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[G.R. No. 8404. January 29, 1913. ]


[G.R. No. 7832. January 29, 1913. ]

FLORENTINA ANCAJAS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. DIONISIO JAKOSALEM, SHERIFF, ET AL., Defendants-Appellees.

Chicote & Miranda and A. Sanz, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Orense & Gonzales Diez, for Defendant-Appellant.

Felix Sevilla y Macam for Appellant.

Celestino Rodriguez and P.E. del Rosario for Appellees.


1. OFFICIAL LANGUAGE OF THE COURTS; CONSTRUCTION OF ACT NO. 1946. — An Act providing that "the official language of all the courts and their records shall be the Spanish language until first day of January, one thousand nine hundred and thirteen" and "after that date English shall be the official language," is not retrospective in its effect and operation, but prospective only.

2. ID.; ID.; RULE OF STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION. — It is a rule of statutory construction that all statutes are to be considered as having only a prospective operation, unless the purpose and intention of the Legislature to give them a retrospective effect is expressly declared or is necessarily implied from the language used.



Motions or objections have been made in these causes which raise the question of the necessity of the use of the English language in the courts of the Islands. In the first case a motion is made by the defendant-appellant to strike from the record a brief filed by the plaintiff-appellant upon the ground that it is "not written in the official language." A motion is made in the other case to set aside and vacate a judgment of this court upon the ground that it is not written in the English language.

The brief and the judgment objected to are in the Spanish language and were filed in actions begun prior to the first day of January, 1913. The question raised by these objections is whether Act No. 1946, amending section 12 of the Code of Civil Procedure, wherein it is provided that the official language is to be English after January 1, 1913, is retrospective or prospective only.

The title of the Act is follows: "An Act further amending section twelve of Act Numbered One hundfred and ninety, entitled ’An Act providing a Code of Procedure in Civil Actions and Special Proceedings in the Philippine Islands,’ as amended, by providing for a continuation of the Spanish language as the official language of the courts until the first day of January, one thousand nine hundred and thirteen and for other purposes." Procedure is amended so as to read, so far as material here, as follows: "The official language of all the courts and their records shall be the Spanish language until the first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirteen. After that date, English shall be the official language."cralaw virtua1aw library

The Act contains, as is seen, no express word giving it a retrospective or retroactive effect, nor is there anything found therein which indicates and intention to give it such an effect. Its effect is, rather, by clear intendment, prospective.

It is a rule of statutory construction that all statutes are to be construed as having only a prospective operation unless the purpose and intention of the Legislature to give them a retrospective effect is expressly. The cases supporting this rule are almost without number.

In the case of Reynolds v. M’Arthur (2 Pet., 416, 434), it was said that —

"It is a principle which has always been held sacred in the United States, that laws by which human action is to be regulated, look forward or not backward; and are never to be construed retrospectively, unless the language of the Act shall render such construction indispensable."cralaw virtua1aw library

In the case of Leete v. St. Louis State Bank (115 Mo., 184), it was held that —

"In construing statutes in regard to whether their action is to be prospective or retrospective, all the adjudicated cases and all the text-writers with unbroken uniformity unite in declaring "that they are to operate prospectively and not otherwise unless the intent that they are to operate in such as unusual way, to wit, retrospectively, is manifested on the face statute in a manner altogether free from ambiguity.’"

The case of Berdan v. Van Riper (16 N.J.L., 7) holds that where a statute is susceptible of construction as both prospective and retrospective, the former construction will be adopted, but specially if there retrospective operation will work injustice to anyone.

In the case of the United States v. American Sugar Co. (202 U.S., 563), there was presented this same question for the resolution of which there was required an interpretation of an Act of Congress passed to carry into effect the convention between the United States and the Republic of Cuba relative to the importation into the United States of certain products of that Republic. The first section of the Act provided, among other things, that the President of the United States "is hereby authorized to issue his proclamation declaring he has received such evidence, and thereupon, on the tenth day after exchange of ratifications to such convention . . . and so long as said convention shall remain in force, all articles . . . which are now imported . . . shall continue to be admitted free of duty." In pursuance of this Act, the President issued is proclamation in which de declared and proclaimed said convention to be in effect "on the tenth day from this my proclamation." The question arose over the duty to be paid on sugar imported from Cuba prior to the date when the Act took effect.

The question before the court was put by the court itself thus:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"We start, then, with the proposition that not the treaty, but the Act of Congress, was to fix the date that the treaty should take effect. What date Congress fixed is the question to be considered. It was certainly competent for Congress (with the consent of Cuba) to have given the treaty retrospective, immediate or prospective operation. Which did Congress do? And in reply we are to remember there is a presumption against retrospective operation, and we have said that words in a statute ought not to have such operation "unless they are so clear, strong, and imperative that no other meaning can be annexed to them, or unless the intention of the legislator can not be otherwise satisfied.’" (United Stated v. Burr, 159 U.S., 78)

It was held that the Acts should have a prospective effect only.

In the case before us we believe that the usual rule ought to be applied. Although there is a difference recognized by the courts between acts which affect substantial rights and those which affect only procedure or convenience, the courts being more liberal in their interpretation relative to retrospective operation in the latter than in the former case, we do not believe that such difference is sufficiently important in the cases before us to warrant us in relaxing the rigidity of the rule. Serious inconvenience might be the result of giving the Act in question a retrospective effect, and substantial rights might possibly be prejudiced thereby. The act itself being by its terms applicable only after January 1, 1913, we think that there exists no reason why the general rules of construction should not prevail, even if construction or interpretation is in any sense necessary.

We therefore hold that the Act in question is applicable only to actions and proceedings begun in the courts of the Island on and after the 1st day of January, 1913; and is not applicable to actions or proceedings begun prior to that date.

The motion in case No. 8404 is denied, and the objection in case No. 7832 is overruled. So ordered.

Arellano, C.J., Torres, Mapa, Johnson, and Trent, JJ., concur.

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