September 6, 2011 – The City of Valenzuela once again played a key part in judicial reform history as host during the launching of the Supreme Court’s breakthrough project, Small Claims Case Monitoring System (SC2MS), which aims to make small claims court procedure much easier.
The web-based system was demonstrated to the public for the first time at Valenzuela City’s Bulwagan ng Katarungan in the presence of SC Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, leading the delegation from the judicial sector, judges and representatives from lower courts in Valenzuela City, and media.
This landmark project, developed in cooperation with the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) shall provide the Supreme Court with detailed, consistent and integrated case information coming from the first level courts. SC2MS will enable the judiciary to better integrate its processes by shifting from manual to faster electronic processes. It will also improve data systems across localities and regions.
Valenzuela City Mayor Sherwin T. Gatchalian emphasized the importance of the project to the city as a booming commercial and industry hub, noting that the SC2MS “is not only intended for our poor litigants, but also for businessmen and entrepreneurs as well. The City Government is proud to be part of this milestone in judicial reforms.”
Under “The Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases (A.M. No. 08-8-7-SC),” small claims courts hear cases worth PhP 100,000 and below. The process begins with the complainant filing a statement of claims and hands over documentary evidence to the Office of the Clerk of Court. After this, the case will be raffled off to determine which judge will hear the case and the respondent will be issued a subpoena to attend a hearing. The court disinvolves lawyers in the procedure, thereby sparing the complainant from the high costs of pursuing a case, and resolves the case through a settlement hearing with the judge the same day unless there are instances when counterclaims are filed by the defendant. The judge’s decision is final, non-appealable and immediately executory.
However, the manual tasks of accomplishing paperwork and scheduling prove to still slow down the initiative. Thus, through the electronic process, the goal of speeding up and decongesting court proceedings will finally be realized.
SC2MS saves staff time, streamlines the reporting process, reduces human errors and increases the judiciary’s accountability. Its key features include an automatic display of daily tasks, programmed custom reports, real-time case tracking and an audit log that captures case history.
According to Mr. Gerardo A. Porta, Senior Program Manager of the USAID’s Office of Economic Development and Governance, the system was pilot-tested in 44 trial courts in selected urban areas of the Philippines - including Valenzuela City since October 2008. Around 6,000 small claims cases have been recorded as filed during the project’s first nine months, of which 3,547 cases have been decided.
“This is a vital effort of the USAID to promote efficient, affordable and meaningful remedies to the poor and disadvantaged populace.With the funding support of USAID and technical assistance from ABA ROLI, the Supreme Court created a new court system for Small Claims Cases in aim of providing meaningful justice services to all citizens regardless of income.” he said.
With the official turnover of the SC2MS Software and Universal Serial Bus (USB) Wireless Broad Band by Mr. Scott P. Ciment, Country Director of ABA ROLI and Mr. Allan C. Tan, SC2MS Consultant, Ideyatech, Inc. to Chancellor Adolfo S. Azcuna of the Philippine Judicial Academy, the 1,357 courts in the country processing small claims cases can immediately share data with the Supreme Court’s Court Management Office (CMO).