By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, February 28 2019; Business World

Image Credit to Business World

THE SUPREME COURT has increased the ceiling for small money claims cases filed with metropolitan trial courts nationwide uniformly to P400,000 from P300,000, effective April 1, raising government hopes the move could help improve the Philippines’ performance in the World Bank’s annual ease of doing business reports.

The high court said in a press release on Wednesday that the move will “streamline and harmonize the rules of procedure for money claims filed before all first-level courts.”

It quoted Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, chairman of the high court’s Special Committee on Small Claims Cases, as saying this step “will result in the speedier, more efficient resolution of money claims cases, as well as help increase the country’s score in the World Bank’s ease of doing business report.”

According to the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report, the Philippines ranked 124th out of 190 countries, dropping from 113th on the preceding year’s list. Each economy is assessed on indicators like labor market regulation, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, trading across borders, paying taxes, enforcing contracts (time and cost of resolving commercial disputes before metropolitan trial courts), resolving insolvency and starting a business.

Mr. Peralta said he “believes that applying the Revised Rules of Procedure for Small Claims Cases on all money claims filed before metropolitan trial courts will increase the country’s score in next year’s report,” adding that it is in line with the four-point agenda of Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin which include making the rules of the judiciary more efficient and effective.

In 2010, the SC ordered implementation of the Rules of Procedure for Small Claims Cases across first-level courts nationwide for money claims not exceeding P100,000. In 2015, the court increased this ceiling to P200,000 and then to P300,000 in 2018.

Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez said in a telephone interview that the move will ensure more cases will be resolved faster. “Sa small claims procedure… after one hearing the court has to decide within 24 hours from the time it heard the case,” Mr. Maquez explained.

The same Supreme Court press release quoted Secretary Ramon M. Lopez of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as saying the increase in ceiling for small claims cases “will benefit small entrepreneurs using the court system and result in an increase in the country’s ranking in the World Bank Doing Business Survey.”

“This reform is one of the initiatives of the government to promote ease of doing business,” Mr. Lopez said, noting it will reduce the number of days for trial and judgment under the Doing Business report’s “enforcing contract” indicator.

“The DTI is optimistic that the strong partnership between the Executive and the Judicial branches of government will bring positive results. We look forward to working with the Supreme Court to improve the quality of judicial processes index, particularly in the area of court automation and case management.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas