New Rules of Civil Procedure and Evidence Effective 01 May 2020
The Supreme Court, pursuant to A.M. No. 19-10-20-SC, or the 2019 Proposed Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure (“Civil Procedure Amendments”), and A.M. No. 19-08-15-SC, or the 2019 Proposed Amendments to the Revised Rules on Evidence (“Evidence Amendments”), has promulgated certain modifications to pleadings, practice, and procedure. The Evidence Amendments will take effect 01 May 2020. Meanwhile, the Civil Procedure Amendments shall govern all cases filed after such date, as well as those pending as of then, except to the extent that in the court’s opinion, the application of the new rules would be infeasible or work injustice, in which case the procedural rules at the time of filing shall govern.
Among the key changes introduced by the Civil Procedure Amendments, the reglementary period for all incidents has been uniformly set to calendar days so as to avoid any confusion. These new rules have also modified the form and contents of, as well as appropriate instances when to file, certain pleadings, such as reply, rejoinder, amended, and supplemental pleadings.
Another notable introduction is the allowance of electronic modes of filing and service of pleadings. On the matter of summons, the Civil Procedure Amendments has provided additional modes of service, e.g. electronic transmission, pursuant to international conventions, as well as modified existing modes. Further, upon ex parte motion, the plaintiff may now be authorized by the court to serve summons.
Finally, the rules on motions have underwent significant changes, particularly: the deletion or transposition of the provisions on Motion to Dismiss; motions to dismiss are now generally prohibited, unless based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, litis pendentia, or res judicata; the new rule whereby the inclusion in a motion to dismiss of grounds other than lack of jurisdiction over the defendant is deemed a voluntary submission; hearing on written motions is now discretionary on the court; the enumeration of prohibited motions; and motions for extension of time to file pleadings, save for an answer, are now prohibited.
On the Evidence Amendments, the definition of “documentary evidence” has been expanded to include recordings and photographs. Additionally, the new rules have foregone the designation of “best evidence”, adopting instead provisions on “original” and “duplicate” documentary evidence. Added to the list of secondary evidence is a summary of the entirety of the contents of documents, records, photographs, or accounts.
The Evidence Amendments has also expanded the attorney-client privilege to apply even to persons “reasonably believed” to be engaged in law practice, while at the same time codifying a list of exceptions thereto. Likewise, physician-patient privilege has been expanded to cover persons “reasonably believed” to practice medicine, and psychotherapists. A privilege on trade secrets has also been added.
Finally, these new rules have defined what does and does not constitute hearsay, adding to the list of exceptions thereto records of regularly conducted business activity, as well as a catch-all “residual exception”. The latter rule provides guidelines as to when certain statements which would otherwise be considered hearsay, but not among the exceptions, may be admitted in evidence.