MANILA, Philippines – The judiciary is set to implement its continuous trial system in criminal cases in all trial courts nationwide this September.

In the revised guidelines approved last April 25, the Supreme Court (SC) has extended the implementation of the system formulated to expedite resolution of criminal cases and declog court dockets.

 

After the successful pilot testing in 52 first and second level courts in Metro Manila since its launch in September 2014, the continuous trial system will now be implemented in all trial courts nationwide.

 

“The Revised Guidelines for Continuous Trial of Criminal Cases shall apply to all newly filed criminal cases, including those governed by special laws and rules, in the first and second level courts, the Sandiganbayan and the Court of Tax Appeals as of effectivity date. The Revised Guidelines shall also apply to pending criminal cases with respect to pending proceedings,” read the new guidelines published in The STAR yesterday.

 

The SC approved the nationwide implementation of the project upon recommendation of its special committee on speedy trial chaired by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta.

 

The high court cited the finding of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, which conducted a results analysis on the project testing in 2015, “that specific procedural and case management reforms have a notable effect in reducing case processing time.”

This finding was affirmed by another development partner, The Asia Foundation, in a report last year showing a “clear and significant improvement in reducing the duration of criminal proceedings and improving the trial courts’ compliance with the periods and timelines for trial set in the Rules of Court and Laws.”

 

Initiated by the SC under Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and supported by the United States Agency for International Development, the project aims to protect and advance the constitutional right of litigants to speedy disposition of their criminal cases.

 

The continuous trial project is designed to cut trial duration in criminal cases from the usual three to five years to just around three months.

 

Under the system, trial should be held from Monday to Thursday and courts must call the cases at exactly 8:30 a.m. for morning hearings and 2 p.m. for afternoon hearings.

 

“Hearing on motions, arraignment and pre-trial and promulgation of decisions shall be held in the morning of Fridays,” according to the new guidelines.

 

The project is also part of the innovations and reforms implemented by the high court to expedite the wheels of justice in the country and modernize the judicial system.

 

Text by Edu Punay, The Philippine Star, May 8, 2017