Deferment of use of judicial affidavits in SC agenda-A A +A
Thursday, January 3, 2013
A PROPOSAL to postpone the implementation of a new rule requiring the submission of judicial affidavits, instead of direct testimony of witnesses in criminal cases has been included in the first regular session of the Supreme Court (SC) in 2013 next Tuesday.
In a statement, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno took note the concerns posed by the Prosecutors’ League of the Philippines, the umbrella organization of all government prosecutors and fiscals.
The clarification came after Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez issued Circular 146, directing all justices of appellate courts, judges in trial courts and officials of judicial bodies not to implement Administrative Matter 12-8-8-SC, or the Judicial Affidavit Rule (JAR), pending the collegial action of SC justices on the appeal made by PLP.
The Rule took effect last January 1.
Judicial affidavits are sworn statements or deposition containing the witness’ testimony in question-and-answer form. They are usually used in place of the traditional direct testimony to expedite the presentation of evidence.
Marquez issued the circular after members of the Court received last December 12 PLP’s letter for deferment of the new rule.
Prosecutors are opposed to the JAR because they claimed the preparation of a judicial affidavit is more time-consuming than conducting the direct testimony of witnesses.
"The prosecutors in the regional, provincial and city prosecution offices have limited time to prepare judicial affidavits because they are already saddled with heavy workloads, such as trial, including criminal and special proceedings cases; preliminary investigation, inquest proceedings and summary investigation (direct filing),” the PLP said.
Prosecutors also pointed out that a single affidavit could not be completed in two hours, especially if the witness is a child. This makes it difficult to submit the affidavits before the court not later than five days before the pre-trial or preliminary conference or before the hearing, as required by the new rule.
They likewise urged the SC to first create an ad hoc committee, similar to that created in Quezon City “for the purpose of revisiting its provisions.”
Marquez said Associate Justice Roberto Abad had proposed the “deferment of the application of the JAR for one year from January 1 2013 to January 1, 2014, under certain conditions.”
Abad and two other justices – Diosdado Peralta and Lucas Bersamin – met with PLP officers last December 21 and they agreed to set aside the implementation of the new rule pending the action of the full-court on the proposed one-year suspension.
“Considering that the Court will not meet until 8 January 2013, Justice Abad is of the considered view that it may be more prudent for the justices, judges and arbiters concerned to suspend the implementation of the Judicial Affidavit Rule in criminal cases and await the resolution of the Court En Banc on the request of the Prosecutors’ League of the Philippines,” Marquez stated in his circular.
Under the revised rules on judicial affidavit, the witnesses in all cases whose penalty is not exceeding six years will no longer be subjected to give an oral direct testimony, and instead, trial will proceed directly to cross examination by the opposing lawyer.
The new rule, which was unanimously approved by the SC last September, provides that “when a party (whether plaintiff or defendant) questions his own witness, he no longer needs to place the witness on the witness stand.”
As a substitute, the party or his lawyer merely submits the written sworn statement of his witness in a question-and-answer format.
It also requires each party to the case to attach all his documentary evidence to the judicial affidavit, which, in turn, must be submitted at least five days before the “pre-trial” or “preliminary conference” in the case.
The revision of the rules was upon the recommendation of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who chairs the SC’s committee on the revision of the rules of court, and Abad, head of the subcommittee on revision on rules of procedure.
The JAR had already been piloted in the Quezon City RTC since April 2012, but will be implemented nationwide starting this month in all first- and second-level courts, including appellate courts and quasi-judicial bodies.
It was said to have been effective in reducing the time used for presenting the testimonies of witnesses by about two-thirds after the pilot program in QC courts. (JCV/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)