SC says 1,137 first-level courts now hearing small claim cases

April 4, 2010 11:57 am 

MANILA, April 4 — The Supreme Court (SC) has announced that 1,137 first-level courts nationwide are now hearing small claims cases, thus widening the avenues of justice for the Filipino people.

Previously, small claims were heard only by 44 designated first-level courts.

Effective last March 18, the 82 metropolitan trial courts (MeTCs), 212 municipal trial courts in cities (MTCCs), 376 municipal trial courts (MTCs), and 467 municipal circuit trial courts (MCTCs) have been authorized by the SC to hear small claims cases.

Under the SC’s small claims cases project, ordinary Filipinos are empowered to litigate on their own money claims of P100,000 or less by providing them an inexpensive, informal, and simple procedure.

Dubbed as the “People’s Courts,” the procedure for small claims case relaxes or dispenses with ordinary rules of civil procedure and evidence such as strict pleading requirements and formal discovery measures.

Disputes are resolved quickly and inexpensively, particularly because lawyers are not allowed during hearings.

Most of all, these courts are tasked to decide cases only at the first hearing.

The SC has been continuously training first-level courts judges and clerks of courts to familiarize them with the technicalities of the small claims procedure.

Two seminar-workshops on the amended rule of procedure for small claims cases were held last week for the National Capital Judicial Region.

Meanwhile, the SC Technical Working Group, composed of various SC officials, select justices, and a representative of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the American Bar Association (ABA) Rule of Law Initiative has provided a handbook on the small claims process for small claims judges and clerks of court.

The handbook provides in a straightforward manner the duties of the judge and clerk of court, as well as covers a range of topics such as determining the eligibility of a claim, docketing and raffling of a case, service of summons and notice of hearing, settlement of a case hearing proper, and promulgation of the decision, among others.

Clerks of court and branch clerks of court are tasked to explain the rule on small claims to interested litigants, as well as occasionally help them out in filling up the Statement of claim and response forms.

Process servers and sheriffs may also provide information to the parties about the rule when they serve summons and notice of hearing.

Through the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) Circular No. 35-2010, Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez has already directed the raffling of the small claims filed in multiple sala court stations among its branches.

The 44 pilot courts for small claims cases, however, shall not be included in the raffle until the small claims cases are equitably distributed to all courts.

Apart from lectures on the Amended Rule, small claims judges and clerks of court were also given skills training on mediation-conflict management.

The seminar-workshops were a joint-initiative by the SC, the Philippine Judicial Academy and the OCA, in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the ABA.

The small claims courts resolve cases of the poor at the quickest time, cut their cost of litigation, and widen their access to the courts. (PNA)

DCT/PFN

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