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Advice to Filipino lawyers: Practice pre-trial

Photo by loQal.ph
By Anna Valmero, loQal.ph
For Yahoo! Southeast Asia

MAKATI CITY, METRO MANILA - Former Supreme Court Justice Josue Bellosillo has one advice for Filipino lawyers: practice effective pre-trial and resolve cases faster.

"The biggest challenge for lawyers today is how to decongest court dockets of thousands of cases and achieve the ideal 150 cases per trial court," said Bellosillo, who now serves as dean of the Centro Escolar University School of Law and Jurisprudence.

Bellosillo was appointed Supreme Court justice by former President Corazon Aquino in 1992 and retired in 2003.

Pre-trial, as defined in the second edition of his recently launched book "Effective Pre-Trial Technique", involves conferences between lawyers  representing parties in a lawsuit and a trial court judge to prepare for the next hearing "by simplifying the issues, submission of cases for arbitration or a potential amicable settlement between the parties."

Simply put, it allows for the parties to set the agenda for the trial.

Since 1964, pre-trial is mandatory in both hearings of civil and criminal cases in the country, under Rule 18 of the 1997 Rules of Court or formerly known as "Rule 2" of the Rules of Court.

"If lawyers or judges do not observe effective pre-trial, they will be administratively liable for not observing mandatory procedures," said Bellosillo, who donated sopies of his book to the Supreme Court.

According to him, there are two areas wherein courts can be decongested: the process which cases are filed, tried and resolved and secondly, how courts are organized and managed.

To prevent docket congestion, he proposes a "gate keeping" system to manage the litigation process and incorporate alternative disputes and encourage privately ordered settlement.

Then the judiciary and litigation could best decide what cases could remain in the traditional system and to save judicial time for more deserving cases.

As an example, Bellosillo cited a case involving ownership of a fighting cock that went on trial all the way to the Supreme Court.

Often, he noted  trial judges proceed without analyzing the issues concerned, the admitted facts and to settle differences of the parties to avoid trial. If they cannot settle, they can go straight to the stipulation of facts so as there is no need for them to submit evidence.

A case that may have lasted for five to ten years can be disposed in a year or two through the use of pre-trial.

"There is a moral obligation among judges to dispose cases fast enough," said Bellosillo.

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