Supreme Court Approves Guidelines on Electronic Submission of Pleadings in Lower Courts
August 10, 2023
To address docket congestion and court delay, the primary filing of all pleadings and other court submissions in civil proceedings in lower courts shall be through electronic transmittal starting April 5, 2024.
This follows the approval by the Supreme Court En Banc of the Guidelines on Submission of Electronic Copies of Pleadings and Other Court Submissions Being Filed Before the Lower Courts Pursuant to the Efficient Use of Paper Rule (Guidelines).
The Guidelines govern the electronic transmittal of copies in Portable Document Format (PDF) of pleadings and other court submissions and their additional accompanying documents, such as annexes and exhibits, for filing in all cases covered by the 2019 Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure before the following courts: Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals, and first- and second-level courts (“lower courts”).
The approval of the Guidelines is in line with the goal of the Supreme Court to digitally transform the courts under the Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations for 2022-2027, which lays down the reform initiatives necessary toward achieving a technology-driven Judiciary.
Manner of Transmittal
Under the Guidelines, PDF copies of court submissions must be transmitted by litigants and court users to the official e-mail address of the court where the case is pending. Official court e-mail addresses may be accessed at the Supreme Court website at: https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/court-locator/.
The PDF copy may be electronically generated from a word-processing or PDF creation program, or be scanned images of the document compiled in a PDF file, or a combination of both methods. In all cases, the contents must be completely legible.
The filer must also ensure that the receiving court’s official e-mail address service will not reject or block a transmittal e-mail due to the file size of an attachment.
Date and Time of Filing
For cases where the primary manner of filing is through personal filing, by registered mail, or by accredited courier under Rule 13 of the 2019 Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, the PDF copies must be transmitted within 24 hours from the filing of the paper copy. The date and time of filing of the paper copy shall be considered the date and time of filing.
For cases where the primary manner of filing is through electronic transmittal under Section 3(d), Rule 13 of the 2019 Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, subsequent submission of a paper copy is no longer necessary. The date and time of the electronic transmittal shall be considered the date and time of filing.
However, the court must first grant express permission for the primary filing through electronic transmittal of: initiatory pleadings and initial responsive pleadings; accompanying documents not readily amendable to digitization to PDF; and sealed and confidential documents or records.
E-mail Address of Record
All filings by electronic transmittal must be made with any of the e-mail addresses of record of the filing party or counsel. Otherwise, the entire transmittal shall be deemed as not filed.
Counsels on record are required to use their professional e-mail accounts as their e-mail address of record. To preserve confidentiality, the Guidelines discourage the use by lawyers of personal, nonprofessional e-mail accounts as their e-mail addresses of record.
Counsels must also regularly and diligently monitor the inboxes of their e-mail address of record. They shall be subjected to disciplinary action should, to the detriment of the cause of their client, they neglect to check the inbox of their e-mail address of record or fail to notify the court of changes to their e-mail address of record under Section 11, Rule 13 of the 2019 Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
The Guidelines also provide rules on the manner of attachment of files, the prescribed filename for documents, the transmittal e-mail format, and the contents of the verified declaration, among others.
The Guidelines shall take effect two weeks after publication in two newspapers of general circulation.
The Guidelines complement previous efforts of the Court to simplify and expedite court procedures. In 2019, the Supreme Court approved amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, which introduced e-mail and other electronic means of service and filing of court submissions. Just last year, on February 22, 2022, the Court also approved the Revised Guidelines on Submission of Electronic Copies of Supreme Court-Bound Papers Pursuant to the Efficient Use of Paper Rule.
For a full text of the Guidelines, visit the Supreme Court website at: https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/10-3-7-sc-11-9-4-sc-guidelines-on-submission-of-electronic-copies-of-pleadings-and-other-court-submissions-being-filed-before-the-lower-courts-pursuant-to-the-efficient-use-of-paper-rule/
(Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)