Some 2002 Supreme Court resolutions and circulars affecting legal practice
POINT OF LAW - Francis Lim () - February 4, 2003 - 12:00am
(This is a continuation of the same article published in the Jan. 21, 2003 issue of this paper)
Mediation in the trial courts
On April 24, 2002, the Supreme Court issued Administrative Circular 20-2002 governing mediation of cases in trial courts in key areas of the country where a Philippine Mediation Center (PMC) had been established by the Supreme Court. This circular follows a series of circulars governing the pilot testing of mediation in several cities in the country. Finding mediation as an expeditious mode of alternative dispute resolution, the circular makes mediation "part of pre-trial." It provides that "[u]pon appearance of the parties during pre-trial in cases covered by mediation," the trial court shall "immediately order the parties to appear before the Philippine Mediation Center (PMC) unit located in the courthouse for initial mediation conference." It also mandates trial courts to "[i]ssue appropriate sanctions upon failure of the parties to appear before the PMC unit, since mediation is part of pre-trial."
Notaries public
On Aug. 13, 2002, the Supreme Court, in A.M. 02-8-02-SC, approved a new rule requiring notaries to hold office at a specific appropriate address/addresses and subject to limited exceptions, "to render notarial services only in his office." The new rule also directs notaries to include in the required monthly report "[t]he legal basis (whether by lease or otherwise) on which the applicant/notary is holding office" as well as to "inform the executive judge within 10 days of any change in the previously given office address/addresses." Any false statement shall be a ground for revocation or non-renewal of the notarial license.
Electronic evidence in criminal cases
On Sept. 24, 2002, the Supreme Court, in 01-7-01 SC, issued a resolution expanding the application of the Rules on Electronic Evidence (REE) to criminal cases. More than a year earlier, or on July 17, 2001, the Supreme Court approved the REE which governs introduction of electronic evidence in our courts of law. The Supreme Court, however, limited the REE to civil actions and proceedings, as well as quasi-judicial and administrative cases. The extension of the REE to criminal cases makes the introduction of electronic evidence in criminal case less difficult. Before the resolution in A.M. 01-7-01 SC, a party had to follow the Electronic Commerce Act (ECA) provisions on the introduction of electronic evidence, which are a lot more technical and difficult to follow in an actual court setting. For example, the REE allows the so-called layman’s approach in introducing electronic evidence, which is not sanctioned by the ECA. The layman’s approach allows authentication of an electronic document by evidence showing its integrity and reliability to the satisfaction of the judge. In other words, any evidence showing that a particular piece of electronic document or electronic data message is authentic is admissible under the REE. This is not allowed under the ECA.
Criminal cases involving tourists and transients
On Nov. 14, 2002, the Supreme Court issued Administrative Circular 58-2002 mandating that criminal cases where the offended party or complainant is a tourist or transient in this country shall be given priority and must be decided within 24 hours from the date of filing in court.

The circular directs all executive judges to inform the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Prosecutor’s Office of the provisions of Administrative Circular 2-99 dated Jan.15, 1999, specifically the assignment of judges on duty every Saturday and the court’s duty to act on bailable offenses on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and non-working days.

The circular also directs the executive judges of the Regional Trial Courts of Manila and Quezon City to (a) inform the PNP and the Prosecutor’s Office within their jurisdiction of the schedule of the branches of the first level courts assigned to hold night sessions; and (b) make representations with the PNP and local government units to ensure that appropriate security measures are adopted to protect judges and their staff on night sessions.
Increase in docket fees for CTA cases
On Sept. 24, 2002, the Supreme Court, in AM. 85-3-001-CTA, amended Section 1, Rule 17 of the Rules of the Court of Tax Appeals on docket fees. The circular increased the docket fees for filing an action or proceeding, including a petition for intervention, with the Court of Tax Appeals. The schedule of fees is based on the sum claimed or the amount of the disputed tax or customs assessment, inclusive of interest, penalties and surcharges, or the value of the article in seizure cases.
Filing fees in rehabilitation cases
On Dec. 10, 2002, a resolution clarifying legal fees for filing rehabilitation cases went into effect. The resolution clarifies a Sept. 4, 2001 resolution issued in A.M. 00-8-10-SC providing that petitions for rehabilitation of corporations should be considered as a special proceeding and the amount of filing fees should be assessed in accordance with Section 7(d), Rule 141 of the Revised Rules of Court. The reference to Section 7(d) created a heavy burden on petitioning companies because the prescribed filing fees are high. The Dec. 10, 2002 resolution reduced the filing fees by prescribing an amount that is equivalent to approximately 1/10 of one percent of the value of the assets of, or the amount of monetary claims against, the debtor, whichever is lower. To further help distressed companies, the new rule authorizes staggered payment of the filing fees where it exceeds P100,000. In such a case, the first P100,000 is paid upon filing of the petition and the balance as follows: 25 percent upon issuance of the order giving due course to the petition; 25 percent upon approval of the rehabilitation plan; and the balance of 50 percent shall be included as part of the preferred payables to be settled in the rehabilitation plan.

(The author is a senior partner of the Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices or ACCRALAW. He may be contacted at 830-8000.)

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