Bill of Attainder

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A Bill of Attainder is a legislative act which inflicts punishment without trial. Its essence is the substitution of a legislative act for a judicial determination of guilt. [1]

They are an ancient instrument of tyranny. In England, a few centuries back, Parliament would often times enact bills or statutes which declare certain persons attainted and their blood corrupted so that it lost heritable quality. In modern times, a bill of attainder is essentially a usurpation of judicial power by a legislative body. It envisages and effects the imposition of a penalty -- the deprivation of life, liberty of property -- not by ordinary process of judicial trial but by legislative fiat. [2]

While cast in the form of special legislation, a bill of attainder (or bill of pains and penalties, if it prescribed a penalty other than death) is in intent and effect a penal judgment visited upon an identified person or groups of persons (and not upon the general community) without prior charge or demand, without notice and hearing, without an opportunity to defend, without any of the civilized form and safeguards of the judicial process. Such is the archetypal bill of attainder wielded as a means of legislative oppression. [2].


Constitutional Limitation

The Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines provides for the protection against the passage of a bill of attainder. Section 22, of Article III states that "[n]o ex post facto law or bill of attainder shall be enacted. [3]"


  1. ^ People of the Philippines vs. Ferrer (48 SCRA 382)
  2. ^ Roman C. Tuason and Remedios V. Tuason vs. Register of Deeds. GR No. 70484, January 29, 1988. En Banc, Feliciano, J. Concuring Opinion.
  3. ^ Article III. The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.

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