MANILA, Philippines – Newly installed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is trumpeting judicial reforms which, she said, would keep her leadership in the Supreme Court moving.
The so-called reforms are, however, old and already in place.
Interestingly enough, the reforms she is now announcing are those initiated by her predecessors, including former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Sereno announced on Tuesday the so-called reforms, including tapping Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Filomena Singh as the SC’s resource person on judicial reforms. Singh was joined by Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva.
The announcements, including the Judicial Affidavit Rule, were made via a press release.
The newest rule was recently adopted by the SC, although Associate Justice Roberto Abad had been working on it in the past year.
The rule, which will take effect January 2013, also followed an innovation first implemented under the “Guidelines for Litigation in Quezon City Trial Courts.” In fact, the Maguindanao murder trial is already using these affidavits, which are statements made in lieu of oral direct testimony.
It seeks to “cut down as much as two-thirds of the time consumed in presenting oral testimony on direct examination, this Rule will also address the perennial cause of case dismissals, i.e., the non-appearance of parties, specially witnesses in criminal cases, who get tired of returning to court repeatedly due to postponements and ‘lack of material time.’”
Sereno also acknowledged the “Guidelines” of the QC courts. It was approved on April 16, 2012.
The innovations there include: page limitations for pleadings and memoranda to be filed by the parties; preclusion of postponements save only for acts of God or fortuitous events; shorter timelines for the arraignment of accused, specially those in detention; prohibitions against dilatory motions and non-compliant motions; mandatory oral offer of evidence instead of the usual written one; and requiring affidavits in lieu of oral testimony in specified cases.
Sereno also took note of the “Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases.” This was approved on October 1, 2008 under Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s time.
Radical features in the rule are: “one day, hearing and judgment” provision, which tasks judges to hear and settle and, if unsuccessful, to decide on the merits a small claim in one day, the day of the hearing itself; the provision that decisions are unappealable and immediately executory; the prohibition against lawyers' participation in-court; and, the setting aside of technical rules of procedure. Filing fees for the maximum claim of P100,000.00 were reduced to P2,515.00.
Asked when Sereno would be appointing a spokesperson for the SC, Villanueva asked the public to just give her time.