ALL six Municipal Trial Courts in Cities (MTCCs) in Cebu City can start hearing small claims cases that do not exceed P100,000.

The Supreme Court has authorized all 1,137 first-level courts nationwide, except Shari’a courts, to try small claims cases to enable ordinary citizens to take legal action on their own money claims in an “inexpensive, informal and simple procedure.”

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Of the 1,137 first-level courts authorized by the High Court, 82 are Metropolitan Trial Courts (MeTCs), Municipal Trial Courts (MTCs), 376; Municipal Circuit Trial Courts (MCTCs), 467; and MTCC, 212.

Lawyer Josephine Teves, MTCC clerk of court, said the advantage of small claims cases are litigants could file their petition in courts without the assistance of a lawyer.

Still, Teves said filing fees for small claims cases are guided by Rule 141 of the Rules of Court.

Old cases

Previously, small claims were heard only by 44 designated first-level courts, according to the High Court. In Cebu City, only Judge Francisco Seville Jr. of the MTCC Branch 6 and Judge Edgemelio Rosales of MTCC Branch 8 were designated to try small claims cases.

Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez has issued OCA Circular 35-2010 on Rule of Procedure for small claims cases filed in courts.

Marquez said all legal actions whose claims do not exceed P100,000, exclusive of interest and costs, should be governed by the Rules of Procedure for Small Claims starting March 18.

“In case there are pilot courts for small claims cases, these courts shall be exempted in the raffle until such time that the number of small claims cases raffled to the branch has reached the same volume of cases assigned to the pilot court.

Marquez has directed the raffling of the small claims filed in multiple sala court stations among its branches.

“Small claims cases shall be equitably distributed among the branches in the station,” said Marquez.

Procedure

In a report posted on its Web site, the High Court said the procedure for small claims case relaxes or dispenses with ordinary rules of civil procedure and evidence, such as strict pleading requirements and formal discovery measures.

“The Supreme Court has been continuously training first-level courts judges and clerks of court to familiarize them with the technicalities of the small claims procedure,” the report said.

Clerks of court and branch clerks of court are tasked to explain the Rule on Small Claims to interested litigants, as well as occasionally help them out in filling up the Statement of Claim and Response Forms.

Process servers and sheriffs may also provide information to the parties about the Rule when they serve summons and notices of hearing.

The High Court also said small claims courts resolve cases of the poor at the quickest time, cut their cost of litigation, and widen their access to the courts.