Pre-Trial is a mandatory requirement in civil cases under the Rules of Court, as amended. Under Section 1, Rule 18, after the last responsive pleading has been served and filed, the branch clerk of court shall issue, within five (5) calendar days from filing, a notice of pre-trial which shall be set not later than sixty (60) calendar days from the filing of the last responsive pleading.
The pre-trial is mandatory and should be terminated promptly. In a pre-trial proceeding, court considers the following:
(a) The possibility of an amicable settlement or of a submission to alternative modes of dispute resolution;
(b) The simplification of the issues;
(c) The possibility of obtaining stipulations or admissions of facts and of documents to avoid unnecessary proof;
(d) The limitation of the number and identification of witnesses and the setting of trial dates;
(e) The advisability of a preliminary reference of issues to a commissioner;
(f) The propriety of rendering judgment on the pleadings, or summary judgment, or of dismissing the action should a valid ground therefor be found to exist;
(g) The requirement for the parties to:
No reservation shall be allowed if not made in the manner described above.
(h) Such other matters as may aid in the prompt disposition of the action.
The failure without just cause of a party and counsel to appear during pre-trial, despite notice, shall result in a waiver of any objections to the faithfulness of the reproductions marked, or their genuineness and due execution.
The failure without just cause of a party and/or counsel to bring the evidence required shall be deemed a waiver of the presentation of such evidence.
The branch clerk of court is under obligation to prepare the minutes of the pre-trial, which shall be made in the prescribed format.
The notice of pre-trial shall include the dates respectively set for:
(b) Court-Annexed Mediation; and
(c) Judicial Dispute Resolution, if necessary.
The notice of pre-trial shall be served on counsel, or on the party if he or she has no counsel. The counsel served with such notice is charged with the duty of notifying the party represented by him or her.
It shall be the duty of the parties and their counsel to appear at the pre-trial, court-annexed mediation, and judicial dispute resolution, if necessary. The non-appearance of a party and counsel may be excused only for acts of God, force majeure, or duly substantiated physical inability.
A representative may appear on behalf of a party, but must be fully authorized in writing to enter into an amicable settlement, to submit to alternative modes of dispute resolution, and to enter into stipulations or admissions of facts and documents.
When duly notified, the failure of the plaintiff and counsel to appear without valid cause when so required, shall cause the dismissal of the action. The dismissal shall be with prejudice, unless otherwise ordered by the court.
A similar failure on the part of the defendant and counsel shall be cause to allow the plaintiff to present his or her evidence ex parte within ten (10) calendar days from termination of the pre-trial, and the court to render judgment on the basis of the evidence offered.
The parties shall file with the court and serve on the adverse party, in such manner as shall ensure their receipt thereof at least three (3) calendar days before the date of the pre-trial, their respective pre-trial briefs which shall contain, among others:
(a) A concise statement of the case and the reliefs prayed for;
(b) A summary of admitted facts and proposed stipulation of facts;
(c) The main factual and legal issues to be tried or resolved;
(d) The propriety of referral of factual issues to commissioners;
(e) The documents or other object evidence to be marked, stating the purpose thereof; (f) The names of the witnesses, and the summary of their respective testimonies; and (g) A brief statement of points of law and citation of authorities.
Failure to file the pre-trial brief shall have the same effect as failure to appear at the pre-trial.
Upon termination of the pre-trial, the court shall issue an order within ten (10) calendar days which shall recite in detail the matters taken up. The order shall include:
(a) An enumeration of the admitted facts;
(b) The minutes of the pre-trial conference;
(c) The legal and factual issue/s to be tried;
(d) The applicable law, rules, and jurisprudence;
(e) The evidence marked;
(f) The specific trial dates for continuous trial, which shall be within the period provided by the Rules;
(g) The case flowchart to be determined by the court, which shall contain the different stages of the proceedings up to the promulgation of the decision and the use of time frames for each stage in setting the trial dates;
(h) A statement that the one-day examination of witness rule and most important witness rule under A.M. No. 03-1-09-SC (Guidelines for Pre-Trial) shall be strictly followed; and
(i) A statement that the court shall render judgment on the pleadings or summary judgment, as the case may be.
The direct testimony of witnesses for the plaintiff shall be in the form of judicial affidavits. After the identification of such affidavits, cross-examination shall proceed immediately.
Postponement of presentation of the parties’ witnesses at a scheduled date is prohibited, except if it is based on acts of God, force majeure or duly substantiated physical inability of the witness to appear and
testify. The party who caused the postponement is warned that the presentation of its evidence must still be terminated within the remaining dates previously agreed upon.
Should the opposing party fail to appear without valid cause stated in the next preceding paragraph, the presentation of the scheduled witness will proceed with the absent party being deemed to have waived the right to interpose objection and conduct cross-examination.
The contents of the pre-trial order shall control the subsequent proceedings, unless modified before trial to prevent manifest injustice. (7a)
After pre-trial and, after issues are joined, the court shall refer the parties for mandatory court-annexed mediation.
The period for court-annexed mediation shall not exceed thirty (30) calendar days without further extension.
Only if the judge of the court to which the case was originally raffled is convinced that settlement is still possible, the case may be referred to another court for judicial dispute resolution. The judicial dispute resolution shall be conducted within a non-extendible period of fifteen (15) calendar days from notice of failure of the court-annexed mediation.
If judicial dispute resolution fails, trial before the original court shall proceed on the dates agreed upon.
All proceedings during the court-annexed mediation and the judicial dispute resolution shall be confidential.
Should there be no more controverted facts, or no more genuine issue as to any material fact, or an absence of any issue, or should the answer fail to tender an issue, the court shall, without prejudice to a party moving for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 34 or summary judgment under Rule 35, motu proprio include in the pre-trial order that the case be submitted for summary judgment or judgment on the pleadings, without need of position papers or memoranda. In such cases, judgment shall be rendered within ninety (90) calendar days from termination of the pre-trial.
The order of the court to submit the case for judgment pursuant to this Rule shall not be the subject to appeal or certiorari.