Law is a rule laid down for the guidance of an intelligent being by having power over him. Explain


The rule of law is essential in any society where human rights are to be protected. It acts as a safeguard for human rights firstly by guaranteeing them legally and secondly providing a means for redressal where violations occur. Punishments awarded in such cases also serve a as deterrent against further abuse.

Most of the problems with protecting human rights occur at one of the above levels. Either the legislation in place does not effectively protect human rights or redressal mechanisms are faulty because of rampant corruption etc. Victims then have nowhere to turn and the guilty go free.

Thus reform aimed at better protection of human rights requires firstly that international and national legislation meets some basic requirements that guarantee adequate protection. Compensatory and retributory measures should be also be accessible to all and be properly implemented.


The word rule comes from “regle” and law from “lagu” roughly translating to “supremacy of law”.[1]The basic function of rule of law is to ensure justice, peace and order in society. It has the two following aspects:

 a. Substantive Content:

This implies that the content of law should reflect the basic standards of society, exhibit regularity and consistency and place the human personality above all else. It should include freedom from government intervention and right to minimum material means. Thus the obligation of citizens to obey the law should arise out of its morally justifiable nature.

b. Procedural Machinery:

This includes legal institutions, procedures and traditions all of which must pay attention to the judgment of individuals and the values of society. The legislature, executive, judiciary and the legal profession have a part to play.[2]

One definition of the rule of law is:

“The idea of law based on respect for the supreme value of human personality and all power in the state being derived and exercised in accordance with the law”. Alternatively, it may be understood as:

“The safeguards offered by principles, institutions and procedures, different weight being attached to them in different parts of the world”.[3]

The rule of law, comprising the principles of equality and due process, exists in different forms in each country. It may be contained in the power of judicial review, the separation of powers, the doctrine of ultra vires (prevents state organs from proceeding beyond their scope), principles of equity and statutory interpretation.[4]


The concept of rule of law was first written about by the Greek thinkers. Plato, in his work “The Laws” writes “In any great state, the law must be the ultimate sovereign, and not any person whatsoever” exhibiting a clear understanding of rule of law. Aristotle too, in “Politics” says that “the legislator’s task is to frame a society that shall make the good life possible”.[5]

The Magna Carta (1215) contains several clauses that reflect the principles of rule of law among them clause XXXIX – ““No freeman shall be arrested or imprisoned or deprived of his land or banished or in any way molested save by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land”.

In the modern period, John Locke the propounder of one of the Social Contract Theories, laid down several principles of the rule of law in the course of his work. Firstly, the same laws must exist for “for the favourite at Court, and the countryman at plough”. Secondly, laws should be designed for the good of the people. Thirdly, the state cannot raise property taxes without the consent of the people. Fourthly, the legislative may not transfer law making power to any other body.[6]

 Later, in England, restitutionary measures were afforded to anyone affected by the excessive and unlawful use of authority. It was also laid down that the state had to be guided by reasonable standards and remain within legally prescribed limits.[7]


A man-on-the-street’s perception of the rule of law operates within a narrow context that the rule of law is a regime that is not governed by the “law of the jungle”, or the “law of the streets” or the “rule of the mob”.  He identifies rule of law with “law and order” and ultimately associates the same with the competence and effectiveness of the law enforcers, peacemakers or even the courts.  The newspaper and tabloid headlines scream and the average man in society “gets excited” when a controversial figure like Jalosjos gets embroiled in a rape scandal, when a political fugitive like Gringo Honasan is able to elude the authorities under the guise of a woman or when Trillanes fails in his attempt to lead a pseudo “Pied Piper” march from the Makati RTC to the famed Peninsula Hotel.  When political or highly controversial figures are made to stand before the law, it is undeniable that the integrity of the judicial process is itself put to judgment by the “law of public opinion” and the “law of the streets”.  Broadly conceived, under the rule of law – no politician, public official or private citizen – no one stands above or beyond the control of the law.  Both the citizenry and the government are mandated to submit to its supremacy. The relationships between the government and the citizens are bound by a set of rules, with the key element that disputes arising therefrom are decided in accordance with laws that are known, stable, and with equal application to all.  This is a simple and practical workable understanding of the rule of law.



The United Nations’ definition of rule of law refers to a principle of governance in which all persons, public and private institutions and entities, including  the  State  itself,  are  accountable  to  laws  that  are publicly promulgated,  equally enforced, independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with  international  human  rights,  norms  and  standards.[8]A World Bank definition of rule of law is that it is a “legal-political regime under which the law restrains the government by promoting certain liberties and creating order and predictability regarding how a country functions.  In the most basic sense, the rule of law is a system that attempts to protect the rights of citizens from arbitrary and abusive use of government power.”[9]A careful reading of both definitions finds a parallel ground lying between two sectors.  We have the government in the exercise of its powers and the citizens in the exercise of their rights, with the law having dominion on both sectors.The United Nations’ definition focuses on accountability before the law, while the World Bank definition centers on the protection of citizens against abusive government power.



In discussing the rule of law, the views of Albert Venn Dicey put forth in his “Introduction to the Law of the Constitution”, are indispensable. His notions have been debated and criticized by other authors and thinkers. To him the main components of rule of law are:

  • No one may be punished (either in body or goods) unless he has committed a breach of law, this law having been established by the ordinary courts in the ordinary legal manner.
  • There exists one law for all citizens and no one is above the law of the land.

The General principles laid out in the Constitution. He advocates that such rights be guaranteed by an unwritten constitution as in England where

  • Fundamental rights have been set down over time through case law. This way, these rights cannot be taken away even during an emergency because to do so would require the destruction of the entire legal system.[10]

However the supremacy of the Parliament in England which takes away the power of judicial review from the courts undermines the rule of law.[11]



The International Commission of Jurists have held numerous conferences on the rule of law attempting to provide a clear and comprehensive definition of rule of law and better measures of implementation in the context of protecting human rights.

The first congress met in 1955 at Athens and gave effect to the Act of Athens. This was followed by conferences at Delhi (January 1959), Lagos and Nigeria in Africa (1961), Rio de Janeiro (1962), Bangkok (1965) and Colombo (1966).[12]

The Commission has played an important role by specifying the basic requirements of a society under the rule of law and providing insights into the subject in the context of the legislature, executive, judiciary, the legal profession and even the layman. Lawyers form different countries have been exhorted to achieve consensus on the issue and promote the rule of law.



To a common citizen, this will simply mean that our laws are superior to the men mandated to implement the same. To the mind of a struggling law student, it means that despite the unfortunate reality that constantly haunts his everyday life relative to the infidelity in the execution of the laws he painstakingly endeavors to master, the phrase “a nation of laws” connotes his whole law-lifetime of bringing about a better change in the best way he knows how.

The rule of law is theoretically a concept alien to most people who know what it means but do not have the correct term for it. It is regrettably an idea that seems to have escaped the contemplation of our leaders. It is presumably a notion that is innately embedded in the nation’s heart. It is also a lamentable reality that to a common Filipino, the rule of law has no better role to play in the development of our country. This image within the realm of republicanism and due process has for its purpose the prevention of the concentration of authority in one person or group of persons that might lead to an irreversible error or abuse in its exercise to the detriment of republican institutions.[13] Ultimately, it demands that there be no status or age or degree of capacity before the eyes of the law. It is in this sense that the poorest and the richest, the strongest and the weakest become equivalents of each other. Development, on the other hand, is the processes of making possibilities evolve.[14] National development, then, connotes the recuperation of our ailing motherland. In practical terms, it means that every Filipino has a spoonful of food to put into his mouth during the hours universally designated as mealtime. In political terms, it means coming into agreements with other nations so that our own can derive the most benefits out of its natural and human resources without compromising a great deal of national pride in the process. In economic terms, it means being able to increase our Annual Income to augment our international debt and to combat the continuous decline of the peso making it of less and less value. In an almost spiritual term, it means to win the war against the loss of faith of every Filipino in any God that our nation has chosen to embrace. Intimately related to the rule of law and national development is public administration. According to Savage, it is a powerful, necessary, but not always sufficient instrument for man’s mastery of the terms of his existence.[15] Moreover, according to Appleby, public administration is not merely “management” as ordinarily treated in technical terms, or “administration” as ordinarily treated with only a slightly broader meaning. It is public leadership of public affairs directly responsible for executive action in terms that respect and contribute to the dignity, the worth, and the potentialities of a citizen.[16] In the Philippines, law and public administration have been the subjects of one too many recorded discussions relating to the question of the efficacy of our government and its officials to carry out the command of their seats of power and to put into operation the rule of law. They have been the groundwork of the success or failure of politics in this country; the very foundation that translates values such as integrity and service into actuality; and the explanation to the inquiries associated with the future of this nation.[17]Having laid this groundwork, the question is asked: what is the role of the rule of law in national development? To attempt to answer this query, it is imperative that the student not only re-evaluate his own understanding of these concepts but likewise open his eyes to the inevitable reality that makes these concepts operative in the space in which he thrives. Among others, the rule of law is supposed to serve as the framework for public administration to be effective. It is meant to equalize the attempts of the members of government at political engineering and balance this with their respective accountabilities to the people they have vowed to serve. Fundamentally, the rule of law is the source of hope for the inhabitants of a territory so that their rights will equally be enforced and protected because the law is essentially the source of power of the government the same inhabitants have opted to adopt. To say it with the least legalese, as national development is anchored upon an uncompromising rule of law, common sense will tell us that the only way to make our system work and ultimately to alleviate the status of this country that has remained to be classified as “developing” despite the drastic change of events in the international arena, is for our laws to be implemented as strictly as they are written on the pages of the Legislative Journals. The rule of law is likewise intended to be the basis of justice. Under its careful watch, everyone is given what is due them and those who are shameless enough to take more are theoretically subjected to its wrath like any other mortal who caused displeasure to the gods. To equate this argument with the role the rule of law has to play in national development; reality will tell us that in order for this nation to move forward, the service of justice to whomever it is due should be the primordial task of any person who claims to be a public administrator. In the private relations of men, the rule of law is anticipated to provide for an unwritten rule that will govern the conduct of their affairs. Operating on this premise, this concept is the quintessential norm that every person has to abide by. More than the relationship of a citizen to his government, his daily transaction with every other citizen must likewise bow to this principle if only because the rule of law does not only imply justice but equity as well. And equity having been defined as justice outside the law, it is equally important that men, no matter their stature, are placed on the same playing field and moving on the same rules that cannot be whimsically changed in the middle of the game. Hence, the role of the rule of law in national development can be stated in a simple sentence: it is supposed to make this nation what its forefathers fought for it to be – self-sustaining, self-reliant, sovereign, and most importantly, special. To ponder upon this, one would surmise that it is not a very simple task at all. This idea of making all the people within the jurisdiction of the Philippines bow to its laws is fascinating. It spells out democracy in its truest sense in that before the eyes of the law, everyone stands on an equal plane. It is a promise that nobody will have the temerity to even think of ways to circumvent the laws as the crux of a democracy evolves around the principle of checks and balances. And, in a democratic state such as ours, it is the judiciary that equalizes the legislation and execution of our laws in order that the common good may be adhered to. This, because, as Justice Teehankee so aptly said “to all human beings, the denial of justice is a mortal assault on life itself. Where the human spirit is brutalized by abuses and inequities, the ultimate hope for liberalization lies in the force of arms unless the courts can effectively enforce the rule of law[18].”To the student, the rule of law is more than just a part of a Supreme Court decision.[19] It is essential to nation building because absent a set of rules that governs human conduct and relations, the state is but an institution possessed of the requisites but without any significance at all. More importantly, absent compliance with these rules makes a mockery out of state sovereignty that makes it unique in the League of Nations. Maybe, this is why our more sensitive legislators have aspired to give our laws stronger legs to stand on and sharper teeth to puncture with. This is why they have created acts that make even the occupant of the highest seat of the land obey supposedly. However, as is always said, some things happen “only in the Philippines.”National development being dependent upon public administration, and the latter being built around the law itself, one will wonder why the Filipino nation has sunken this deep.

