New SC affidavit rule seen to speed up trials
Written by Tribune Wednesday,
Majority of hearings among local courts including quasi-judicial proceedings can now dispense of direct testimony and instead admit signed affidavits as evidence in litigation of cases based on the Judicial Affidavit Rule which the Supreme Court (SC) en banc unanimously approved yesterday.
The scheme which was pilot-tested in Quezon City is expected to cut trial time by as much as half.
The approval for the new rule was done with the Tribunal in full attendance during the en banc session, Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva said.
The SC has lately been reported to be affected by divisions as a result of the recent appointment by President Aquino of junior Associate Justice Lourdes Sereno as chief magistrate.
Villanueva said that the seven-page, 12-section Judicial Affidavit Rule was adopted upon the
recommendation of Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, who is the chairman of the SC committee on the revision of the rules of court and Associate Justice Roberto Abad, who is the head of the sub-committee on the revision of the rules on civil procedures.
Among others, the salient features of the new rule are it applies to first-level courts, second-level courts, including the appellate courts, as well as quasi-judicial courts and special proceedings cases subject to the approval of the Court; submission of judicial affidavits should be done not later than five days prior to the scheduled hearing and attached thereto should be documentary evidence, including the name of the witness, the name of the lawyer who took the testimony of the witness in the affidavit conscious that he is under oath, questions and answers should be numbered consecutively; requirement for the attestation to be done by the lawyer; for purposes of direct-examination, there is the right to cross-examine the judicial affidavit; and it is also applicable to criminal cases where the maximum imposable penalty does not exceed six years where the accused agrees to the use of the judicial affidavit irrespective of the penalty involved and with respect to the civil aspect of the actions whatever penalty is involved.
Villanueva said the rule will take effect on Jan. 1 next year after its publication in two newspapers of general circulation on or before Sept. 15.
The rule, while approved during the term of Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, was pilot tested in Quezon City since April, during the term of then Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Under the rule, witnesses can submit sworn statements in question-and-answer form in place of appearing before the court for a direct testimony.
The affidavit will contain the name of witness, the lawyer who took the testimony, and a statement that the witness answered the questions under oath and that he may be held criminally liable for false testimony or perjury.
Villanueva said the presentation of witnesses consumes 50 percent of trial time in an ordinary court and the rule will speed up trial by proceeding directly with the cross-examination of witnesses.
If a party does not submit a judicial affidavit, it may be considered a waiver on his part. Delayed submission is allowed if the delay is justifiable, but with a fine of P1,000 to P5,000.