Friday, August 23, 2019

Small claims

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Supreme Court removes P500 mediation fees in small claims cases
By Rey PanaliganPublished August 22, 2019, 2:33 PM

Starting September 2, those who will file small claims cases ranging from P300,000 to P400,000 before the first-level trial courts nationwide are no longer required to pay the P500 mediation fees.

The deletion of the P500 mediation fees was approved last month by the Supreme Court (SC) as a full court on a recommendation submitted by Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, chair of the SC’s committee on the revision of rules.

Peralta said the removal of the fees will ease the financial burden for litigants in small claims cases filed before the metropolitan trial courts (MTCs), metropolitan trial courts in cities (MTCCs), municipal trial courts (MTCs), and municipal circuit trial courts (MCTCs).

Under the rule, the first-level courts are mandated to resolve small claims cases within 30 days from the day the statement of claim was filed.

The rule also provides that lawyers are not allowed to represent a party in small claims cases.

First level courts have been notified of the new rule on mediation fees in a circular issued by Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez whose office supervises trial courts for the SC.

“Pursuant to 9 July 2019 Resolution in A.M. No. 19-07-07-SC (Re. Payment of Mediation Fees in Small Claims Cases) of the Court En Banc, and upon the recommendation of Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, the payment of mediation fees in small claims cases shall NO LONGER BE REQUIRED effective 2 September 2019,” Marquez’s circular stated.

Last April, the limit for small claims cases was increased by the SC from P300,000 to P400,000 for cases filed before the MTCs, also on recommendation of Peralta who by October 26 with the retirement of Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio will automatically be the acting Chief Justice if President Duterte has not appointed the replacement of Chief Justice Bersamin who will retire on October 18.

The SC’s public information office (PIO) said that “before the concept of small claims was introduced in our court system, the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure applied to money claims not exceeding P100,000.00 in first level courts outside Metro Manila, while P200,000.00 in first level courts within Metro Manila, otherwise known as the MTCs.”

In 2015, the SC increased the limit to P200,000 and further increased the amount to P300,000 in 2018.

Peralta said the increase in the limit in small claims cases “will result in the speedier and more efficient resolution of money claims cases, as well as help increase the country’s score in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report.”

In the World Bank’s 2019 Report, the Philippines ranked 124th out of 190 countries, dropping from its 2018 ranking of 113th.

Peralta said that “applying the Revised Rules of Procedure for Small Claims Cases in all money claims filed before the MTCs will increase the country’s score in next year’s report.”

He pointed out that “the increase is in accord with the four-point agenda of Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin for the Judiciary, to make our rules more efficient, effective and responsive to the needs of the court users.”

Earlier, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said: “the move initiated by the Supreme Court will benefit small entrepreneurs using the court system and result in an increase in the country’s ranking in the World Bank Doing Business Survey.”

Lopez also said that “the SC’s swift action to increase the threshold for small claims in the Metropolitan Trial Courts in Metro Manila will significantly reduce the number of days for trial and judgment….”

“This reform is one of the initiatives of the government to promote Ease of Doing Business. The DTI is optimistic that the strong partnership between the Executive and the Judicial branches of government will bring positive results. We look forward to working with the Supreme Court to improve the quality of judicial processes index, particularly in the area of court automation and case management,” he added.

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