Speedy Justice on Continuous Trial Soon to Roll in Philippine Courts Nationwide

               



               The Philippine Courts are undoubtedly clogged with innumerable pending cases before it which leads to the adage that justice delayed is justice denied. Indeed the Supreme Court acknowledges that about seventy seven (77%) of all cases pending before the Philippine Courts are criminal cases, thus in its Resolution A.M. No. 15-06-10-SC issued on June 30, 2015, it approved the recommendation of the Chairman of the Special Committee on Speedy Trial on the Proposed Guidelines for Continuous Trial of Criminal Cases in different pilot courts that took effect on August 17, 2015.

                The designated pilot courts include Metropolitan trial courts, Regional trial courts, Drug courts and Family courts of Makati City, Manila City, Quezon City, and Marikina City; Metropolitan trial courts, Regional trial courts, and Drug courts of Pasig City; Metropolitan trial courts and Regional trial courts of Pasay City; Metropolitan trial courts of Paranaque City; and the Regional trial courts and Family courts of Muntinlupa City.

                The main principle of the Continuous Trial is to help declog the court dockets and to expedite the resolution of criminal cases. After the successful pilot testing of Continuous Trial on the above-mentioned first and second level courts within Metro Manila, the continuous trial system will soon be implemented sometime in September 2017 across all Philippine courts nationwide. The new rule on speedy trial shall apply to the newly filed criminal cases which likewise cover special laws and rules in the first and second level courts, the Court of Tax Appeals and the Sandiganbayan.

                Among the pertinent goals on the implementation of the Continuous Trial System are the termination of drug related cases within 60 days from the start of the trial with stringent prohibition on motion for postponement except on reasonable grounds and to trim down the length of trial duration in criminal cases that usually drag on for many years. It also requires the promulgation of judgment within 90 days. Hearing on motions, pre-trial, arraignment and the promulgation of judgments shall be made every Friday morning. Trial hearings are to be held every Monday to Thursday that should begin exactly at 8:30 in the morning and 2:00 in the afternoon.








                It can be noted that this initiative in the justice system in the Philippines is in response to the findings of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative on its project testing analysis conducted in 2015 providing that special procedural and case management reforms have a significant impact in reducing the processing time and resolution of cases. The Asia Foundation affirmed said findings in its report in 2016 showing that there is a significant improvement on the reduction in the duration of criminal proceedings with improvements in the compliance of trial courts on the timeline and periods set in the Rules of Court and laws.

                It is one of Chief Justice Sereno’s advocacies to speed up the course of criminal proceedings in all Philippine courts and to support the efficient implementation of Justice on Wheels project. The Continuous Trials is just one among the several revolutionary initiatives introduced in the Philippine justice system to expedite trial proceedings which include the implementation of the Judicial Affidavit Rule in 2012 and the electronic court or eCourt program in 2013 that improved the case management and docket disposition among designated eCourts. The Hustisyeah project was also launched in 2013 with pilot courts in Quezon City which is a court decongestion program that deploys case decongestion officers nationwide to help reduce the dockets among 460 beneficiary courts.


                Considering the noble purpose of the Continuous Trial to give life to the spirit of the Constitutional rights of an accused for a speedy trial, this soon to be implemented system on speedy justice provides a comforting welcome among the members of the judiciary and all its stakeholders. However, there are challenges that the justice system needs to address for the efficient implementation of the Continuous Trial system which includes filling up vacant position of judges in different courts and the subjective appreciation of judges on what is reasonable in ruling on motion for postponements as among many others. 

Philippine Law School Admission Test (PhilSAT) – Uniform Admission to Law School



If you are an aspiring lawyer and is due to enroll in any law school in the Philippines this coming school year 2017-2018, you are among the thousands of examinees vying to pass the pilot test for a unified admission policy for all law schools. The Philippine Law School Admission Test (PhilSAT) is conceptualized to become the standard aptitude test that will measure the academic skills and capacity to be in law school. By virtue of the Legal Education Board (LEB) Memorandum Order No. 7, series of 2016 the Board declared PhilSAT as a prerequisite in law school admission either for the Bachelor of Laws or Juris Doctor degree. This Order is in pursuant to the power of the LEB on prescribing the minimum standards for admission in law schools under Section 7(e) of the Legal Education Reform Act of 1993 (RA 7662). The Center for Educational Measurement, Inc. (CEM) will be responsible in the implementation and operation of the PhilSAT throughout the Philippines.

