives
a statute its generally accepted meaning
- words should be receive a fair and reasonable
interpretation to attain intent, spirit and purpose of
Liberal construction applied
- where statute is ambiguous and capable of more
than one construction
- ut res magis valeat quam pereat
That the thing may rather have effect than be destroy
Construction taking into consideration general
welfare/growth of civilization
- based on maxim salus populi est suprema lex (the
safety of the people is the supreme law)
statutes enacted for public good construe liberally
- statute pro public commodo late interpretantur
(Statutes made for the public good ought to be liberal
ly construed)

- actus me invito factus non est meus actus = an act

done by me against my will is not my act.
- mala in se = penalized under RPC, criminal intent
and act is required
- mala prohibita = only inquiry in whether the law
has been violated
Statutes in derogation of rights
-the state may enact legislation, restricting the
enjoyment of rights, in the exercise of its police
power ex: suspending period of prescription, fixing
ceiling price of commodities
- construction which would not diminish right of
people must be adopted.
Statutes authorizing expropriation
- strictly construed against the expropriating authority
and liberally in favor of property owner
Statutes granting privileges
- requires strict construction to those who invoke a
special privilege
- privilegia recipient largam interpretationem
voluntati consonam concedentis (privileges are to be
interpreted accordance with the will of him who
grants them.
- he who fails to comply with will of grantor loses
such privileges
Legislative grants to local govt units
_ strictly construed against the grantee
because it is gratuitous donation of money/property
which results in unfair advantage to grantee
Statutory grounds for removal of officials


Penal statutes, generally
- refers to laws by which punishment are imposed for
violation of their provision
- acts of legislature which prohibit certain acts and
establish penalties for their violation
- define crimes, treat of their nature and provide for
their punishment

Naturalization laws
Statutes imposing taxes and custom duties
- strictly impose against govt and liberally in favor
of taxpayaer
-tax cannot be imposed without clear and express
Statutes granting tax exemption
(The most strict right or law. In general, when a perso

n receives an advantage, as the grant of a license, he i

s boundto conform strictly to the exercise of the right
s given him by it, and in case of a dispute, it will be st
rictly construed.)
statutes concerning sovereign
-restrictive statutes which impose burden on public
treasury are strictly construed
Statutes authorizing suits against govt
- nullum tempus occurit regi time does not run
against the King.
Statutes prescribing formalities of will
exceptions and provisos
- exceptions: strictly but reasonably construed
extend only as far as their language fairly
warrants , and all doubts should be resolved
- proviso: interpreted consistently with legislative

General social legislation

Ex: labor laws, tenancy laws, land reform
2. Grant of power to local govt
3. Statutes granting tax power
4. Statutes prescribing prescriptive period
to collect taxes
5. Statutes imposing penalties for
nonpayment of tax
6. Election laws
7. Amnesty proclamations
8. Statutes prescribing prescription of
9. Adoption statutes
10. Veteran and pension law
11. Rules of court
12. Other
- curative statutes, redemption law


Mandatory Statute statute which commands either
positively that something be done, or performed in a
particular way, or negatively that something be not
- contains words of command or prohibition and
violation of which makes the decision invalid
- acts executed against the provision of mandatory or
prohibitory laws shall be void, except when law itself
authorizes their validity
Directory Statute- permissive/directory in nature
and merely outlines act to be done in such a way that
no injury can result from ignoring it
-operates to confer discretion upon a person
-act according to ones judgment and not controlled
by others
When statute is mandatory or directory
- no universal rule to determine, primary object is to
ascertain legislative intent

It is mandatory when: the statute prescribe a result

in addition to or apart from what it requires, 3 rd
parties will suffer as a consequence of what the
person charged by statute to do within prescribed
limit failed to do, matter of substance
It is directory when: no substantial rights depend on it
and no injury can result from ignoring it, purpose of
legislature can be achieved in a manner other than
that prescribed
Language used
Mandatory shall, must, ought, should, cannot,
shall not, ought not
Directory- may
Use of shall or must
- must be given compulsory meaning
Use of may
- auxiliary verb showing among others
-directory in nature and operated to confer discretion
When shall is construed as may and vice versa
- to be determined in each case from the apparent
intention of statute as gathered from the context and
language of provision

Word may be construed as shall where a

statute provides for the doing of some act
which is required by justice or public duty i
it concerns public rights or interests
Shall may be construed as may when
required by intention of legislature, or when
no public benefit or private right requires
that it be given imperative meaning.

Use of negative, prohibitory or exclusive terms

- mandatory
1. Statutes conferring power
2. Statutes granting benefits
vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt
(laws aid vigilant, not those who slumber their
Potior est in tempore, potior est in jure( he who is
first in time is preferred in right)
3. Statutes prescribing jurisdictional requirements
4. Statutes prescribing time to take action/to appeal
5. Statutes prescribing procedural requirements
6. Election laws on conduct of election
7. Election laws on qualification and disqualification
8. Statutes prescribing qualification for office
9. Statutes relating to assessment of taxes
10. Statutes concerning public auction sale
1. Statutes prescribing guidance for others
- unless accompanied by negative words
2. Statutes prescribing manner of judicial action