Essay: Logical Fallacies in SC Decisions

The following are examples of logical fallacy as used in SC decisions:

1. Legal and Judicial Ethics – Nonsequitur

As Rosa’s prayer for relief suggests, what she wants is for this Court to annul her marriage on the bases of its findings in A.C. No. 5333. Obviously, she is of the impression that since her charges in A.C. No. 5333 were found to be true, justifying the suspension of Justo from the practice of law, the same charges are also sufficient to prove his psychological incapacity to comply with the essential marital obligations.
Her premise is of course non-sequitur.
Accordingly, one’s unfitness as a lawyer does not automatically mean one’s unfitness as a husband or vice versa. The yardsticks for such roles are simply different. This is why the disposition in a disbarment case cannot be conclusive on an action for declaration of nullity of marriage. While Rosa’s charges sufficiently proved Justo’s unfitness as a lawyer, however, they may not establish that he is psychologically incapacitated to perform his duties as a husband. (Paras v Paras, GR No. 147824, August 2, 2007).

2. Labor Law – Hasty Generalization

We find appellant, despite her denial, to have been engaged in the practice of illegal recruitment in large scale and thus violated the provisions of Article 38 (a) and (b) in relation to Article 39 (a) and Article 13 (b) and (c) of the Labor Code.]
Appellant’s argument is less than convincing. In the face of direct and positive evidence presented by four complainants against her, the appellant could interpose only the defense of denial. She would want the trial court to make her denial prevail over the testimonies and documents presented by the prosecution. However, nothing on record would show any ill-motive or bias whatsoever that would taint the prosecution’s evidence. It thus becomes impossible for an objective judge to overturn, without legal basis, precedents which maintain that denial is a self-serving negative evidence that cannot be given greater weight than the declaration of credible witnesses who testified on affirmative matters. Between categorical statements of prosecution witnesses, on the one hand, and bare denials of the accused, on the other hand, the former must perforce prevail. All of the witnesses testified to having personally met the accused; they averred that she asked from them a sum of money in exchange for the promised employment overseas. Moreover, exhibits were presented in the form of receipts issued by and copies of the documentary requirements submitted to appellant. For appellant to say that she was merely chosen as a scapegoat for appellees’ misfortune, having failed to bring the alleged real recruiter to justice, does not appear well founded. It is but a hasty generalization of no probative significance. Without credible evidence proferred by the defense, bad faith or ulterior motive could not be imputed on the part of the appellees in pointing to the accused as the illegal recruiter who victimized them. When there is no showing that the principal witnesses for the prosecution were actuated by improper motive, the presumption is that the witnesses were not so actuated and their testimonies are thus entitled to full faith and credit. (Alert Security and Investigation Agency Inc v. Pasawilan, GR No. 182397, September 14, 2011).

3. Civil Law – Circular Argument

Appellees argue that what Article 16 of the Civil Code of the Philippines pointed out as the national law is the internal law of California. But as above explained the laws of California have prescribed two sets of laws for its citizens, one for residents therein and another for those domiciled in other jurisdictions. Reason demands that We should enforce the California internal law prescribed for its citizens residing therein, and enforce the conflict of laws rules for the citizens domiciled abroad. If we must enforce the law of California as in comity we are bound to go, as so declared in Article 16 of our Civil Code, then we must enforce the law of California in accordance with the express mandate thereof and as above explained, i.e., apply the internal law for residents therein, and its conflict-of-laws rule for those domiciled abroad.
It is argued on appellees’ behalf that the clause “if there is no law to the contrary in the place where the property is situated” in Sec. 946 of the California Civil Code refers to Article 16 of the Civil Code of the Philippines and that the law to the contrary in the Philippines is the provision in said Article 16 that the national law of the deceased should govern. This contention can not be sustained. As explained in the various authorities cited above the national law mentioned in Article 16 of our Civil Code is the law on conflict of laws in the California Civil Code, i.e., Article 946, which authorizes the reference or return of the question to the law of the testator’s domicile. The conflict of laws rule in California, Article 946, Civil Code, precisely refers back the case, when a decedent is not domiciled in California, to the law of his domicile, the Philippines in the case at bar. The court of the domicile can not and should not refer the case back to California; such action would leave the issue incapable of determination because the case will then be like a football, tossed back and forth between the two states, between the country of which the decedent was a citizen and the country of his domicile. The Philippine court must apply its own law as directed in the conflict of laws rule of the state of the decedent, if the question has to be decided, especially as the application of the internal law of California provides no legitime for children while the Philippine law, Arts. 887(4) and 894, Civil Code of the Philippines, makes natural children legally acknowledged forced heirs of the parent recognizing them. (In the Matter of the Testate Estate of Edward Christensen v. Helen Christensen Garcia, GR No. 16749, January 31, 1963).