The answer is obvious. Sometimes, the most powerful person in this country declares an exception and then clothes this utter disregard for justice and the truth with a term invented by lawyers – executive prerogative. Sometimes, the men who are disguised as our lawmakers forget that the goal is national development and make the halls of Congress an avenue for the development of personal interests. Once more, they hide beneath another phrase invented by lawyers – legislative prerogative. Somewhere along the way, the rule of law was set aside and lawyers have likewise invented a term for this – tyranny. Recently, the President exercised her executive prerogative of granting pardon to her predecessor whose impeachment and resignation she so persistently pressed to happen. She allowed for the trial to pursue. She permitted a judgment to be rendered. And then, by a technique not all too often used and expected, the accused sought for a review of the decision but withdrew the same and waited for the decision to become final and executor. The rest was predictable. And while the student is compassionate about the plight of the ousted President and his supporters, he feels nothing but dismay for the trial that seemed to him a play staged for the entire nation to cry, laugh, and feel jubilant and appalled all at the same time. The efforts of the State Prosecutor proved to be in vain. Maybe, had he known of the plot of this story, he would not have exerted the same effort at trying to make the truth come out. Of course, the Filipino nation is forgiving. We are taught to be that. But forgiveness in the guise of a political strategy is nothing but hypocrisy. How do we expect national development to arise out of this scheme that does not respect boundaries at all? Where can we find the rule of law in the territory of checks and balances where the demarcation line is drawn by the brilliantly crooked minds of our politicians to serve not the common good but their own selfish interests? In this scene, where does the rule of law find its place in national development? Is the common Filipino correct at saying that there really is no role to be played? As said, the development of this country affixes its magnitude upon how well our leaders adhere to the rule of law. This is so because like every other concept, this phrase is something that is conceived in the mind; it is abstract; a generic idea[20] that has to be put within the ambit of an imaginable realism. To the student’s mind, this realism should not be very far off if only we, as a people, come into terms with the undeniable fact that our laws are sufficient and they are there. The only aspect we need to work on to fully progress together is the faithfulness in the observance of the time-honored principle of the rule of law. This principle is an echo that reverberates in the student’s ear. It is a mantra that provides for the much-needed inspiration for the student to overcome the adversities that he voluntarily assumed to face in law school. It is the very meaning of his journey to the attainment of sufficient knowledge to become not only a member of the Bar but also to live up to the obligations of that higher place, which society has allowed him to occupy. The issue in that classroom some few years ago was whether or not it will take an exemplary generation to make an exceptional decision to make national development a reality for the benefit of the generation to whom it will bequeath its history, its battles, and its victory. The issue of this essay is the role of the rule of law in national development. It is about how these principles could be merged so that my generation can proudly pass a better nation to the next. The rule of law is bound to play in terms of national development has been staring me point blank to my face throughout the years. It is supposed to transform its promising nature from a snapshot to a moving picture. It is meant to be the backbone of an effective national advancement. It is intended to have been the key to our nation’s seemingly incurable problems. It is supposed to put our country on the map.


