Conflicts are but natural and ordinary occurrence in every community. It is especially true in tight-knit societies where people are involved in public and sometimes even in the private lives of others. Thus, we have the Katarungang Pambarangay Law in our statute books.
A conflict that is not resolved properly will lead to further divide and discord which could eventually be anarchic in the large scale. Hence, it is imperative to have an avenue where these conflicts could be resolved. Ordinarily, it is the courts which decide on the enforcement of rights or correction of wrongs.
Some disputes, however, only involve simple and petty controversies which if filed immediately before the regular courts would flood its docket and sap its resources.
Our legal system has adopted some measures to mitigate this problem through dispute resolutions which serve as frontline procedures in adjudicating controversies without the need of the operation of the courts at least until all measures have been exhausted to make the battling parties look for ways to amicably settle.
As mentioned, one of these measures is the Katarungang Pambarangay where the local communities are given a greater participation in the resolution of conflicts within their jurisdictions.
The barangay as the country’s basic political unit is empowered to serve in civic and legal duties and thus enable local communities to participate in nation-building. Harkening to the old balangays of the pre- Spanish colonial times, the barangay justice system becomes a venue for resolving conflicts within local communities.
What is Katarungang Pambarangay of the barangay justice system?
The Katarangungang Pambarangay is a community-based dispute resolution mechanism administered by the barangay itself. It is extra-governmental because it is not technically part of the traditional state organs of the government framework but includes the communities themselves.
It tries to eliminate the difficulties of court litigation which are too formal. In the barangay justice system, the people themselves are involved in looking for an amicable settlement of issues.
The system is also a recognition of the principle that ours is a republican government since the people directly engage in government acts. Similar to the barangay, the Katarungang Pambarangay or KP is an innovation that is unique to the Philippines.
If parties cannot find a common ground between them, the barangay steps in to act as mediator or arbitrator. Unlike the regular courts, the barangay justice system has an advantage of familiarity and relatability between and among the parties.
In theory, parties would be able to find a way to solve their disputes with less tension. At the same time, the barangay acts as the representative of the government which has an interest in the speedy and just resolution of disputes. Consequently, the barangay justice system has the imprimatur of the State.
What law created the barangay justice system?
Republic [RA] Act 71601 or the Local Government Code of 1991 established the Katarungnang Pambarangay system. It includes an entire chapter under Book III, Title I of the law in full detail how the mechanisms work. However, the KP system was advocated as early as 1976 when Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro proposed the “Neighborhood Paralegal Committee” which served as the basis of the KP law.
Presidential Decree [PD] No. 1508 was, then, enacted. It has been the first law institutionalizing the KP system. This law has intended to give full recognition of the time-honored tradition of amicably settling disputes among family and barangay members at the barangay level without judicial resources.2
Thus, the law only formalizes the tradition and practices of local villages in solving their own conflicts. Although, the law was an innovative piece of legislation, it merely legitimized what was already being practiced by the people.
What is the importance of Katarungang Pambarangay law?
The barangay justice system encourages the peaceful and harmonious conflict resolution in local communities. It also enables the people to become active members of their own villages. The barangays is also given a very important role in the administration of justice instead of just simply executing laws.
The Katarungang Pambarangay Law also discourages the practice of indiscriminate filing of cases in the regular courts. The barangays serve as frontline services in the administration of justice, which could potentially eliminate the need of litigation. The KP system helps in lessening the burden of our already congested court dockets.
The Katarungang Pambarangay System also provides a speedy means of dispute resolution averting protracted litigation which oftentimes drain the resources of both the litigants and the courts. Procedure in the KP is less formal and strict, thus parties have more liberty to come to a mutual understanding.
The barangays are in the most strategic position to mediate in family or community disputes. The KP system is an accessible venue for people seeking justice. It vests the marginalized members of society with the ability to fight for their own rights and interests without the need of the services of a lawyer or going through the complicated procedures of bureaucracy or the courts.
What is the procedure in the Katarungang Pambarangay law?
