Guide to Filing a Civil Case in the Philippines

File Civil Case – Philippines

There’s often a fine line between a criminal and a civil case, primarily because criminal liability also carries civil liability. A criminal act is deemed to cause harm to both the state and the offended person, hence the liability to both.

 In most cases, the civil action is already included in the criminal action, but generally the offended party may make the reservation to file a separate civil action, provided he does not receive damages twice for the same cause.

 In addition to this, civil action may also be taken against individuals or entities who have not necessarily committed a crime but whose actions or negligence may have violated another person’s rights, or caused harm to another person or the person’s property.

 While a criminal case is filed by the state against the offender, a civil case is filed by a person or entity against another person or entity.

 A criminal case may result in penalties and punishments that include jail time, but a civil case is often resolved monetarily, or by arriving at a resolution for certain disputes.

The procedure for filing a civil case is very different from the procedure for a criminal case. Here’s a step-by-step guide to filing a civil case in the Philippines:

Consult a lawyer

 Consult a lawyer if you’re unsure whether a person’s actions constitute a criminal or a civil offense. In either case, your attorney will help you through the process, protect your interests and help you achieve the best possible resolution for the case.

File a complaint

The venue for filing a complaint depends on the nature of the case. Cases involving real estate disputes (real actions) are filed in a proper court where the disputed property is located.

Cases involving persons (personal actions) are filed in courts where either the complainant or the defendant resides.

If the defendant lives outside the Philippines and the case is a personal dispute, you may filethecomplaintin a court within your area of residence. If the case is a property dispute, the suit may be filed in a court where the property is located.

In filing the complaint, you also need to pay schedule-based filing fees.

The case is then raffled to a judge.

Ensure summons are served

After the complaint is filed, the corresponding summons will be served upon the defendant.

Proof of service for the summons is crucial, and without it, the case may be dismissed. The law provides various ways for summons to be served.  If the defendant’s whereabouts are unknown, the law allows service by publication.

Your lawyer will exhaust all means to ensure the summons are properly served within the allowed period so the case may flourish.

Go through pre-trial

A pre-trial that brings all parties together for a possible peaceful settlement is required by law. The presence of both the defendant and the plaintiff is mandatory, unless their absence is legally excused.

If the defendant fails to attend, the plaintiff may proceed to present evidence ex-parte. If the plaintiff is absent, the case may be dismissed.

Go through trial

Evidence, rebuttal evidence and sur-rebuttals will be presented during the trial. Due to the passage of the Judicial Affidavit Rule, a Witness’s’ direct testimony is now given through written statements by using Judicial Affidavit instead of verbal direct examination, and the witnesses may be cross-examined on his/her Judicial Affidavit.

After all evidence and affidavits have been presented and reviewed, both parties will be required to file a written memorandum summarizing their position. The case is then considered submitted for decision.

The Judge’s Decision

In some cases, the judge may render a decision based on submitted affidavits without going through an actual trial.

Under the Constitution and Rules of Court, a decision should be rendered within 30 to 90 days after the case was submitted for decision.

Either party may file an appeal within 15 days from the receipt of the decision.If no appeal is filed, the decision will be implemented.