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SC orders continuous trial of criminal cases

Starting September 1, the Supreme Court will implement continuous trial of criminal cases in all trial courts, including the Sandiganbayan and the Court of Tax Appeals.

In revised guidelines approved last April 25, the SC said that continuous trial will apply not only on newly-filed criminal cases but also to “pending criminal cases with respect to the remainder of the proceedings.”

It said that continuous trial is aimed at “protecting and advancing the constitutional right of persons to a speedy disposition of their criminal cases, and reinforcing and giving teeth to the existing rules on criminal procedure and other special rules…and those which promote speedy disposition of criminal cases.”

Continuous trial of criminal cases was pilot tested in selected Quezon City trials courts in 2012 and later expanded to cover 52 pilot courts in Metro Manila, both in metropolitan trial courts and regional trial courts.

The continuous trial of all criminal cases was initiated by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno. It is supported by the United States Agency for International Development.

The adoption of the revised guidelines was recommended to the SC by a special committee headed by SC Justice Diosdado M. Peralta as chairperson and SC Justice Lucas P. Bersamin as vice chairperson.

The members of the committee are SC Justice Jose Catral Mendoza, Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez, Court of Appeals Associate Justices Fernanda Lampas Peralta, Magdangal M. de Leon, and Manuel M. Barrios; Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo, and Court of Tax Appeals Associate Justice Caesar A. Casanova.

Under the new guidelines, trial of criminal cases should be held Mondays to Thursdays starting at 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Fridays are reserved for hearing on motions, arraignment and pre-trial, and promulgation of decisions.

Motion for inhibition of a trial court judge should be resolved within two days from date of filing and that prohibited motions should be denied outright before scheduled arraignment without need of comment or opposition.
(Rey G. Panaligan)