MANILA, Philippines - The Prosecutors' League of the Philippines (PLP) is objecting to the Supreme Court's new rule requiring the submission of judicial affidavits instead of direct testimony of witnesses in criminal cases.
In a 7-page letter to the Supreme Court, the group asked for the deferment of implementation of SC's Administrative Matter No. 12-8-8-SC or the Judicial Affidavit Rule. The letter was signed by Region X Regional Prosecutor and PLP President Jaime Umpa.
Last September, the high court approved the new rule that provides that "when a party (whether plaintiff or defendant) questions his own witness, he no longer needs to place the witness on the witness stand."
Instead, the party or his lawyer can submit the written sworn statement of his witness in a question-and-answer format.
Each party to the case is also required to attach all the documentary evidence to the judicial affidavit which must be submitted at least 5 days before the "pre-trial" in the case.
The judicial affidavit rule was said to be effective in cutting the time used in presenting witness testimonies by around two-thirds, during a pilot program in Quezon City courts.
However, the PLP said "prosecutors in the regional, provincial and city prosecution offices have limited time to prepare judicial affidavits because they are already saddled with heavy workloads, such as trial, including criminal and special proceedings cases; preliminary investigation, inquest proceedings and summary investigation (direct filing)."
The group noted that the QC pilot program cannot be applied to prosecution offices with less number of prosecutors.
"Moreover, while litigants in Quezon City usually reside within the city, those in regions and provinces reside in inaccessible and far flung areas. Thus, they will spend additional expenses in going to prosecution offices to execute their judicial affidavits," the PLP added.
Further, the preparation of a judicial affidavit takes more time than conducting direct examination in court. "Hence, it will be difficult to submit the judicial affidavits before the court not later than five (5) days before the pre-trial or preliminary conference or before the hearing."
The prosecutors' group urged the Supreme Court to defer the implementation of the new rule for a year. It asked for the creation of an ad hoc committee "for the purpose of revisiting its provisions."