Veba Legis

Numerous Latin terms or maxims are still being used in our legal system and at times, lawyers and judges interject these in their writings and speeches. One of the most commonly used Latin terms is Verba Legis or the “plain meaning rule”. In legislating the laws, the lawmakers try their best to use words or phrases that are clear or precise so as not to cause confusion or misunderstanding if it is implemented. Despite the best efforts of the legislators, there are still instances where laws suffer from ambiguity and would require court rulings in order to make a declaration as to what it really meant. For those laws that are clear, there is no other required act but to implement it.

Bolos vs. Bolos

Cynthia Bolos filed a petition for the declaration of nullity of marriage she entered into with Danilo on 14 February 1980. In 02 August 2006, the Regional Trial Court rendered its decision on the case granting the prayer of the petitioner and declared the marriage between Cynthia and Danilo null and void. Danilo filed a notice of appeal before the RTC but was denied on the ground that he did not file first a motion for reconsideration. A motion for reconsideration on said denial was filed but was denied. The judgment was declared final and executory by the RTC. Danilo then filed a petition for certiorari before the CA citing grave abuse of discretion on the part of the RTC for denying his notice of appeal and the subsequent motion for reconsideration. The CA granted Danilo’s petition and reversed the RTC decision. The CA said that the filing of a motion for reconsideration is not a prerequisite for the filing of an appeal since the said requirement is only applicable to marriages solemnized under the Family Code. Cynthia appealed the decision of the CA before the Supreme Court.

The Law is Clear

The Supreme Court did not find merit in the argument of Cynthia and sustained the decision of the Court of Appeals. The Court applied the principle of verba legis and said: “The categorical language of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC leaves no room for doubt. The coverage extends only to those marriages entered into during the effectivity of the Family Code which took effect on August 3, 1988. The rule sets a demarcation line between marriages covered by the Family Code and those solemnized under the Civil Code.” (G.R. 18640, October 20, 2010) Since Cynthia and Danilo married in 1980, they are not covered by the rule and therefore there may be an appeal even if no motion for reconsideration has first been filed. There can be no other interpretation of this since it is very clear from the wordings of the rule itself. “A cardinal rule in statutory construction is that when the law is clear and free from any doubt or ambiguity, there is no room for construction or interpretation. There is only room for application. As the statute is clear, plain, and free from ambiguity, it must be given its literal meaning and applied without attempted interpretation. This is what is known as the plain-meaning rule or verba legis. It is expressed in the maxim, index animi sermo, or speech is the index of intention. Furthermore, there is the maxim verba legis non est recedendum, or from the words of a statute there should be no departure.” The Supreme Court added that despite the assertion of Cynthia of substantial justice, this rule or principle cannot be relaxed but must be faithfully complied with.

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