After its successful pilot testing in 52 first and second level courts in Metro Manila, the continuous trial system will now be implemented in all trial courts nationwide starting in September, according to the Supreme Court (SC).
The High Court approved the nationwide implementation of the project upon the recommendation of its special committee on speedy trial chaired by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta.
Under the system, trials are held from Monday to Thursday and courts must call the cases at exactly 8:30 a.m. for morning hearings and 2 p.m. for afternoon hearings.
The project is designed to cut trial duration in criminal cases from three to five years to just around three months.
In the revised guidelines approved on April 25, the SC extended the implementation of the system formulated to expedite resolution of criminal cases and declog court dockets.
“The Revised Guidelines for Continuous Trial of Criminal Cases shall apply to all newly-filed criminal cases, including those governed by special laws and rules, in the first and second level courts, the Sandiganbayan and the Court of Tax Appeals as of effectivity date. The Revised Guidelines shall also apply to pending criminal cases with respect to pending proceedings,” the SC said.
Under the guidelines, hearings on motions, arraignment and pre-trial, and promulgation of decisions shall be held in the morning of Fridays.
The high court cited the findings of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, which conducted a results analysis on the project testing in 2015, “that specific procedural and case management reforms have a notable effect in reducing case processing time.”
This finding was affirmed by another development partner, The Asia Foundation, in a report last year showing a “clear and significant improvement in reducing the duration of criminal proceedings and improving the trial courts’ compliance with the periods and timelines for trial set in the Rules of Court and Laws.”
The continuous trial project, initiated by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and supported by the United States Agency for International Development, aims to protect and advance the constitutional right of litigants to speedy disposition of their criminal cases.
It is also part of the innovations and reforms implemented by the high court to expedite the resolution of cases and modernize the judicial system.