The Supreme Court on Tuesday approved the guidelines on using "judicial affidavits" in an effort to speed up the resolution of cases by cutting down in half the period in presenting evidence.
At a media briefing, Supreme Court Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva said the use of judicial affidavits would be pilot-tested at the Quezon City regional trial court.
Villanueva is the vice chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Proposed Practice Guidelines for Quezon City Trial Courts and was recently designated as Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's "communicator on judicial reforms."
Villanueva said the Judicial Affidavit Rule will be published on September 15 and will take effect January 1 next year.
Judicial affidavits are sworn statements containing the witness' tetsimony in question-and-answer form. They are usually used in place of the traditional direct testimony to expedite the presdentation of evidence.
The high-profile, three-year-old Maguidnanao murder trial has been using judicial affidavits for quite some time now.
Last year, the parties have agreed that only a handful of the relatives of the 57 massacre victims would sit on the witness stand to be direct exmained by the defense, while the rest would just execute judicial affidavits.
Judicial affidavits are used particularly for the civil aspect of the murder case, in which families of the slain victims who are claiming damages from the suspects would just submit judicial affidavits instead of detailing in court their knowledge about the killings.
Considered the worst single attack on journalists in the world, the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre left 57 people, including 32 journalists dead, at Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
So far, 102 suspects in the gruesome killings have been arrested - eight of them prominent members of the powerful southern Mindanaoan clan of Ampatuan. A total of 94 suspects remain at large as of posting time, according to the Philippine National Police.
In a statement last June, several journalists and media watchdog Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility issued a statement urging the Supreme Court to review the rules of court that are prone to abuse in order to hasten resolution of cases involving media killings.
"The [Ampatuan] trial... has demonstrated more than any other case in recent memory that these rules are the key impediments to the quick resolution of the case against the persons accused of planning and carrying out the massacre," read the statement.
"Over the last two years since the trial began, the proceedings have been delayed again and again by numerous motions and petitions per week. At the rate the trial is going, its conclusion is likely to take place in the distant future," it added. — RSJ, GMA News