From the above discussion we can easily understand the role of law in human life that spread from cradle to death. It controls our every activity for leading a proper life. We cannot avoid the role of law in our life. Without law life will be boundless. So law is a part and parcel of human life.


  1. Prof. P. Surianarayanan, Development of Rule of Law (1sted., Madurai: Madurai   Kamraj University, 1983)
    1. N. S. Marsh, International Commission of Jurists – The Rule of Law in a   Free   Society (Switzerland, 1959)
    2. T. R. S. Allan, Constitutional Justice – A Liberal Theory of the Rule of Law       (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)
    3. Appadorai, The Substance of Politics (11th ed., Madras: Oxford University Press, 1975)
    4.   International Commission of Jurists, The Rule of Law and Human Rights: Principles and Definitions (Geneva, 1966)
    5.   The Rule of Law and Transitional Justice, Report of the Secretary-General,   23 August 2004.
    6. Isagani Cruz. Outline Reviewer in Political Law. (Quezon City: VJ Graphic Arts, Inc. 2006).
    7. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. (Massachusetts, U.S.A.: G & C  Merriam Company. 1979).
    8.  Ranney, Austin.  Governing An Introduction to Political Science. (Singapore: Prentice Hall

Simon and Schuster (Asia) Pte Ltd.1995.)

  1.   Appleby, Paul. Public Administration and Democracy. In The Dimensions of   Public Administration. Ed by Uveges, J.A. (Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon,  Inc. 1975.)
  2.   Uella Vida V. Mancenido. “The Hands That Mold.” San Beda Law Journal Vol. XLIX, March 2007
  3.   Illagan v. Enrile, 139 SCRA 649. Dissenting Opinion.
  4.   Villavicencio v. Lukban, 39 Phil.778.
  5.   Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. (Massachusetts, U.S.A.: G & C  Merriam Company.1979).

[1] Prof. P. Surianarayanan, Development of Rule of Law (1st ed., Madurai: Madurai Kamraj University, 1983) at 3.

[2] N. S. Marsh, International Commission of Jurists – The Rule of Law in a Free Society (Switzerland, 1959) at 191.

[3] Ibid at 196-197.

[4] T. R. S. Allan, Constitutional Justice – A Liberal Theory of the Rule of Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001) at 1-29.

[5] Supra note 1, at 6-8.

[6] Ibid at 8-9.

[7] Ibid at 9-13.

[8] The Rule of Law and Transitional Justice, Report of the Secretary-General, 23 August 2004.

[9] Yu, Helen and Alison Guernsey, University of Iowa, What is the Rule of Law?

[10] A. Appadorai, The Substance of Politics (11th ed., Madras: Oxford University Press, 1975) at 279-280.

[11] Supra note 4, at 13-15.

[12] International Commission of Jurists, The Rule of Law and Human Rights: Principles and Definitions (Geneva, 1966) at 1-4.

[13] Isagani Cruz. Outline Reviewer in Political Law. (Quezon City: VJ Graphic Arts, Inc. 2006).

[13] Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. (Massachusetts, U.S.A.: G & C Merriam Company. 1979).

 [15] Ranney, Austin.  Governing An Introduction to Political Science. (Singapore: Prentice Hall

Simon and Schuster (Asia) Pte Ltd.1995.)

[16]Appleby, Paul. Public Administration and Democracy. In The Dimensions of Public Administration. Ed by Uveges, J.A. (Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon, Inc. 1975.)

[17] Uella Vida V. Mancenido. “The Hands That Mold.” San Beda Law Journal Vol. XLIX, March 2007. p. 34

[18] Illagan v. Enrile, 139 SCRA 649. Dissenting Opinion.

 [19] Villavicencio v. Lukban, 39 Phil.778.

[20] Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. (Massachusetts, U.S.A.: G & C Merriam Company.1979).