Anyone who has cause of action against another involving any matter within the jurisdiction of the authority of the Lupon may file a complaint either orally or in writing before the Lupon chairman of the barangay. He also needs to pay a minimal filing fee.
The Lupon chairman schedules a mediation within the following working day by summoning the respondent with notice to the complainant and any witness he may have.3 Mediation is one of the two stages in the KP process, the other being conciliation.
Mediation is a process where a mediator who is selected by the parties, facilitates negotiation and communication, and helps the parties in reaching an agreement.
Conciliation is where an impartial intermediary opens communication between the parties to allow them to resolve their dispute. Mediation is done before the Lupon chairman while conciliation is made before the pangkat.
After summons for mediation, the respondent may or may not submit his answer or counterclaim. During the mediation process, technical rules of evidence are not resorted to. If the parties come to an amicable agreement, the settlement is executed in writing between the complainant and the respondent.
In the event, the mediation fails within fifteen days from the first meeting of the parties, the Lupon chairman shall call for the constitution of the pangkat.4
The pangkat should convene within three days from its constitution to hear both parties, simplify the issues and explore possibilities for amicable settlement.5 The pangkat should arrive at a settlement within fifteen days but this period can be extended for another fifteen days in clearly merit.
If a party fails to appear before the pangkat without justifiable reason, the pangkat will issue a certification to file action instead of convening. The pangkat can issue subpoenas but it cannot punish anyone for contempt.
If the parties agree to amicably settle, the agreement must be reduced in writing and attested by the Lupon chairman. The proceedings in the KP system are informal and public.
Are lawyers allowed in Katarungang Pambarangay?
Lawyers are not allowed in barangay conciliation proceedings by virtue of Section 415 of the Local Government Code of 1991. It provides that in all katarungang pambarangay proceedings, the parties are required to appear in person and without the assistance of any counsel or representative.6
Nonetheless, this admits of certain exceptions, such as, in cases with minors or incompetents they may be guided or represented by their next of kin who are not lawyers.7
The proscription of lawyers during the katarungang pambarangay proceedings stems out from the very reason that the presence of them could drag the case into delay. In this kind of proceeding, the Barangay Captain (Lupon Chairman) has the power to bring together the parties to amicably settle their causes or disputes.
Allowing the lawyers to attend therein might make the case worse because they might tend to confuse the issues further, using their logical and/or analytical skills and knowledge of the law. This ultimately prolong the case instead of the desired expedite settlement.
Yet, this is not to say that one who wishes to protect his rights cannot consult a lawyer before filing a complaint with the barangay or participating with the proceedings. What the law only prohibits is the attendance of the lawyers during the barangay conciliation proceedings.
And if no settlement was agreed upon by the parties, the case will eventually go to court and the parties will definitely need their respective counsels or representatives to assist them all through-out the proceedings until final adjudication thereof.
How barangay settlement is executed?
Within six (6) months from date of the settlement, the disputant must file a Motion for Execution with the Lupon,8 who has the authority to conduct hearings assigned by the movant but shall not be later than five (5) days from the filing of such motion.9
Once there was an arbitration settlement that were agreed upon by the parties, the agreement or “kasunduan” shall be in writing, signed by the parties, and duly attested to by the Barangay Captain. The said agreement shall be in the language or dialect known to them.
However, if the party wishes to repudiate it shall be done within ten (10) days from the date of the agreement. Otherwise, the settle agreement is akin to a final judgment of a court.10
This “settlement agreement may be enforced by execution by the lupon within six (6) months from the date of the settlement. And after the lapse of six (6) months, the settlement agreement may be enforced by action in the appropriate city or municipal court, as the case may be.”11
Can settlement by the parties who subject their disputes under the Katarungang Pambarangay be executed?
Generally, a well-agreed settlement agreement deserves respect and shall be enforced by the Lupon or Barangay Chairman in the manner that is acknowledged by the parties therein and within the period provided by the law.
However, a party is allowed to repudiate the settlement within ten (10) days from the date of such settlement with the Lupon or Barangay Chairman. It can be done by filing a statement to that effect (repudiation) sworn to before him.