View the Legal Education Board (LEB) Memorandum Order No. 7, series of 2016 here.

Considering the predicaments of future law students who are sending email inquiries from me through my blog, I try to come up with some comprehensive information regarding the PhilSAT to manage your expectations and to make adequate preparation of passing the uniform admission test to law schools in the Philippines.

What to expect from the PhilSAT


The PhilSAT will be a one-day examination/aptitude multiple choice type of test. The passing rate is 55% and passers will be given a Certificate of Eligibility valid for 2 years only. There is no limit on how many times you can re-take the admission test once you flunk the exam (I hope not!).
Comprehension, critical thinking and communication abilities are important from lawyers. That is why the PhilSAT dwells on different subtests involving language proficiency, subtests on communications, verbal and quantitative reasoning, and critical thinking skills.

      Test for proficiency on language and communications

This will test your grammar and usage errors, including the determination of the use of appropriate words and phrases in a sentence. You need to practice various areas of language proficiency, namely how to improve writing sentences, sentence completion and identifying error in a sentence.

Test your language and communication skills by taking this Written Test of English Language Proficiency and Legal terminology as a good exercise.

      Test for Verbal reasoning

This test consists of reading passages with subsequent questions about each passage. It will test your ability to understand what you read and draw out a conclusion according to its content.

I found this Verbal Reasoning Practice Test that you may want to try out.

      Test for Quantitative Reasoning

This test will measure your mathematical skills using interpretation and analysis based on numerical information in order to draw a conclusion. Subtests include data interpretation, data sufficiency and pattern recognition.

You may find these tips on quantitative reasoning helpful.

      Test for Critical thinking

The test will measure your analytical skills and reasoning based on the written propositions from which you will draw out a conclusion. This basically provides two types of questions namely analytical reasoning and logical reasoning.

I found some helpful tips and good critical thinking sample tests that you may practice from here.

Who are exempted from taking the PhilSAT


The PhilSAT provides some exemptions from taking the admission test in law schools. To qualify you need to be an honor student who is granted with professional civil service eligibility and is enrolling in law school within 2 years from graduation. All these conditions must be met.

Who are qualified in taking the PhilSAT


To qualify for taking the PhilSAT you must be:
1. A graduate of a 4-year bachelor's degree or its equivalent.
2. Graduating student of a 4-year bachelor's degree or its equivalent at the end of the school year when the admission test is administered.
3. Graduate of a 4-year bachelor's degree from a foreign higher education institution certified by CHED.

Where to register for the PhilSAT admission test


The Legal Education Board has revolutionized the registration for the PhilSAT admission test through an online registration system. The test date will begin on April 16, 2017 with a testing fee of P1,000.00. You may register from March 2 until April 3, 2017.

Visit the official PhilSAT online registration website here.

You may register online here.

Testing Centers


The LEB accredited the following testing centers for the PhilSAT:

1.       Metro Manila
2.       Baguio City
3.        Legazpi City
4.       Cebu City
5.       Iloilo City
6.       Davao City
7.       Cagayan de Oro City

Side Note:


The PhilSAT should not deter you from pursuing your dream to become a lawyer. Take this as an inspiring food for thought from Abraham Lincoln.



Premature Marriage Now Decriminalized by Virtue of RA 10655

By virtue of Republic Act 10655, which was signed into law on March 13, 2015, Article 351 of the Revised Penal Code has been repealed and in effect decriminalized premature marriage. Article 351 provides:

Art. 351. Premature marriages. — Any widow who shall marry within three hundred and one day from the date of the death of her husband, or before having delivered if she shall have been pregnant at the time of his death, shall be punished by arresto mayor and a fine not exceeding 500 pesos.

