On October 8 and 15, 2019, the Philippine Supreme Court issued the 2019 Amendments to the Revised Rules of Evidence and the Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure (collectively the “New Rules”), respectively. The New Rules will be effective on May 1, 2020 and shall cover (i) all cases filed after the said date; and, (ii) all pending proceedings except to the extent that, in the opinion of the court, their application would not be feasible or would work injustice.
Some of the highlights and major changes under the New Rules:
1. The New Rules allows filing of a Reply only if the defendant attaches an actionable document to the Answer.
2. The New Rules gives emphasis to the counsel’s signature in a pleading as it constitutes a certification. Courts are empowered to impose appropriate sanctions if the requirement of signature on the certification is violated.
3. The New Rules mandates that every pleading stating a party’s claim or defense shall also state: (i) the names of witnesses; (ii) summary of the witnesses’ intended testimonies and their respective judicial affidavits; and, (iii) documentary and object evidence.
4. The New Rules permits other modes of filing and service, such as through accredited couriers, facsimile transmission, and transmission by electronic mail or other electronic means as may be authorized by the Supreme Court.
5. The New Rules authorizes the courts to determine motu proprio whether or not it can render judgment on the pleadings or a summary judgment.
6. The disqualification by reason of mental incapacity and immaturity of witnesses was deleted in the New Rules, since questions concerning credibility is best addressed to the sound discretion of the court.
It is evident that developments in procedural laws, jurisprudence and digital technology, as well as international conventions, have been incorporated in the New Rules. The Supreme Court also took cognizance of well-known problems and difficulties attending litigation, and addressed the same in certain provisions of the New Rules. Definitely, the New Rules is a step in the right direction to update and streamline court proceedings, decongest court dockets and deliver just, speedy, and inexpensive justice deserved by all parties.
With the ongoing pandemic, however, it has become obvious that more can and should be done to take advantage of and fully utilize other readily available technology to further ease doing litigation and adapt it to the new “normal”. It is thus hoped that within the next few weeks, as quarantines that have been imposed are loosened, the Supreme Court will issue measures utilizing technology to address the current challenges in doing litigation.