There must be a showing that the consent is vitiated by fraud, violence or intimidation. Furthermore, this said repudiation will be the basis for the issuance of the certification for filing a complaint.
Is there any timeframe for the said aforesaid execute?
The amicable settlement shall have the force and effect of a final judgment of a court upon the end of the ten-day (10) period of repudiation.
This may then be enforced by execution by the Lupon or Barangay Chairman within six (6) months from the date of settlement.
Upon the lapse of such period, the settlement agreement may be enforced by the parties by filing a motion in the municipal trial court of the place where the agreement was made.
How will the settlement be executed?
If the settlement agreement is not repudiated, it will be executed by the Lupon within six (6) months from the date of the settlement.
It shall be in writing, and in the language or dialect known to the parties, duly signed by them and is attested by the Lupon or Barangay Chairman who caused the mediation therein.
The barangay can take possession of the property in accordance with the subject award in the settlement, then, sell it at public auction. The proceeds shall satisfy the award in the settlement agreement. The excess thereof shall be returned to the breaching party.
It must be noted that after six (6) months had lapsed, the settlement agreement may be enforced by action in the proper city or municipal court, as the case may be.
However, if the Lupon failed to reconcile the parties or if there is a settlement agreement but its consent is vitiated by fraud, violence or intimidation, the aggrieved party may repudiate the agreement within ten (10) days by filing a statement to that effect (repudiation) sworn to before the Lupon or Barangay Chairman.
In effect, this repudiation will be sufficient for the issuance of the certificate by which allowing the party to file a complaint.
In the case of Galuba vs Spouses Alfredo,12 the Court held that “having failed to repudiate the amicable settlement within the ten-day period, petitioner is left with no recourse but to abide by its terms. He, therefore, acted correctly when he eventually fully satisfied his obligation pursuant to the amicable settlement, thereby, rendering his case moot and academic.
When execution is course through a competent court, is it in the nature of an independent action or mere issuance of writ of execution?
The execution, when coursed through a competent court is in the nature of an independent action. In the case of Sebastian v. Lagmay Ng,13 the Supreme Court explained this in the following manner:
“A simple reading of Section 417 of the Local Government Code readily discloses the two-tiered mode of enforcement of an amicable settlement. The provision reads:14
“Section 417. Execution.- The amicable settlement or arbitration award may be enforced by execution by the lupon within six (6) months from the date of the settlement. After the lapse of such time, the settlement may be enforced by action in the appropriate city or municipal court. [Emphasis ours.]15
“Under this provision, an amicable settlement or arbitration award that is not repudiated within a period of ten (10) days from the settlement may be enforced by: first, execution by the Lupon within six (6) months from the date of the settlement; or second, by an action in the appropriate city or municipal trial court if more than six (6) months from the date of settlement has already elapsed.16
“Under the first mode of enforcement, the execution of an amicable settlement could be done on mere motion of the party entitled thereto before the Punong Barangay. The proceedings in this case are summary in nature and are governed by the Local Government Code and the Katarungang Pambarangay Implementing Rules and Regulations.17
“The second mode of enforcement, on the other hand, is judicial in nature and could only be resorted to through the institution of an action in a regular form before the proper City/Municipal Trial Court. The proceedings shall be governed by the provisions of the Rules of Court.”18
What are the cases that cannot be settled in barangay?