The same penalties shall be imposed upon any woman whose marriage shall have been annulled or dissolved, if she shall marry before her delivery or before the expiration of the period of three hundred and one day after the legal separation.

The repeal is without prejudice to the provisions of the Family Code on paternity and filiation.


The rationale for the repeal is that it is discriminatory among women as it curtails their right to marry under the above-stated circumstances. The salient purpose of the prohibition under Article 351 is to impose among women a mourning period which prohibition is not imposed among men. 

LAST MINUTE TIPS FOR THE BAR EXAM FROM A FORMER BARRISTER

Image credit: GMA Network

This blog post is a continuation of my previous post on Hurdling the Bar Exam – Overhaul Your Strategies to Pass The Bar. November is getting closer and I can relate well about the feeling of jitters, anxiousness and sleepless nights that barristers now experience. I, too have some shares of terrorizing thoughts and going ballistic thinking about how to shortlist the topics to read during the last few weeks before the most dreaded month for the bar exam comes. With my sincere desire to help barristers, most especially some classmates who are going to take the bar and are texting me for help, here are some helpful (I hope) tips I can share with you to help you get through during the BIG DAY.

Tip #1 - EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

Even if you come prepared I must say that no one will ever be that prepared and ready for the unexpected bar questions on the BIG DAY. So the first tip that I can give you is to EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED and be ready how to manage your emotion and mental block that can possibly happen. The emotional rush will be overwhelming, believe me, especially when the first question is something that you are uncomfortable of answering (or unfortunately you do not know how to answer).  The bar examiners have their way of making barristers “comfortable” or “uncomfortable” about the questions that they will throw at you to test your wits and ability to argue within the legal purview. The first questions will always be the “gulpi de gulat” part. The question will either be the very basic that you tend to neglect studying during your review since you consider them negligible (yeah, such as different national territory of the Philippines – territorial zone, contiguous zone, etc. and the examiner asks you to define each!) or a very difficult case law that requires you to exercise your own judgment and ruling based on the facts given and on jurisprudence. You need to be mentally composed and relaxed during the exam to give yourself some breather to think clearly. Once you panic, mental block will consume you and you will definitely be lost.

Tip #2 – OVERCOMING MENTAL BLOCK

                Mental block is definitely every barrister’s foe. A common reaction to this is mental and emotional panic. It is a mistake to answer the question immediately while you are at this “unfit” state. To confront your mental block, spend a few seconds to relax yourself, regain composure and re-affirm to yourself that you have prepared enough for the bar to regain your confidence in answering the question. Don’t be too desperate in answering the question outright. You can skip the question and mark the questionnaire so that you can go back for it later. Do not forget to allocate a page for that question on the test notebook. By going to the next question that you are able to answer you can regain back your confidence that you are capable of defending your ground in the battlefield.

Another trick that I have learned from the research study conducted by the Science of Neuro-Linguistic Programming is to look up instead of staring at your desk during a mental block. Based on their brain research the position of the eyes actually influences which part of the brain we are trying to access. Looking up allows us to access information from our memories. Try it! There’s no harm done to do this when you are already in a desperate situation as a mental block during the bar exam.

Another thing that you can try is using Mind Mapping. Sure you cannot directly hit the bull’s eye to the answer but with mind mapping you start to trigger your memory to bring out everything you know that is related about the topic/question you have trouble of answering. The power of association will come into play and once triggered you can certainly pick up something useful that can help you answer the difficult question and play around such information in order to give the closest answer that you can possibly give the examiner. Lastly, even if you have a mental block never leave the question blank. Just give it your best shot. Getting 1 point from your answer is better than getting a zero. Remember 1 point and even .01 from your rating can influence your passing or not passing the bar so every point counts! So give it a good fight! Your future career depends on it!

Tip #3 – DO NOT RELY HEAVILY ON TIPS

                There is so much commotion about getting tips from other schools and review centers. While tips are helpful in some ways it can also be distracting in another. Tips can be helpful but common sense will always tell you that even granting other schools or review centers may have sources of getting tips you will still know the answer to the bar questions if you come prepared. Honestly, I was able to get hold of some of these so-called “tips” on the first day but mind you the tips are useless since not a single topic from it came out from the bar. After a quick scan of the last minute tip shared by a friend I lost interest from it since I already know what was written there. What I am saying is tips or no tips you already have the body of knowledge in your brain that will help you get through the bar questions. Rely on that heavily and not on some tips.

