The 2019 Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and the 1989 Revised Rules on Evidence

Author: Steph Pelausa    Date: April 23, 2021


           On October 8, 2019 and October 15, 2019, the Supreme Court of the Philippines en banc approved the 2019 Amendments to the 1989 Revised Rules on Evidence and the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, respectively. Although these Amendments were issued in 2019, the same only took effect on May 1, 2020.


            The 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and the 1989 Revised Rules on Evidence were amended mainly to address a few of the major problems in the country’s justice system – the slow-moving disposition of cases and docket congestion.


Correspondingly, the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines provides that the Supreme Court has the power to promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts. With such power, it is the Supreme Court’s duty to make certain that the rules of procedure adapt to technological advancements and be responsive to the needs of all court users and stakeholders.


Some of the major highlights under the 2019 Amended Rules of Civil Procedure include:


a.  Persons or juridical persons intending to institute an action in court must now include the names of their witnesses, the summary of the witnesses’ intended testimonies and the documentary and object evidence in support of their allegations in the complaint. (Rule 8, Section 6) The same rule applies to the defendant’s Answer to the Complaint.


b.  Rule 16 on Motion to Dismiss of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure was entirely deleted. The grounds and other provisions under the said rule are now incorporated in other rules. The grounds under the Motion to Dismiss may be alleged in the defendant’s affirmative defenses.


c.  If the Complainant in a case wishes to file a Reply, the same may only be filed if the defending party attaches an actionable document to his or her Answer. (Rule 6, Section 2)


d.  The provision on hearing of motions is now entirely deleted. The Amended Rules now provide for the enumeration of non-litigious motions and litigious motions. However, the court may, in the exercise of its discretion, and if deemed necessary for its resolution, call a hearing on the motion. (Rule 15, Section 4 to 6)


e.  Service and filing of pleadings may now be done through accredited couriers, e-mail and other electronic means. (Rule 13)


f.   The period for filing an Answer to the Complaint is now thirty (30) calendar days after service of summons, unless a different period is fixed by the court. In the old rules, the period for filing an Answer used to be only within fifteen days. (Rule 11, Section 1)


g.   Service of summons may now be done by the plaintiff or complainant provided that said summons shall contain an authorization from the court upon ex parte motion of the plaintiff. (Rule 14, Section 2 and 3)


h.   The amended rules provide that it is now the duty of the parties to a case to appear at the court-annexed mediation and judicial dispute resolution, if necessary. The amended rules also clarifies that the Pre-trial stage comes before the Court-Annexed Mediation and Judicial Dispute Resolution  (Rule 18, Section 4 and 8)


Some of the major highlights under the 2019 Amended Rules on Evidence include:


a.   The definition of Documentary Evidence was amended to include recordings, photographs, any material containing sounds or their equivalent. Further, the Revised Rules defined the term Photograph as those including still pictures, drawings, stored images, x-ray films, motion, pictures or videos. (Rule 130, Section 2)


b.   The Original Document Rule amended the Best Evidence Rule. The Original Document Rule provides that when the subject of inquiry is the contents of a document, writing, recording, photograph or other record, no evidence is admissible other than the original document itself except in some cases. It is now included in the Revised Rules that an original document is not required when the original cannot be obtained by local judicial processes or procedures and when the original is not closely-related to a controlling issue. (Rule 130, Section 1 to 3)


c.    Any document intended to have the same effect as an original document by a person executing or issuing it is now considered an “Original” of a document. A duplicate is now defined as a counterpart produced by the same impression as the original, or from the same matrix, or by means of photography, including enlargements and miniatures, or by mechanical or electronic re-recording, or by chemical reproduction, or by other equivalent techniques which accurately reproduce the original. Further, the Revised Rules now provide that a duplicate is admissible to the same extent as an original unless a genuine question is raised as to the authenticity of the original or it is unjust or inequitable to admit the duplicate in lieu of the original. (Rule 130, Section 4)


d.   The disqualifications by reason of Privileged Communication now include (i) persons who is not a lawyer but is reasonably believed by the client to be licensed to engage in the practice of law or other persons assisting the lawyer except in some cases enumerated in the rules and (ii) a physician, psychotherapist or persons reasonably believed by the patient to be authorized to practice medicine or psychotheraphy. (Rule 130, Section 24)


e.   In civil cases, evidence of conduct or statements made in compromise negotiations are inadmissible in evidence except otherwise discoverable or offered for another purpose, such as proving bias or prejudice of a witness, negativing a contention of undue delay, or proving an effort to obstruct a criminal investigation. In criminal cases, any statement made in the course of plea bargaining with the prosecution is likewise inadmissible in evidence. (Rule 130, Section 28)


f.    A provision on hearsay is now included in the Revised Rules. Hearsay is a statement other than one made by the declarant while testifying at a trial or hearing, offered to prove the truth of the facts asserted therein. (Rule 130, Section 37)


g.   A provision on residual exception is now included in the Revised Rules. The provision on residual exception is an exception to the Hearsay Rule. (Rule 130, Section 50)


h.   The definition of Burden of Evidence is now included in the provision of Burden of proof. Burden of Evidence is the duty of a party to present evidence sufficient to establish or rebut a fact in issue to establish a prima facie case. (Rule 131, Section 1)


            The enumerated major highlights and salient provisions are only several of the many amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedures and Rules of Evidence. A perusal of the Amended Rules shows that some of the jurisprudential doctrines decided by the Supreme Court are already incorporated in the Rules.


            The Supreme Court, through the Philippine Judicial Academy, released a compilation of the Primer on the amended Rules of Civil Procedure and Rules on Evidence. In its Primer, former Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta ended his message with, “It is my sincere hope that this publication will be of substantial help in furthering the Court’s objective of encouraging the speedy, inexpensive disposition of cases as a means of improving the administration of justice.”


            The Primer on the 2019 Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and the Primer on the 2019 Amendments to the 1989 Revised Rules on Evidence can be accessed through the Supreme Court’s website.


            The 2019 Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and the 2019 Amendments to the 1989 the Revised Rules on Evidence are both included in the syllabus for the 2021 Bar Examination.