The cases that cannot be settled in barangay are enumerated in the negative under Revised Katarungang Pambarangay Law, thus:
I. All disputes are subject to Barangay conciliation pursuant to the Revised Katarungang Pambarangay Law (formerly P.D. 1508, repealed and now replaced by Secs. 399-422, Chapter VII, Title I, Book III, and Sec. 515, Title I, Book IV, R.A. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991), and prior recourse thereto is a pre-condition before filing a complaint in court or any government offices, except in the following disputes:19
1. Where one party is the government, or any subdivision or instrumentality thereof;20
2. Where one party is a public officer or employee, and the dispute relates to the performance of his official functions;21
3. Where the dispute involves real properties located in different cities and municipalities, unless the parties thereto agree to submit their difference to amicable settlement by an appropriate Lupon;22
4. Any complaint by or against corporations, partnership or juridical entities, since only individuals shall be parties to Barangay conciliation proceedings either as complainants or respondents (Sec. 1, Rule VI, Katarungang Pambarangay Rules);23
5. Disputes involving parties who actually reside in barangays of different cities or municipalities, except where such barangay units adjoin each other and the parties thereto agree to submit their differences to amicable settlement by an appropriate Lupon;24
6. Offenses for which the law prescribes a maximum penalty of imprisonment exceeding one (1) year or a fine over five thousand pesos (P5,000.00);25
7. Offenses where there is no private offended party;26
8. Disputes where urgent legal action is necessary to prevent injustice from being committed or further continued, specifically the following:27
b. Petitions for habeas corpus by a person illegally deprived of his rightful custody over another or a person illegally deprived or on acting in his behalf;29
c. Actions coupled with provisional remedies such as preliminary injunction, attachment, delivery of personal property and support during the pendency of the action; and30
d. Actions which may be barred by the Statute of Limitations.31
9. Any class of disputes which the President may determine in the interest of justice or upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Justice;32
10. Where the dispute arises from the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) (Sec. 46 & 47, R.A. 6657);33
11. Labor disputes or controversies arising from employer-employee relations (Montoya vs. Escayo, et al., 171 SCRA 442; Art. 226, Labor Code, as amended, which grants original and exclusive jurisdiction over conciliation and mediation of disputes, grievances or problems to certain offices of the Department of Labor and Employment);34
12. Actions to annul judgment upon a compromise which may be filed directly in court (See Sanchez vs. Tupaz, 158 SCRA 459).35
What body is tasked by law to administer the Katarungang Pambarangay?
In conciliation before the barangay, a body called Lupong Tagapamayapa is hereby created. The Punong Barangay appoints its members. Such appointment is the Punong Barangay’s sole and exclusive prerogative. Consequently, there is no need for approval or confirmation or ratification by the Sangguniang Barangay.36
The Punong Barangay has 15 days from the start of his/her term to prepare the list of the names of the proposed members of the Lupon which shall be no more than ten (10) to twenty (20) members.37
Katarungan Pambarangay Law is created to encourage amicable settlement between members of the same barangay who had disputes. This law is incorporated in the Local Government Code. It empowers the Lupon and other barangay officials to mediate between the parties involved. In effect, unburdening with case load of the courts.
Here, the parties are required to appear to the Lupon without lawyers, to expedient or lessen the complexities of their mediation.
Despite that this is not a formal court process, the result of this proceeding is given effect by law and becomes binding to the parties. In case they settled, their settlement will be executed by the Lupon not more than 6 months.
When the parties failed to settle, it is the only time that they can institute a case in the regular courts. Provided, they will be given certificate by the Lupon.
For cases covered under this law, compliance with this procedure is mandatory. In fact, a complaint becomes premature and is susceptible to dismissal on the ground of lack of cause of action of the complainant if the procedure is not followed.
However, when one party did not assail the non-compliance of the procedure and the case already undergo court proceeding, his right to assail is deemed waived. The Court will not be divested with jurisdiction over the case.
Overall, this law is effective in unburdening the regular courts with unnecessary cases involving members of the same barangay. Through continuous implementation of this law, the regular courts can focus on more important cases.
- Sections 399 – 422, Chapter VII, Katarungang Pambarangay, RA 7610
- PD 1508, System of Amicably Settling Disputes at the Barangay Level
- R.A. 7160, Section 410 [b]
- Section 410 [d], Ibid
- RA 7160, Section 415
- RA 7160, Section 417
- Katarungang Pambarangay Handbook, p. 46
- RA 7160, Section 418
- Id., Section 417
- G.R. No. L-71091. January 29, 1988
- G.R. No. 164594, April 22, 2015
- Supreme Court Circular No. 14-93 July 15, 1993
- RA 7160, Section 399