The barangay is the smallest political unit in the country, headed by a barangay captain and a barangay council composed of six councillors or “kagawad”. Several barangays comprise a city or municipality. Here in the Philippines, we have a system of meddling disputes by neighbours and residents of the same barangay or by adjoining barangays. It is called the Katarungang Pambarangay or the Barangay Justice System.
What are its benefits? According to the DILG:
“Citing a report submitted by the Bureau of Local Government Supervision, Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas said the estimated savings of P3,107,678,000 was determined as a result of the out-of-court settlement of a total of 327,124 disputes lodged before barangay lupons or lupong tagapamayapa throughout the country. The estimated government cost of adjudication per case is P9,500, according to the Supreme Court.
Roxas said that a total of 425,263 cases were filed in the different lupons nationwide in 2013, of which 77 percent or 327,124 were settled, and only 23 percent or 98,139 were not.
Region 1 (Ilocos Region) accounted for the highest percentage of settled cases with 88.22 percent, followed by Region 8 (Eastern Visayas) with 87.28 percent, and Region IV-B (MIMAROPA) with 86.55 percent, he said.
According to the DILG Secretary, of the 327,124 settled cases, majority of the cases or 251,894 were settled through mediation, 63,651 through conciliation, and 11,579 through arbitration.
The nature of disputes included 161,562 criminal cases, 179,280 civil cases, and 84,421 others.
On the other hand, of the 98,139 unsettled cases, 35,898 are still ongoing, 2,606 were repudiated, 4,924 withdrawn, 32,588 dismissed, 5,177 referred to concerned agencies, and 16,946 issued a certification to file action in court.”
In other words, the barangay justice system is a vital cog in our justice system, by declogging our already clogged courts and resolving disputes among neighbors.
Here are some things you need to know about our barangay justice system:
01. The power to adjudicate the Katarungang Pambarangay is lodged in the Lupong Tagapamayapa, composed of the punong barangay, as chairman and ten (10) to twenty (20) members, which is constituted every three years.
02. Any person may be appointed to the Lupong Tagapamayapa, as long as he is is not expressly disqualified by law, and possessing integrity, impartiality, independence of mind, sense of fairness, and reputation for probity.
03. From the appointed Lupong Tagapamayapa, three members each shall constitute a Pangkat ng Tagapagkasundo, which shall be the conciliation panel. In every dispute before the barangay, the parties shall choose three members of the lupon as their conciliation panel. Draw lots shall be resorted to if the parties do not agree on the membership of the pangkat.
04. What are cases covered by the Katarungang Pambarangay? The lupon of each barangay shall have authority to bring together the parties actually residing in the same city or municipality for amicable settlement of all disputes except:
- (a) Where one party is the government, or any subdivision or instrumentality thereof;
- (b) Where one party is a public officer or employee, and the dispute relates to the performance of his official functions;
- (c) Offenses punishable by imprisonment exceeding one (1) year or a fine exceeding Five thousand pesos (P5,000.00);
- (d) Offenses where there is no private offended party;
- (e) Where the dispute involves real properties located in different cities or municipalities unless the parties thereto agree to submit their differences to amicable settlement by an appropriate lupon;
- (f) 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;
- (g) Such other classes of disputes which the President may determine in the interest of justice or upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Justice.
05. What barangay exercises jurisdiction over a particular case? Republic Act 7160 also provides venue for settlement of barangay cases as follows:
- (a) Disputes between persons actually residing in the same barangay shall be brought for amicable settlement before the lupon of said barangay.
- (b) Those involving actual residents of different barangays within the same city or municipality shall be brought in the barangay where the respondent or any of the respondents actually resides, at the election of the complainant.
- (c) All disputes involving real property or any interest therein shall be brought in the barangay where the real property or the larger portion thereof is situated.
- (d) Those arising at the workplace where the contending parties are employed or at the institution where such parties are enrolled for study, shall be brought in the barangay where such workplace or institution is located.
06. The following cases need not go through conciliation process in the barangay:
- (1) Where the accused is under detention;
- (2) Where a person has otherwise been deprived of personal liberty calling for habeas corpus proceedings;
- (3) Where actions are coupled with provisional remedies such as preliminary injunction, attachment, delivery of personal property and support pendente lite; and
- (4) Where the action may otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations.
07. Bear in mind, no complaint, petition, action, or proceeding involving any matter within the authority of the lupon shall be filed or instituted directly in court or any other government office for adjudication, unless there has been a confrontation between the parties before the lupon chairman or the pangkat, and that no conciliation or settlement has been reached as certified by the lupon secretary or pangkat secretary as attested to by the lupon or pangkat chairman or unless the settlement has been repudiated by the parties thereto.
08. The amicable settlement and arbitration award shall have the force and effect of a final judgment of a court upon the expiration of ten (10) days from the date thereof, unless repudiation of the settlement has been made or a petition to nullify the award has been filed before the proper city or municipal court.
09. Lawyers are not allowed to represent parties in the conciliation proceedings, unless the lawyer himself is a party in the case.
10. A winning party may move for execution of the decision by the lupin within six months, after which, he shall file his action to enforce judgment with the proper court.
11. All amicable settlements shall be in writing, in a language or dialect known to the parties, signed by them, and attested to by the lupon chairman or the pangkat chairman, as the case may be. When the parties to the dispute do not use the same language or dialect, the settlement shall be written in the language known to them.
12. Only upon failure by the parties to agree on a settlement may the appropriate Certificate to File Action issued by the Secretary of the Lupon. Take note that during the period of conciliation proceedings, the prescriptive period is suspended until such time that the certificate to file action is issued. However, the suspension shall not last more than 60 days.
It pays to know your rights under the law. What may or may not be covered by the Katarungang Pambarangay is a matter provided for by law. Not every case falls within the purview of the barangay justice system. On the other hand, some cases require the mediation of the lupon for it to be properly cognizable by our courts, failure of which may lead to the dismissal of your case.