The Supreme Court announced on Tuesday the first judicial reform under Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno that was initiated by her reviled predecessor, Renato Corona.
The high tribunal said it had approved a new court rule that would result in cutting short the testimony of witnesses in court proceedings by requiring them to submit affidavits in lieu of oral direct testimony, thereby allowing a speedy resolution of cases.
This means that the witnesses will be “subjected to cross examination” immediately and “cut short by 50 percent the presentation of witnesses,” according to Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva, who was designated the court’s new “communicator for judicial reform.”
Judicial affidavit rule
At a briefing, Villanueva said the court approved unanimously at its en banc meeting Tuesday what he described as the “judicial affidavit rule” upon the recommendation of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, chairman of the committee on revision of rules of court, and Associate Justice Roberto Abad, head of the subcommittee on revision on rules of procedure.
Villanueva, a former trial judge, said the measure, which would take effect on January 1, was pilot-tested at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court beginning in April while Corona was facing the Senate impeachment court, which subsequently ousted him for dishonesty in his asset declarations.
He said the measure would apply to “all actions, proceedings and incidents requiring the reception of evidence” in all courts and quasi-judicial bodies. Parties in a litigation are required to submit the judicial affidavits not later than five days before pretrial or a preliminary conference or prior to scheduled hearings of motions and hearings, he said.
The affidavit contains the name of the witness, the name of the lawyer who took the evidence and statement that the witness is answering questions and that he is conscious that he is under oath and may be held criminally liable for false testimony or perjury.
The new rule applies to criminal cases under three circumstances: when the maximum penalty does not exceed six years, the accused agrees to the use of judicial affidavit irrespective of the penalty involved and in the civil aspects of criminal actions regardless of penalty.