Published 28 August 2023, The Daily Tribune
The Supreme Court, in a Resolution dated 11 April 2023, approved A.M. Nos. 10-3-7-SC and 11-9-4-CV or the Guidelines on Submission of Electronic Copies of Pleadings and Other Court Submissions Being Filed Before the Lower Courts Pursuant to the Efficient Use of Paper Rule.
Under the Guidelines, electronic transmittal shall be the primary method for filing all pleadings and court submissions in all cases governed by the Rules of Court, as amended, before all lower courts (i.e., first and second-level courts, Court of Appeals, Court of Tax Appeals and Sandiganbayan) starting 5 April 2024.
The Guidelines outline the electronic transmittal process for submitting PDF copies of pleadings, annexes, exhibits, and other related documents. These documents should be transmitted to the official e-mail address of the court where the case is pending. All electronic transmittals must be made using the e-mail addresses of record of the filing party or counsel who are required to use a professional email account as their email addresses of record. Counsels are likewise mandated to regularly monitor their respective e-mail inboxes. In case an electronic transmittal is made with an e-mail address not found on record, the entire transmittal shall not be considered as filed.
In instances when the primary manner of filing is through personal filing, by registered mail, or by accredited courier in accordance with Rule 13, Section 3(a), 3(b), or 3(c) of the Rules of Court, the PDF copies must be transmitted within 24 hours from the filing of the paper copy. In such case, the pleading shall be deemed filed on the date and time of filing of the paper copy. The filer is likewise required to execute a verified declaration that the pleading or court submission and its accompanying documents, if any, submitted electronically are complete and true copies of the paper copies filed and served. In case of a violation of the said declaration, the court, on motion or motu proprio, and after notice and hearing, may impose sanctions against the lawyer, law firm, or party responsible for the filing.
For cases primarily filed through electronic transmittal, subsequent paper copies are not necessary, and the electronic transmittal time shall be considered as the time of filing. It bears noting that the court’s permission is required for certain types of documents before they may be filed through electronic transmittal (e.g. initiatory pleadings and initiatory responsive pleadings, sealed and confidential documents or records, etc.).
To establish the proof of filing, the PDF copy of the pleadings filed personally should reflect the written or stamped acknowledgment by the clerk of court. Meanwhile, the PDF copies of pleadings or court submissions filed by registered mail or accredited courier should show the proof of mailing as required under the Rules of Court as well as the proof of payment, as applicable. As regards pleadings that were electronically filed, the PDF should include an affidavit of electronic filing.
The Guidelines further specify rules for file attachment, filename formats, transmittal e-mail structure, and other relevant matters.
According to the Supreme Court, the Guidelines aim to address docket congestion and court delay, help reduce the use of paper, and facilitate the time and fair delivery of justice. The issuance of the Guidelines is indeed a step closer to the Supreme Court’s goal of digitally transforming the judiciary system.
On the part of law practitioners, this is a welcome development as this will save them valuable time and resources in the filing and service of pleadings.