Classification of Law

Civil Law

Philippines's legal system is a mixture of Roman civil law and Anglo-American common law systems.  Civil law operates in areas such as family relations, property, succession, contract, and criminal law, while statutes and principles of common law origin are evident in such areas as constitutional law, procedure, corporations law, taxation, insurance, labour relations, banking and currency.

Civil law systems are based on concepts derived from old Roman law, distinguishable by their reliance on having a comprehensive set of rules and principles codified and easily accessible to both citizens and legal professionals. Codified laws are regularly revised to reflect the current environment, and have stronger emphasis in civil law countries than any precedent set by earlier court cases. Civil law countries cover more than 65% of world’s legal system, including the majority of continental Europe, Central and South America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

E-Signature Legality Summary

In general, the E-Commerce Act and its implementing rules and regulations govern the use of electronic records and signatures. The provisions of the E-Commerce Act apply to any kind of data message and electronic document used in the context of commercial and non-commercial activities. This law governs electronic commerce in specific areas, namely, contracts of carriage of goods, and electronic transactions in the government which include government-owned and controlled corporations.

Types of Electronic Signature

The E-Commerce Act defines an Electronic Signature as “any distinctive mark, characteristic and/or sound in electronic form, representing the identity of a person and attached to or logically associated with the electronic data message or electronic document or any methodology or procedures employed or adopted by a person and executed or adopted by such person with the intention of authenticating or approving an electronic data message or electronic document.”

An electronic signature is a representation of a person’s identity attached to an electronic data message or electronic document made with the intention to authenticate or approve such electronic data message or electronic document. The signature may be any distinctive mark, characteristic, or sound in electronic form.

Electronic signatures are legally recognized as equivalent to the signature of a person on a written document provided that the signature is proved. An electronic signature may be proven by showing that a prescribed procedure, not alterable by the parties interested in the electronic document, existed under which:

  • A method is used to identify the party sought to be bound and to indicate said party's access to the electronic document necessary for his consent or approval through the electronic signature;
  • Said method is reliable and appropriate for the purpose for which the electronic document was generated or communicated, in the light of all circumstances, including any relevant agreement;
  • It is necessary for the party sought to be bound, in order to proceed further with the transaction, to have executed or provided the electronic signature; and
  • The other party is authorized and enabled to verify the electronic signature and to make the decision to proceed with the transaction authenticated by the same.

Further, while the Rules on Electronic Evidence (Administrative Matter No. 01-07-01-SC) adopts the above-quoted definition under Republic Act No. 8792, it also defines a “digital signature”, which is a specific kind of enhanced electronic signature.

A digital signature is defined as “an electronic signature consisting of a transformation of an electronic document or an electronic data message using an asymmetric or public cryptosystem such that a person having the initial untransformed electronic document and the signer's public key can accurately determine:

  • whether the transformation was created using the private key that corresponds to the signer's public key, and
  • whether the initial electronic document had been altered after the transformation was made.”

Documents That May be Signed Electronically

Contracts, in general, remain obligatory in whatever form they may have been entered, provided that all the essential requisites for their validity are present.

The coverage of the E-Commerce Act applies to any kind of data message and electronic document used in the context of commercial and non-commercial activities to include domestic and international dealings, transactions, arrangements, agreements contracts and exchanges and storage of information.

An electronic signature may therefore be used provided that the Philippine law does not require compliance with certain formalities in its execution (e.g., notarization).

Further Guidance

Electronic signatures may be authenticated in any of the following manner:

  • By evidence that a method or process was utilized to establish a digital signature and verify the same;
  • By any other means provided by law; or
  • By any other means satisfactory to the judge as establishing the genuineness of the electronic signature.

While the use of electronic signatures is not prohibited with government agencies, caution should be exercised before using electronic signatures for transactions with such agencies.

Case Law

The following case is an example of where a court addressed the use of electronic signatures:

  • RCBC Bankard Services Corp. v. Oracion (G.R. No. 223274, 19 June 2019).

DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is for general information purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice. Laws governing the subject matter may change quickly, so DocuSign cannot guarantee that all the information on this site is current or correct. Should you have specific legal questions about any of the information on this site, you should consult with a licensed attorney in your area.

Last updated: September 07, 2021

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