SC Issues Rules on Expedited Procedures in the First Level Courts

March 2, 2022

The Supreme Court, during its En Banc deliberation on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, approved the procedural rules expediting criminal and  civil actions filed before the first level courts. This effectively amended the 1991 Revised Rule on Summary Procedure and 2016 Revised Rules on Small Claims Cases.

Entitled Rules on Expedited Procedures in First Level Courts (A.M. No. 08-8-7-SC), the same will take effect after its required publication in two newspapers of general circulation. The new Rules recalibrates, reconciles, and harmonizes the coverage of the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure and Small Claims cases following the enactment of Republic Act (RA) No. 11576, which expanded the jurisdictional amount cognizable by the first level courts to ₱2,000,000.00 for civil actions monetary claims. The Rules provide for a more efficient and expedited procedure governing both summary procedure and small claims cases.

The provisions on prohibited pleadings and motions and service pursuant to international conventions under the 2019 Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure have also been incorporated, and videoconferencing hearings have been authorized at any stage of the proceedings. The salient features of the Rules include:

Rule on Summary Procedure

Civil cases covered by the rule on summary procedure now consist of: 1) forcible entry and unlawful detainer cases; 2) civil actions and complaints for damages where the claims do not exceed ₱2,000,000.00; 3) cases for enforcement of barangay amicable settlement agreements and arbitration award where the money claim exceeds ₱1,000,000.00; 4) cases solely for the revival of judgment of any first level court; and 5) the civil aspect of violations of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 (BP 22), if no criminal action has been instituted. Provisions on the evidentiary nature of pleadings, filing and service, and pre-trial from the 2019 Amendments have likewise been adopted, unless inconsistent.

With respect to criminal cases, violation of BP 22 is explicitly included, and the penalty threshold of all other criminal cases is increased to imprisonment not exceeding one year, or a fine not exceeding

₱50,000.00, or both, and a fine not exceeding ₱150,000.00 for offenses involving damage to property through criminal negligence. Arraignment and pre-trial shall be scheduled and conducted in accordance with the Revised Guidelines for Continuous Trial of Criminal Cases.

The procedure of appeal has also been simplified. Any judgment, final order, or final resolution may be appealed to the appropriate Regional Trial Court (RTC) exercising jurisdiction over the territory under Rule 40 for civil cases and Rules 122 for criminal cases, of the Rules of Court. The judgment of the RTC on the appeal shall be final, executory, and unappealable.

Rule on Small Claims

The Rules increases the threshold amount of small claims cases to

₱1,000,000.00 and no longer makes a distinction whether the claim is  filed before the first level courts within or outside Metro Manila. The claim or demand may be for money owed under contracts of lease, loan and other credit accommodations, services, and sale of personal property. The recovery of personal property is excluded, unless made subject of a compromise agreement between the parties. Nevertheless, the enforcement of barangay amicable settlement agreements and arbitration  awards where the money claim does not exceed ₱1,000,000.00 is likewise covered.

The Rules allows the service of summons by the plaintiff if returned unserved by the sheriff or proper court officer, or if it shall be served outside the judicial region of the court where the case is pending. If the case is dismissed without prejudice for failure to serve summons, the case may be re-filed within one year from notice of dismissal, subject to the payment of a reduced filing fee of ₱2,000.00.

Notices may now be served through mobile phone calls, SMS, or instant messaging software applications. While videoconferencing hearings should be conducted using the Supreme Court-prescribed platform, the court may allow the use of alternative platforms or instant messaging applications with video call features, under certain conditions. The 30-day period within which to set the hearing was extended to 60 days if one of the defendants resides or is holding business outside the judicial region of the court. There shall only be one hearing day, with judgment rendered within 24 hours from its termination. The Small Claims Forms have also been updated and improved for ease of use, with translations in Filipino. The Rules maintained that the decision rendered by the first level courts in small claims shall be final, executory and unappealable.

The Rules shall have a prospective application. Cases covered by these Rules which are currently pending with the first level and second level courts shall remain with and be decided by those same courts, in accordance with the applicable rules at the time of their filing. The SC Public Information Office will immediately upload a copy of the Rules in the Supreme Court website upon official receipt of the same from the Office of the Clerk of Court En Banc. ###