I had a disagreement with my neighbor. We hurled threatening words at each other, and we ended up in a fight. I wanted to file a case against him for threats and physical injuries. To my surprise, I was told that I should go to the barangay (village) council first. Do I really have to go to the council? When can I not go through barangay conciliation? Please advise.
Dear Brian M.,
The Katarungang Pambarangay system aims to promote the speedy disposition of cases, minimize the indiscriminate filing of cases in courts, and in effect, decongest the court dockets and enhance the quality of justice dispensed by the courts. In establishing a Katarungang Pambarangay system, the State recognizes the time-honored tradition of amicably settling disputes among family and barangay members at the barangay level (Presidential Decree (PD) 1508). In fact, settling the matter before the barangay is required by the Supreme Court as a condition for filing a complaint in court for cases covered by the system (Supreme Court Administrative Circular 14-93 issued on July 15, 1993).
As a general rule, all disputes may be the subject of barangay conciliation before the Katarungang Pambarangay, except for the following disputes:
(1) Where one party is the government or any subdivision or instrumentality thereof;
(2) Where one party is a public officer or employer, and the dispute relates to the performance of his official functions;
(3) Offenses punishable by imprisonment exceeding one year or a fine exceeding P5,000;
(4) Where there is no private offended party;
(5) Where the dispute involves real property located in different cities or municipalities unless the parties thereto agree to submit their differences to amicable settlement by an appropriate lupon (panel);
(6) Disputes involving parties who actually reside in barangay of different cities, except where such barangay units adjoin each other and the parties thereto agree to submit their differences to amicable settlement and by an appropriate lupon;
(7)Such other classes or disputeswhich the President may determine in the interest of justice or upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Justice (Sec. 408, Book 3, Title 1, Chapter 7, Republic Act or RA 7160).
In addition thereto, parties may go directly to court if the accused is under detention, or the person involved is otherwise deprived of personal liberty and needs habeas corpus proceedings, the action to be filed is coupled with provisional remedies such as attachment, injunction, delivery of personal property and support pendente lite, and where the action may be barred by the statute of limitations (Article 412b, Book III, Title I, Chapter 1, RA 7160).
According to your letter, you desire to file a complaint for physical injuries and threats against your neighbor. If the complaint you desire to file does not fall under any of the instances we have mentioned, then you must file the necessary complaint before the barangay to settle the matter before the lupon. If the conciliation proceedings before the barangay should fail, then you may request a Certificate to File Action, so you can file the appropriate complaint against your neighbor before the court or the office of the prosecutor. The certificate is a proof of compliance that you brought the matter before the barangay before filing it in court.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org