On the other hand, there are tips that are actually reliable. Although they are not the actual answer it helps you focus on important topics that might actually come out in the bar and gives you time to research or ask others about that topic before the exam begins. But again, tips or no tips you can still answer if you prepared well during your review. That’s my stand and point of view about tips and I hope that you will make it yours, too for the sake of passing the bar. Just play safe while in the battlefield and wear your own armor and weapons.

Bar Operations 2010 Then at La Salle


Tip #4 – BRING YOUR OWN SURVIVAL KIT

                If there is something good about bar operations, it is the convenience they provide to the barristers. They provide a kit that contains everything you need from bottles of water, snacks, candies, lunch, fruits and other food stuffs and yeah medicine (this is not overdoing it for this became helpful when a classmate needs to go several times in the comfort room before the exam starts because of an upset stomach, most likely caused by anxiousness, and the medicine I prepared for myself helped calm down his stomach from going ballistic). I appreciate the efforts of my school’s bar operation organized by the school council for which I was an officer throughout my four years in law school but as I emphasized before I prefer taking with me my own armor and weapons and I selectively chose the medicines I will likely need during an “emergency.” And yes I did plan for and prepared my own “kit” since I expect that outside the UST will be chaotic and crowded and there is a chance that I will miss my school’s bar operation group and I can’t grab the kits that they will provide.

                The lunch break is only good for 1 hour and taking into account the time it takes to walk and find a place to eat, in addition to the long line it takes to order your food plus the agony of walking under the heat of the sun or the rain that can be very stressful, it is smarter to stay within the UST campus to eat your lunch. I prefer eating light lunch and I have with me dark chocolates that keep my stomach feeling full throughout the day because they contain high fiber. Dark chocolates also enhance the blood flow to the brain and the heart which enhance cognitive function. The last thing I want to worry about is food and lack of energy so I make sure I get a dose of caffeine before going to the examination center, munch on some dark chocolates to make me feel fuller during the exam, chew some Mentos to give me some refreshing and cool feeling while answering on my test booklet and two bottles of water to keep me hydrated just enough but will not let me go to the comfort room during the examination. That’s all for my survival kit.

CPC Central Bar Operations at UST

Tip #5 – LEAVE EXCESS BAGGAGE BEHIND

                You probably wonder why I included this here. Well, personally I was going through hell and fire during my review period and it takes a lot of commitment, courage and determination to focus. I refused that my personal circumstances will tip over my emotional and mental balance so I decided I need to unload myself from whatever baggage I was carrying at that time. Each one of us will always have our own personal circumstances, such as problems involving family, relationships, money, work, etc. that will be a barrier in focusing on your review and the bar. I have given up some things and made some major decisions that helped me unload the excess baggage I have been carrying for many years and that helped me attract positive vibes. If you have those baggage to carry with you during the bar month try your best to throw it away or at least shut them out of your system temporarily. It may be easier said than done but I do know how devastating it can be to have this baggage around during the review and bar months. They are a major distraction and destruction and you have to make a call in keeping them from affecting the outcome of your bar exam.

Tip #6 – NEVER DISCUSS THE ANSWERS OF THE BAR QUESTIONS

                For your own peace of mind’s sake never attempt to discuss the answer of the bar questions with someone. Since you will have to endure the 4 Sundays of November, it is best to keep mum about the bar questions/answers and move on studying for the next subject that you will take. I know some people who tried to search for the answers of the past bar questions and spent the whole week worrying and feeling bad about giving the wrong answer that they lost focus on reviewing for the next Sunday’s exam. It can distract you from focusing on what matters the most at the moment. It can even make you lose confidence in taking the bar for the upcoming Sundays and you will eventually lose focus because of some nagging thoughts in your mind. Don’t let this practice kill your chance in giving your best for the succeeding Sundays.

