The Official Gazette was created by decree of Act No. 453, “An Act providing for the publication by the Insular Government of an Official Gazette, under the general direction of the Department of Public Instruction.” It was enacted by the Philippine Commission on September 2, 1902, by authority of the United States of America. Vol. 1, No. 1 came out on September 10, 1902.
In March 5, 1903, Act No. 664 amended the earlier Act No. 453 to provide for further distribution of the Official Gazette:
SECTION 3. The Official Gazette shall be published weekly in two parts, one part in English and the other in Spanish. Each part shall be issued separately and shall contain all legislative Acts and all resolutions of a public nature of the Insular Legislature, all executive orders, such as decisions or abstracts of decisions of the Supreme Court, the Court of Customs Appeals, and the Court of Land Registration, as may be deemed by said courts of sufficient importance to be printed and published, and such other performance documents as are usually published in an official gazette which may be designated for publication by the Secretary of Public Instruction or which may be recommended for publication by the editor and approved by the Secretary of Public Instruction.
Commonwealth Act No. 638, “An Act to provide for the uniform publication and distribution of the Official Gazette,” was passed by the Third Session of the Second National Assembly on May 22, 1941 and subsequently approved by President Manuel L. Quezon on June 10, 1941.
SECTION 1. There shall be published in the Official Gazette (1) all important legislative acts and resolutions of a public nature of the Congress of the Philippines; (2) all executive and administrative orders and proclamations, except such as have no general applicability; (3) decisions or abstracts of decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals as may be deemed by said courts of sufficient importance to be so published; (4) such documents or classes of documents as may be required so to be published by law; and (5) such documents or classes of documents as the President of the Philippines shall determine from time to time to have general applicability and legal effect, or which he may authorize so to be published: Provided, That for the purpose of this section every order or document which shall prescribe a penalty shall be deemed to have general applicability and legal effect: And provided, further, That the term “document” as used in this section shall include any order, regulation, rule, certificate, license, notice, or similar instrument issued, prescribed, or promulgated by any executive department, bureau, office, commission, independent board, agency, or instrumentality of the administrative branch of the Government, but not the legislative or judicial branch of the Government.
Administrative Code of 1987 provided for the Official Gazette’s role in the operation and effect of laws. As per Book I, Chapter 5, Section 18: “Laws shall take effect after fifteen (15) days following the completion of their publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation, unless it is otherwise provided.” Book I, Chapter 6, Section 24, it likewise specified the vital role of the Official Gazette concerning the passage of laws:
SECTION 24. Contents. – There shall be published in the Official Gazette all legislative acts and resolutions of a public nature; all executive and administrative issuances of general application; decisions or abstracts of decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, or other courts of similar rank, as may be deemed by said courts of sufficient importance to be so published; such documents or classes of documents as may be required so to be published by law; and such documents or classes of documents as the President shall determine from time to time to have general application or which he may authorize so to be published.
The publication of any law, resolution or other official documents in the Official Gazette shall be prima facie evidence of its authority.
SECTION 25. Editing and Publications. – The Official Gazette shall be edited in the Office of the President and published weekly in Pilipino or in the English language. It shall be sold and distributed by the National Printing Office which shall promptly mail copies thereof to subscribers free of postage.
Signed by President Corazon C. Aquino, Executive Order No. 200, s. 1987, “Providing for the publication of laws either in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines as a requirement for their effectivity,” reiterated the Official Gazette’s role in the legislative process, yet allowed for the integration of national newspapers—given the Official Gazette’s limited circulation at the time.
EO 200, s. 1987, was borne of a Supreme Court ruling from the case of Tañada. et al. vs. Tuvera, et al. (G.R. No. 63915, December 29, 1986), which observed that “[t]here is much to be said of the view that the publication need not be made in the Official Gazette, considering its erratic release and limited readership.” Part of the ruling reads: “The Court therefore declares that presidential issuances of general application, which have not been published, shall have no force and effect.”
Executive Order No. 4, s. 2010 was signed by President Benigno S. Aquino III in keeping with “the avowed policy of this administration to ensure transparency and full and appropriate disclosure of policies, programs, official activities, and achievement of the Office of the President and Executive which are of public concern.” EO 4 created the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, which had, among its functions, editorial responsibilities over the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines.