Ignorance of the Law

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In the civil code of the Philippines republic act no. 368 this maxim is in article 3. When we say ‘Ignorance of the law’, we refer not only to the literal word of the law itself but also to the meaning or interpretation given to said law by our court of justice. This maxim also applies to all kind of domestic laws, whether civil or penal, and whether substantive or remedial on the ground expediency, policy, and necessity, to prevent evasion of law.

However, the maxim is referring only to mandatory or prohibitive laws, not permissive or suppletory laws. From the decision of the supreme Court, this provision of the law is very heavy . It means that every person is presumed to know the laws, and that is invalid defense in court that one doesn’t know the existence of a law punishing the act he/she may have been committed. A person must in the act he/she may do, Know its consequences and legal its boundaries. Thus, one should be very cautious in all of his/her actions.

Article two (2) of the Civil Code demands that “Laws shall take effect after fifteen days following the completion of their publication either in the Official Gazzette, or in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines, unless it is otherwise provided”. This provision seeks to safeguard the right of every citizen to be informed of the law passed by the congress or of any other declaration which is of punitive or binding effect to the public, so that one may know the laws which govern him/her in his/her day-to-day life.

Our constitution guarantees this due process which should not be violated or dispensed with . The statement “unless it is otherwise provided” does not talk about the publication but of the effectivity of the law which maybe set on different date as may be stipulated in the law. The necessity of publication is indispensible as to inform the general public. However, there are some disadvantages of this, firstly, The official Gazette comes out several years late, secondly is that only few of our citizen can get hold of a copy thereof, much less, read the same, Moreover, in a very real sense, Law was made for evil men.

The good hardly need law when they do good acts, this is not because they are deliberately complying with the law, but because they are simply good men. Upon the other hand, without the maxim, the corrupt will make social existence unbearable, abuse will increase, and ignorance will be rewarded. The Civil Code of specifically provides that a mistake on a doubtful or difficult question of law may be the basis of good faith. This does not mean, however, that one is excused because such ignorance.

He is still liable, but his liability shall be mitigated, while he will still be considered as a debtor, he will be a debtor in good faith. Ignorance of the foreign law is not ignorance of the law, but ignorance of the fact because foreign laws must be alleged and proved as matter of fact, there being no judicial notice of said foreign laws. Ignorance of the law distinguishes from ignorance of the fact (mistake), while ignorance of law is no excuse for not complying with the law, Ignorance of fact eliminates criminal intent as long as there is no negligence.

An example of this is a man who marries a second wife, missing for 10 years, is dead, and does not incur criminal responsibility even if it turns out that the first wife is still alive. This is merely ignorance of the fact. Ignorance of the law prohibiting the possession of certain drugs, like opium, ecstasy, shabu, etc. , cannot excuse criminal responsibilities. An example of this is an old woman who is planting ornamentals without knowing that some of her plant is opium (dangerous drug), upon the inspection of the Anti-drug agency, they have identified that some of her ornamentals are opium.

They arrested the old woman for violating Republic act 9165, thus, the old woman is not excused in her criminal responsibilities. Ignorance of the law on the part of judge, thus, when the bail is a matter of right of the accused and the judge denies the right, this is not only violating the right of the accused but also ignorance of the law. Ignorance of the law on the part of Sheriff, thus when a sheriff execute an action without the approval of the judge, this is merely an ignorance of the law.

It is therefore our duty as a citizens to know the laws that governs us and to abide with these laws. It is not a valid reason for us to raise that we don’t know the existence of the law. We must be therefore be vigilant to all our actions and to see to it that we don’t violate any laws of the land. We have the freedom and liberty, but these freedom and liberty end when the freedom and liberty of others begin. Let us all be guided. As much as possible let us all do good things, and avoid all those unlawful acts. And most of all let us all strengthen our faith in God.

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