Supreme Court revises rules on judicial affidavits-A A +A
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
MANILA -- The Supreme Court (SC) modified on Tuesday some provisions in the implementation of a new rule requiring the submission of judicial affidavits instead of direct testimony of witnesses in criminal cases.
Among the modification to the rule in criminal cases is that public prosecutors can temporarily use the sworn statements that the complainant and his or her witnesses submit during the initiation of the criminal action before the office of the public prosecutor or directly before the trial court.
“In such cases, the attending public prosecutor shall, when presenting witnesses, require him or her to affirm the truth of what the sworn statement contains and ask the witness only those additional direct examination questions that have not been amply covered by the sworn statement,” the Court ruled.
The resolution came after the SC junked the request of the Prosecutor’s League of the Philippines seeking a deferment of the application of the rules during criminal proceedings in the lower courts.
The justices, however, allowed a one-year “respite” before full compliance with the provisions of the new rules will be observed beginning January 1, 2014.
The High Court said that the one-year modified compliance shall not apply where the complainant is represented by private prosecutor duly empowered in accordance with the Rules of Court to appear in court and prosecute the case.
This means that private prosecutors will have to prepare the required judicial affidavits of the complainant and his or her witnesses and cause the service of copies upon the accused.
In case of non-compliance with the rule which will be in effect for new and ongoing cases in the lower courts, Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva said a judge may opt to disregard the witness whose testimony did not comply with the judicial affidavit rule.
Court Administrator Midas Marquez earlier directed all courts and officials of judicial bodies not to implement the new rule yet pending collegial action of SC magistrates.
Associate Justice Roberto Abad, together with Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Lucas Bersamin, however met with PLP officers last December 21 and agreed to defer the implementation of the new rule pending action of the Court on the proposed one-year suspension.
The PLP’s objection stemmed from the fact that the new rule will only take up more time since affiants have to be subpoenaed and interviewed before the prosecutor could prepare their judicial affidavits.
“We already 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),” PLP stated in its letter to the SC.
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 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)