Tip #7 – TAKE MEMORY ENHANCER

                Barristers are already subject to mental fatigue during the review months. Aside from the lengthy and exhaustive coverage of the bar exam, the type of the exam in the bar is more challenging than any other professional examination in the Philippines. With an essay type of examination you need to be mentally alert and you need to have a good analytical skill and comprehension. This in itself can become burdensome to your brain to process everything. Taking a memory enhancer can help you boost your cognitive performance. However, take precaution when taking anything. Make sure that you have a clearance from your doctor if you have some medical condition. Taking them will not guarantee you on passing the bar but can help enhance your cognitive function to help you process the information you learned during your review and help retain them in your memory. If you have some problems about memory retention and recall you may find this helpful. Memory enhancers can keep your mind sharp and allows you to focus and process information quickly. It also enhances your analytical and comprehension skills which are essential during the bar exam.

Tip #8 – PRAY SINCERELY AND REASONABLY

                Prayer is a very powerful tool that can help you get through all sorts of challenges of the bar exam. But pray reasonably. By this I mean pray sincerely coming from your heart. This will do and you shall receive the divine guidance that you need. Saying a litany of prayers before the bar will not be of much help if you did not actually prepared well. The answers will not magically come to your mind during the bar exam. The divine guidance will happen when you most need it such as when you start panicking and saying a prayer will help calm you down or you will never feel anxious at all during the bar exam or when you come across a question and you are able to answer it very smoothly, or you come across a question which you are able to read before in your review. These are some of the “wonders” that prayers can do. But you need to help yourself, too. It is unreasonable to ask passing the bar when you have not spent much effort to make it happen.

Tip #9 – GIVE YOURSELF A GOOD FIGHT, YOU OWE IT TO YOURSELF

                I call the bar exam the battleground because it will place you to a situation where you will struggle to fight for a spot to pass. Based on statistics, out of thousands of bar examinees only just a few hundred in some cases and not over two thousand for most cases only pass every year. The bar is no doubt the HARDEST professional examination in the Philippines and one of the hardest in the world. You need to realize this the moment you step your foot in law school in your first year. It takes years before you can build your database of knowledge about the law and the grand finale to test what you have learned is the bar exam. Knowing your struggles during your school days, the things you gave up and sacrificed, and the sleepless nights for many years to get this far, you should realize that you deserve to be on the 20% more or less who will pass the bar and not on the 80% casualties every year. Claim your spot to take your Lawyer's Oath soon!

BAR PASSERS TAKING THEIR LAWYERS OATH BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT JUSTICES
Image credit: GMA Network


Tip #10 – REMIND YOURSELF OF THE GOOD THINGS TO COME

                Inspire yourself during the bar exam by thinking about the good things that are yet to come. Do you miss going out with friends and to socialize? Is your current job does not give you self fulfillment and satisfaction? Are you looking forward to getting long hours of sleep? After the bar you can indulge in socializing or sleeping for long hours and it will give you the leeway to do whatever you want to do. I am sure there are many good stuffs that you look forward to of doing after the bar exam. You can also look forward to practicing the law profession once you pass and get the Atty title before your name. After what you have sacrificed during the review months you are probably excited to be liberated from your review routines and become rewarded for your hard work by passing the bar exam. With these inspirations in mind you can condition yourself to do your best during the big day. The deliberate conditioning of the mind through positive thoughts can go a long way of driving you towards achieving your goals. 

                Hats up for all the barristers this year for I truly understand your sacrifices and struggles to get this far on your journey. Always look forward with positive thoughts and highly driven motivation to get through. It is not easy to be on the battleground but with the right armor and weapons you take with you the reward of winning is very fulfilling. Good luck and I’ll be offering special prayers to all of you.
               


State of Lawlessness is Not Martial Law



State of lawlessness is different from a martial law. This is my answer when someone at the firm asked me if the country will be placed under martial law after President Duterte declared a state of lawlessness in Davao that marred the country last September 2, 2016. The fear that the country will be placed under martial law is understandable considering the political history that left many Filipinos scarred until this time. In order to shed light into this issue, it is important to understand the difference between the two within the legal purview. A state of lawlessness pertains to the condition where there is no regard for the law or situations where there is unbridled conduct or behavior that equates to unruly condition or violence. Its implication is under the state of lawlessness the President may call more Armed Forces to provide more stringent security to places where there is lawlessness.

