MANILA, Philippines—After government prosecutors objected, the Supreme Court suspended the implementation of its new rule requiring submission of judicial affidavits in lieu of direct testimonies of witnesses in criminal cases.
In Circular No. 146-2012, Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez ordered all courts not to implement the new rule pending action of the high court.
The Judicial Affidavit Rule (JAR), which was approved by the high court unanimously 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 JAR was said to be effective in reducing the time used for presenting the testimonies of witnesses by about two-thirds after a pilot program was conducted in the Quezon City courts.
The new rule was supposed to take effect on Jan. 1, 2013. However, the high court justices will discuss the proposal of Supreme Court Associate Justice Roberto Abad to defer the application for one year, or up to Jan. 1, 2014.
Abad, together with Associate Justices Diosdado M. Peralta and Lucas Bersamin, had met with members of the Prosecutors’ League of the Philippines (PLP) on Dec. 21. During the meeting, Abad recommended the suspension of the implementation of the rule.
“Considering that the court en banc will not meet until 8 Januaryy 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,” the circular stated.
The PLP said they have limited time to prepare judicial affidavits because they are saddled with heavy workloads.
In their letter to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, they said preparation for judicial affidavits is also more time-consuming than conducting direct examination of witnesses.
It added that while it has been successful in Quezon City or would be successful in Metro Manila areas, this is so because there is sufficient number of prosecutors in the area unlike in the provinces, which have few prosecutors.
“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. It said the SC’s successful experiment in Quezon City on the JAR “cannot apply to prosecution offices with lesser number of prosecutors.”
“Moreover, while litigants in Quezon City usually reside within the city, those in regions and provinces reside in inaccessible and far-flung areas. Thus, they will spend additional expenses in going to prosecution offices to execute their judicial affidavits,” the PLP said.