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The Story of the Philippine Legal System
Facifico A. Agabin

In partial fulfillment of the requirements for



Course Facilitator, UST Graduate School of Law


Atty. Rinchel E. Aurellana

LLM Candidate

15 June 2019

Book Review of

Mestizo: The Story of the Philippine Legal System
Pacifico A. Agabin

The book subject of this review is entitled “Mestizo: The Story of the

Philippine Legal System” authored by Pacifico A. Agabin. The book is

composed of twelve chapters discussing the origin and developments of

legal system in the Philippines commencing from pre-colonial period up to

the modern times. The authored started the discussion of legal system in

the Philippines by analyzing the social and commercial activities of

indigenous people or the early Filipinos who have their own set of

traditions serving as their social norms, the notion of property and

evolution of the customs into law. The first chapter also discussed the

concept of law of nature as well punishable acts during pre-colonial


Agabin then discussed the historical evolution of Islam in Mindanao its

impact on today’s Sharia Law being implemented in Muslim communities.

This chapter was then followed by the introduction of Civil Law System

during Spanish Period discussing introduction of western laws on family,

marriage, divorce, succession, properties, obligations, criminal law and the

adaptation of Roman laws. The author also made cross-references to

different philosophies of law during medieval period and the concept of


The author then moved to discuss the importation of common law system

during the American occupation and gave emphasis on the birth of

constitutionalism emphasizing that this is the foundation of American

legal concept. After discussing the evolution of Philippine Legal System

through the intercession of religions and two colonials, the authored

moved to discuss the birth legal system unique in the Philippines. He

termed it mestizo in such a way that our legal system are but combination

of different legal systems the foundation of which is constitutionalism

advocating substantive due process and procedural law. The book also

discussed further developments in different areas of law especially on the

civil and commercial transactions.

The author then discussed the rise of welfare state and focused on the

progress on laws on economic, social and cultural rights then moved on

one of the most significant era in terms of legal development specifically

the martial law during Marcos regime. The book also discussed the

modern legal developments especially the concept of positive liberty,

public corporations, GOCC and duality of function of government.

Further, the book discussed the rise of power of judiciary through the

judicialization of politics emphasizing the the elevation of status of

judiciary. Finally, Agabin discussed the globalization of law and reiterated

the of role of laws in our quest to participate in global activities.

Positive Observations

The presentation of legal developments in the Philippine in the context of

historical account and the progression of society gave the readers a deeper

understanding on how the current laws came to be. The contents of the

book especially on the historical account is well researched and his

citations will lead his reader to wider area of interest. His choice of

language is simple enough to comprehend yet elegantly put together. A

college graduate might find it a little to overwhelming but the topics

presented in the book can be considered a gem for those who are

interested in the area.

The presentation of chronological developments based on era in the

Philippines from early Filipinos, to Spanish Regime, then American

Occupation up to the recent modern time is also a stroke of genius in terms

of presentation of idea. While per era is composed of decades and perhaps

more, the author was able to present the progression of law taking into

account the developments of society and culture in the Philippines. I am

most interest in the integrational approach of Agabin where he explains

why a certain law came to under modern times by tracing its legal origin

especially the developments on legal systems of western countries. His

citations from other books are almost always at point and gave readers

another dimension and vibes. The author was able to me in the era where

he wants me to be.

Overall, Agabin was able to clearly explain why our legal system was

considered as mestizo legal system. The author was able to explain that

our legal system is a combination of our original culture, tradition,

customs, religion and imposition of colonial idealism and legal principles

based on early western civilization especially the legal norms under

Roman Law, the introduction of Civil and Criminal Law of Spanish legal

system and advent of constitutionalism and strong judiciary by American

legal system. From these various legal systems, Agabin was able to

explain how Philippines was able to come up with a unique legal system

from combinations of culture, religion and western concepts of our former

colonial masters.


The only lacking in his book is how the Japanese occupation affected our

current legal. While it is relatively shorts, there are various rulings of the

Supreme Court during the Japanese occupation that is noteworthy of

attention. Further, he can also discussed why there is no existing laws that

emanates from the Japanese colonizers and I’ll be delighted to see facts

and history lessons during this times.


The book is a must read for any history readers, law practitioners and legal

researchers. It provides an approach that will deepen the understanding

of Philippine legal system. The socio-legal approach of Agabin in a story-

telling type of description made the book reader friendly. His

chronological approach made the evolution of legal system in the

Philippines comprehensible. Further, Agabin’s research materials are

impeccable and his use of citation greatly complements his style of writing.