The Philippine Supreme Court previously approved the proposed Rule of Procedure for Small Claim Cases. The said rule was scheduled to take effect on October 1, 2008 in pilot courts designated to apply the procedure for small claims cases following its publication in two newspapers of general circulation.
The rule applies to actions before the Metropolitan Trial Courts and other lower courts for payment of money where the value of the claim does not exceed One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) exclusive of interest and costs. It governs the procedure followed in all actions which are: (a) purely civil in nature where the claim or relief prayed for by the plaintiff is solely for payment or reimbursement of sum of money, and (b) the civil aspect of criminal actions, either filed before the institution of the criminal action, or reserved upon the filing of the criminal action in court.
The claims or reliefs covered by this rule may arise from contracts of lease, loan, services, sale or mortgage; from damages arising from fault or negligence, quasi-contracts or contracts; and from the enforcement of a barangay amicable settlement or an arbitration award involving a money claim covered by the rule.
A small claims action is commenced by the filing of an accomplished and verified Statement of Claim accompanied with a Certificate of Non-forum shopping and two (2) duly certified photocopies of the actionable document/s subject of the claim, as well as the affidavits of witnesses and other evidence to support such claim. No formal pleading is necessary to initiate a small claims action.
The plaintiff must pay the docket fees unless he or she has been allowed to sue as an indigent. In such a case, the plaintiff must still pay the P1,000 fee for service of summons and processes in civil cases. After payment of the fee, the case shall be raffled off or assigned to the court designated to hear small claims cases.
Upon receipt of the statement of claim and the evidence attached thereto, the court shall determine whether the claim falls under the rule. After satisfying itself that the claim is within its ambit, it may still dismiss the case outright on any of the grounds for the dismissal of a civil action that are apparent from the Claim. If no ground for dismissal is found, the court shall forthwith issue Summons on the day of receipt of the Statement of Claim, directing the defendant to submit a verified Response.
The defendant shall file with the court and serve on the plaintiff a duly accomplished and verified Response within a non-extendible period of ten (10) days from receipt of summons. The Response shall be accompanied by evidence in support thereof. In the event that the defendant fails to file his Response within the required period, the court by itself shall render judgment as may be warranted by the facts alleged in the Statement of Claim limited to what is prayed for. The defendant may raise counterclaims against the plaintiff existing at the time the action has been commenced.
The following pleadings and motions shall not be allowed in cases covered by this rule: (a) Motion to dismiss the complaint except on the ground of lack of jurisdiction; (b) Motion for a bill of particulars; (c) Motion for new trial, or for reconsideration of a judgment, or for reopening of trial; (d) Petition for relief from judgment; (e) Motion for extension of time to file pleadings, affidavits, or any other paper; (f) Memoranda; (g) Petition for certiorari, mandamus, or prohibition against any interlocutory order issued by the court; (h) Motion to declare the defendant in default; (i) Dilatory motions for postponement; (j) Reply; (k) Third-party complaints; and (l) Interventions.
The parties shall appear at the designated date of hearing personally or through a representative authorized under a Special Power of Attorney to enter into an amicable settlement; to submit to Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR); and to enter into stipulations or admissions of facts and documentary exhibits. No attorney shall appear in behalf of a party unless the attorney is the plaintiff or defendant. In the instance where the court determines that a party cannot properly present his or her claim or defense and needs assistance, the court may, in its discretion, allow another individual who is not an attorney to assist that party upon the latter’s consent.
Failure on the part of the plaintiff to appear shall be cause for the dismissal of the claim without prejudice. Failure on the part of the defendant to appear shall have the same effect as failure to file a Response. This shall not apply where one of two or more defendants who are sued under a common cause of action and have pleaded a common defense appears at the hearing. Failure on the part of both parties to appear at the hearing shall cause the dismissal of both the claim and counterclaim with prejudice.
At the hearing, the judge shall conduct Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR) through mediation; conciliation; early neutral evaluation; or any other mode of JDR. Any settlement or resolution of the dispute shall be reduced into writing, signed by the parties and submitted to the court for approval. In the event that the JDR fails and the parties agree in writing that the hearing of the case shall be presided over by the judge who conducted the JDR, the hearing shall so proceed in an informal and expeditious manner and terminated within one (1) day. Absent such agreement, the pairing judge shall hear and decide the case in the court of origin within five (5) working days from referral by the JDR judge.
After the hearing, the court shall render its decision on the same day, based on the facts established by the evidence. The decision shall immediately be entered by the Clerk of Court in the court docket for civil cases and a copy thereof shall be served on the parties. The decision rendered by the court shall be final and unappealable.