Substantive law v. remedial law


The Supreme Court’s sole prerogative to issue, amend, or repeal procedural rules is limited to the preservation of substantive rights, i.e., the former should not diminish, increase or modify the latter. (Estipona, Jr. v. Lobrigo, G.R. No. 226679. 15 August 2017)

Substantive law is that part of the law which creates, defines and regulates rights, or which regulates the right and duties which give rise to a cause of action; that part of the law which courts are established to administer; as opposed to adjective or remedial law, which prescribes the method of enforcing rights or obtain redress for their invasions. (Ibid.)


Procedural law refers to the adjective law which prescribes rules and forms of procedure in order that courts may be able to administer justice. Procedural laws do not come within the legal conception of a retroactive law, or the general rule against the retroactive operation of statues – they may be given retroactive effect on actions pending and undetermined at the time of their passage and this will not violate any right of a person who may feel that he is adversely affected, insomuch as there are no vested rights in rules of procedure. (Sps. De Los Santos v. Vda. De Mangubat, G.R. No. 149508, 10 October 2007)

Procedural laws may be given retroactive effect to actions pending and undetermined at the time of their passage, there being no vested rights in the rules of procedure. Amendments to procedural rules are procedural or remedial in character as they do not create new or remove vested rights, but only operate in furtherance of the remedy or confirmation of rights already existing. (Fil-Estate Properties, Inc. v. Homena-Valencia, G.R. No. 173942, 25 June 2008)

Rules or statutes involving a transfer of cases from one court to another, are procedural and remedial merely and that, as such, they are applicable to actions pending at the time the statute went into effect or, in the case at bar, when its invalidity was declared. (Fabian v. Desierto, En Banc, G.R. No. 129742, 16 September 1998)

Procedural law has its own rationale in the orderly administration of justice, namely, to ensure the effective enforcement of substantive rights by providing for a system that obviates arbitrariness, caprice, despotism, or whimsicality in the settlement of disputes. Hence, it is a mistake to suppose that substantive law and procedural law are contradictory to each other, or as often suggested, that enforcement of procedural rules should never be permitted if it would result in prejudice to the substantive rights of the litigants. (Asia United Bank v. Goodland Company, Inc., G.R. No. 188051, 22 November 2010)

1) Fresh period rule

The “fresh period rule” is irrefragably procedural, prescribing the manner in which the appropriate period for appeal is to be computed or determined and, therefore, can be made applicable to actions pending upon its effectivity, such as the present case, without danger of violating anyone else’s rights. (Sumiran v. Sps. Damaso, G.R. No. 162518, 19 August 2009)

2) Plea-bargaining

Plea bargaining has been defined as “a process whereby the accused and the prosecution work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case subject to court approval.” There is give-and-take negotiation common in plea bargaining. The essence of the agreement is that both the prosecution and the defense make concessions to avoid potential losses. Properly administered, plea bargaining is to be encouraged because the chief virtues of the system – speed, economy, and finality – can benefit the accused, the offended party, the prosecution, and the court. (Estipona, Jr. v. Lobrigo, supra.)

Considering the presence of mutuality of advantage, the rules on plea bargaining neither create a right nor take away a vested right. Instead, it operates as a means to implement an existing right by regulating the judicial process for enforcing rights and duties recognized by substantive law and for justly administering remedy and redress for a disregard or infraction of them. (Fabian v. Desierto, supra.)


CONTEXT: No definitive line can be drawn between those rules or statutes which are procedural, hence within the scope of this Court’s rule-making power, and those which are substantive. In fact, a particular rule may be procedural in one context and substantive in another. It is admitted that what is procedural and what is substantive is frequently a question of great difficulty. It is not, however, an insurmountable problem if a rational and pragmatic approach is taken within the context of our own procedural and jurisdictional system. (Fabian v. Desierto, En Banc, G.R. No. 129742, 16 September 1998)

TEST: In determining whether a rule prescribed by the Supreme Court, for the practice and procedure of the lower courts, abridges, enlarges, or modifies any substantive right, the test is whether the rule really regulates procedure, that is, the judicial process for enforcing rights and duties recognized by substantive law and for justly administering remedy and redress for a disregard or infraction of them. If the rule takes away a vested right, it is not procedural. If the rule creates a right such as the right to appeal, it may be classified as a substantive matter; but if it operates as a means of implementing an existing right then the rule deals merely with procedure. (Ibid.)

The authority of a judge to try a case is a matter of substantive law, not embraced by the purposes and scope of the Rules of Court, which concern “pleading, practice admission and procedure in all courts of the Philippines, and the admission to the practice of law therein.” (Valera v. Tuason, Jr., En Banc, G.R. No. L-1276, 30 April 1948)

Disclaimer: All information is for educational and general information only. These should not be taken as professional legal advice or opinion. Please consult a competent lawyer to address your specific concerns. Any statements or opinions of the author are solely his own and do not reflect that of any organization he may be connected.

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