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When the Unthinkable Happens: A Litigator's Thoughts on the 2019 Amendments to the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure - Part One of a Series

by: Anton Peter Gustav C. Ingles

(23 January 2023)

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According to the Primer on the 2019 Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure (hereinafter, “the Amendments”), said amendments “present a multi-faceted adjustment to the rules, with the goal of improving the flow of court proceedings and avoiding delays” as these were designed to benefit the public since they address head-on the twin problems of docket congestion and delays. Speedier proceedings will help in managing the heavy dockets of our courts since cases will be resolved much quicker. With the amendments, frivolous or baseless actions will be lessened, if not eliminated. The public and the ends of justice will surely be served by a more efficient judiciary.[1]


For those of us engaged in civil court practice, certain rules were drilled into us in law school and later on became so ingrained in our “consciousness” that we could recall them in an instant.


Being some of the fundamental parameters of Civil Procedure, it was both unlikely and unthinkable that these would ever change (at least in our lifetime).


Yet change they did.


In Part One of this Series, we delve into the first batch of these Amendments and their effects on every day practice from the point of view of a practitioner.


As trial lawyers, we knew the “basics” to be that:


  • all that was needed to begin a civil case was the preparation of a complaint (which, given its nature of containing only “ultimate facts”, was relatively easy to make); 

  • said complaint had to be answered within a period of 15 days from one’s receipt of the same; and

  • most motions were set for hearing.


From the foregoing, it became clear therefore that the changes brought about by the 2019 Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure (A.M. No. 19-10-20)[2], among others, came as quite the shock. 


Initially, said changes appeared to be unwelcome ones as we were forced to drastically adjust the way we prepared for civil cases.


Said Amendments were made applicable to all cases files filed after 01 May 2020, while cases already pending under the old Rules were left to the judges who would choose whether to proceed (under the old rules or apply the new rules). 


Rule 144 of the 2019 Rules provides: “The 2019 Proposed Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure shall govern all cases filed after their effectivity on May 1, 2020, and also all pending proceedings, except to the extent that in the opinion of the court, their application would not be feasible or would work injustice, in which case the procedure under which the cases were filed shall govern.”


Normally noncompliance with these Amendments would mean outright dismissal, but as the Supreme Court itself stated in its Primer—"there would be an expected period of adjustment.” Judges when faced with a complaint that was filed without the requisite evidentiary pleadings (judicial affidavits), would issue an Order giving the litigant time within which to comply.


After a few years from its effectivity, any remaining resistance to said Amendments now appear to be unfounded to say the least.


Basic One: All that was needed to begin a civil case was the preparation of a complaint (which, given its nature of containing only “ultimate facts”, was relatively easy to make).


A Complaint must now include the (a) names of the witnesses, (b) a summary of their intended testimonies, (c) judicial affidavits of the witnesses, and (d) the documentary and object evidence in support of a party's allegations.  Since the entire case package was now required to be prepared at the very beginning, counsel must already be prepared with all the evidence at the start.  This is a stark departure from the old practice where evidence is presented in the trial phase which used to be many months or years after the Complaint is filed.


It turns out that having to prepare the entire case package beforehand gives a better picture of the strength of the case and also ensures that consistency is maintained between the complaint and the judicial affidavit/s, between the ultimate and the evidentiary facts paving the way for a more seamless presentation.


Basic Two: Said complaint had to be answered within a period of fifteen (15) days from one’s receipt of the same.


An Answer should now be filed within thirty (30) days from receipt of the Summons and the Complaint set[3].


Since an Answer now also requires the inclusion of judicial affidavits (as counter-evidence), the extended period to prepare and file responsive pleadings turned out to be a most welcome one.

Basic Three: Most motions were set for hearing.


Time and again, we have reminded by our professors in law school that a failure to set a motion for hearing was “unforgivable”.  Such motion would be then be treated as a scrap of paper.


This perhaps has been the most surprising change for us as we have always welcomed the opportunity to argue our litigious motions in open court. 


In terms of due process, it seemed to be a balanced system within itself since:


  • on the one hand, we, as movants, were given the chance to more properly articulate our arguments to convince the Court of the necessity for granting our motion, and

  • on the other hand, adverse parties, for their own protection, were given the chance to contest the motion.[4]


Instead of an automatic hearing, the Amendments now provide that the adverse party be given a period of five (5) days within which to file an opposition to a litigious motion.


Said opposition is meant to give the adverse party a chance to refute the motion, thus it appears to really be meant for the adverse party’s benefit. 


We submit that, this former “automatic hearing requirement” was really not only meant for the adverse party but was really meant for the Presiding Judge.  Its purpose was to assist the Presiding Judge in resolving the motion quickly (and hopefully in your favor).


Now it appears that if you want to argue your motion automatically (within a hearing) , then you have to make an oral motion (in open court) during the course of the proceedings.


This writer would still prefer the previous automatic hearing provision if only to be able to concisely summarize the written motion for the Presiding Judge’s benefit. An opportunity to say (during the hearing of every litigious motion) “I know you’ve read the briefs and the file Your Honor, but in a nutshell, here are the facts” would always be considered as welcome.


In Part Two of this Series, we will discuss other Amendments and their effects on every day practice from the point of view of a practitioner.



[1] Primer on the 2019 Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure issued by the Supreme Court, pp. 2 and 3 (Published by the Supreme Court through the PHILJA)

[2] The rules affected were Rules 6-35 and Rule 144 only, therefore Rules 1-5 and Rules 36-143 remained the same; took effect on 01 May 2020

[3] Judicial Affidavits and their own respective documentary annexes

[4] Community Rural Bank of Guimba (N.E.), Inc., vs. Judge Talavera, A.M. No. RTJ-05-1909, 06 April 2005; Odoño vs. Macaraeg, 384 Phil. 788, 16 March 2000 citing Far Eastern Surety & Insurance Company, Inc. vs. Vda. De Hernandez, 67 SCRA 256, 03 October 1975 as cited in Rules of Civil Procedure Annotated by Mangontawar M. Gubat, 2015 Ed., Central Book Supply

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