4. Remedial Law – Fallacy of Composition

The petitioners further theorize that Section 1 (3) of PD 1866 is invalid because it gives the public prosecutor an option not to file a case for rebellion and instead file as many crimes for murder, frustrated murder, etc. as might have been perpetrated in furtherance of, or incident to, or in connection with rebellion, insurrection or subversion. The argument is not tenable. The fact is that the Revised Penal Code treats rebellion or insurrection as a crime distinct from murder, homicide, arson, or other felonies that might conceivably be committed in the course of a rebellion. It is the Code, therefore, in relation to the evidence in the hands of the public prosecutor, and not the latter’s whim or caprice, which gives the choice. The Code allows, for example, separate prosecutions for eithermurder or rebellion, although not for both where the indictment alleges that the former has been committed in furtherance of or in connection with the latter. Surely, whether people are killed or injured in connection with a rebellion, or not, the deaths or injuries of the victims are no less real, and the grief of the victims’ families no less poignant.
Moreover, it certainly is within the power of the legislature to determine what acts or omissions other than those set out in the Revised Penal Code or other existing statutes are to be condemned as separate, individual crimes and what penalties should be attached thereto. The power is not diluted or improperly wielded simply because at some prior time the act or omission was but an element or ingredient of another offense, or might usually have been connected with another crime. (Baylosis v. Chavez, GR No. 95136, October 3, 1991)

5. Criminal Law – Overzealous Application of General Rule

It may be argued that one who enters the dwelling house of another is not liable unless he has been forbidden — i.e., the phrase “against the will of the owner” means that there must have been an express prohibition to enter. In other words, if one enters the dwelling house of another without the knowledge of the owner he has not entered against his will. This construction is certainly not tenable, because entrance is forbidden generally under the spirit of the law unless permission to enter is expressly given. To allow this construction would destroy the very spirit of the law. Under the law no one has the right to enter the home of another without the other’s express consent. Therefore, to say that one’s home is open for the entrance of all who are not expressly forbidden. This is not the rule. The statute must not be given that construction. No one can enter the dwelling house of another, in there Islands, without rendering himself liable under the law, unless he has the express consent of the owner and unless the one seeking entrance comes within some of the exceptions dictated by the law or by a sound public policy. (US v. Arceo, GR No. 1491, March 5, 1904).

6. Political Law – Ad Hominem

Applying these precepts to this case, Executive Order No. 1 should be struck down as violative of the equal protection clause. The clear mandate of the envisioned truth commission is to investigate and find out the truth “concerning the reported cases of graft and corruption during the previous administration” only. The intent to single out the previous administration is plain, patent and manifest.
The reports of widespread corruption in the Arroyo administration cannot be taken as basis for distinguishing said administration from earlier administrations which were also blemished by similar widespread reports of impropriety. They are not inherent in, and do not inure solely to, the Arroyo administration. As Justice Isagani Cruz put it, “Superficial differences do not make for a valid classification.”
The insinuations that the members of the majority are impelled by improper motives, being countermajoritarian and allowing graft and corruption to proliferate with impunity are utterly baseless. Not only are these sort of ad hominem attacks and populist appeals to emotion fallacious, they are essentially non-legal arguments that have no place in a debate regarding constitutionality. At the end of the day, Justices of this Court must vote according to their conscience and their honest belief of what the law is in a particular case. That is what gives us courage to stand by our actions even in the face of the harshest criticism. Those who read our opinions, if they are truly discerning, will be able to determine if we voted on points of law and if any one of us was merely pandering to the appointing power. (Biraogo v. The Philippine Truth Commission of 2010, GR No. 192935, December 7, 2010).

8. Taxation Law – Ambiguity and Ignorance

The appellant’s brief says:
The lower court held that the plaintiff was not subject to the tax on consignments abroad, because it was not a merchant according to the definition of same given in section 1459 of the Revised Administrative Code. It is true that the plaintiff is not and never has been engaged in the sale, barter, or exchange of personal property of any character in the Philippine Islands (paragraph IV of Agreed Statement of Facts). It should be taken into consideration, however, that the plaintiff is a manufacturing corporation, licensed to transact business in this country and is engaged in the manufacture and sale of coconut and other oils in the United States (paragraph I of Agreed Statements of Facts). Inasmuch as plaintiff manufactures and sells oil, it comes within the definition of a merchant given in section 1459 above mentioned, which includes manufacturers who sell articles of their own production.”
The last statement is not tenable. The record shows that the plaintiff never did manufacture or sell oil in the Philippine Islands. That it only manufactures and sells oil in the United States. It is further contended that the plaintiff is the consignor of the copra and, as such, is liable of the payment of the tax. The contention is in direct conflict with clause two of the “Agreed Statement of Facts,” above quoted. (El Dorado Oil Works v. The Collector of Internal Revenue, GR No. 20101, July 12, 1923).

9. Commercial Law – Hasty Generalization

It is argued, however, that as the check had been made payable to “cash” and had not been endorsed by Ang Tek Lian, the defendant is not guilty of the offense charged. Based on the proposition that “by uniform practice of all banks in the Philippines a check so drawn is invariably dishonored,” the following line of reasoning is advanced in support of the argument:
. . . When, therefore, he (the offended party ) accepted the check (Exhibit A) from the appellant, he did so with full knowledge that it would be dishonored upon presentment. In that sense, the appellant could not be said to have acted fraudulently because the complainant, in so accepting the check as it was drawn, must be considered, by every rational consideration, to have done so fully aware of the risk he was running thereby.” (Brief for the appellant, p. 11.)
We are not aware of the uniformity of such practice. Instances have undoubtedly occurred wherein the Bank required the indorsement of the drawer before honoring a check payable to “cash.” But cases there are too, where no such requirement had been made . It depends upon the circumstances of each transaction.
Of course, if the bank is not sure of the bearer’s identity or financial solvency, it has the right to demand identification and /or assurance against possible complications, — for instance, (a) forgery of drawer’s signature, (b) loss of the check by the rightful owner, (c) raising of the amount payable, etc. The bank may therefore require, for its protection, that the indorsement of the drawer — or of some other person known to it — be obtained. But where the Bank is satisfied of the identity and /or the economic standing of the bearer who tenders the check for collection, it will pay the instrument without further question; and it would incur no liability to the drawer in thus acting. (Lian v. Court of Appeals, GR No. 2516, September 25, 1950).


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