This power of the President emanates from the Constitutional provision embodied under Article VII, Section 18 where “The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.” This, however, cannot be construed as equivalent to the declaration of a Martial Law. It is worth noting that only under the state of invasion and rebellion that the President of the Philippines may lawfully declare the country under Martial Law.

Under the state of lawlessness, the armed forces or the military will be allowed to exercise punitive action to prevent violence or acts of terrorism. This power of the President to declare a state of lawlessness is justified to reinforce the security of the country and to protect its citizens against lawlessness and violence. The military forces are still under the mandate to observe due process and uphold human rights along the process of executing their duties to protect the country.



In contrast, when the President declares a Martial Law when the public safety requires it, the armed forces or military will be authorized to make arrests without the need of court intervention. This is because the effect of Martial Law results in the suspension of the privilege of habeas corpus (note: it is merely suspended temporarily not exceeding sixty days, unless it is revoked or extended by the Congress voting jointly by a vote of at least the majority of its members).

The declaration of the Martial Law is without prejudice to the right of the citizens to seek redress from the Supreme Court to review the sufficiency of the factual basis of the Martial Law and the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus. Moreover, the Constitution provides that the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus will only be applied against persons charged with invasion or rebellion. The declaration of Martial Law will have the effect of calling the military to overtake civilian authority which is not the case in the declaration of a state of lawlessness in Davao City.


The mere effect of the declaration of a state of lawlessness is there will be more military and armed forces called upon to enforce the law, conduct check points and other security measures deemed necessary to ensure public safety. Civil rights will not be impaired and the security forces deployed will still be bound by the Constitutional provisions of due process and respect of human rights and will be still liable in case of any infractions of the law in the conduct of their duties. 

Revised Rules of Procedure For Small Claims Cases

By Virtue of A.M. No. 08-8-7-SC THE 2016 REVISED RULESOF PROCEDURE FORSMALL CLAIMS CASES, it is important to know that the jurisdictional amount has been raised from P100,000.00 to P200,000.00 effective February 1, 2016. 





Shipmanagement Inc., et al. v Alexander Moradas GR NO. 178564, January 15, 2014

Injuries due to the willful act of the employee is not compensable

FACTS:

The respondent was employed as a wiper for the vessel M/V Commander of the Shipmanagement Inc. The respondent claims that chemicals were splashed all over his body during garbage disposal in the vessel's incinerator room due to an explosion. He was repatriated and admitted to St. Luke's Medical Center. He was diagnosed with thermal burns. He now claims for the payment of his full disability benefit under Section 20 (B) in relation to Section 30 and 30-A of the POEA-SEC contending that his burns render him permanently disabled to work as a seaman. On the other hand, the petitioner disputed the claim of the respondent that he is entitled to the disability benefit. It contends that the burns and injury of the respondent are self inflicted by pouring himself with a paint thinner and set himself on fire. This was after he was dismissed after being caught stealing the supplies from the vessel. Report of the ship captain as well as affidavits of the crew members were submitted.

The Labor Arbiter and NLRC ruled in favor of the respondent, but the CA reversed the judgment, hence this petition for review on certiorari to the Supreme Court. 

ISSUE:

Whether or not the respondent is entitled to the disability benefit.

RULING:

No. He is not entitled.

The court held to be entitled for the disability benefit it is not necessary to show that the injury was work-related. It must only be proven to have been contracted during the term of the contract. This rule is not absolute, however, and among the grounds for the exemption from liability by the employer is when the injury or cause of the disability is due to the willful and deliberate act of the seaman. The court found some grounds to conclude that the respondent's injury is indeed deliberate and self inflicted because there is no showing of evidence on record that the burning was due to an accident and that the petitioner's theory that the respondent's burn were self inflicted is correct as supported by evidence that shows the respondent's motive.