The Rules of Procedure for Admiralty Cases (A.M. No. 19-08-14-SC)

In a historic first, the Supreme Court en banc, on September 17, 2019, adopted and promulgated A.M. No. 19-08-14-SC otherwise known as The Rules of Procedure for Admiralty Cases. The Rules were drafted after the creation of the Special Committee for The Rules of Procedure for Admiralty Cases under Memorandum Order No. 23-2019 dated April 3, 2019.

In order to enhance the administration of justice in Admiralty cases in the Philippines through the development of judicial expertise, and to provide parties in Admiralty cases a fast, reliable, and efficient means of recourse to Philippine courts, the Supreme Court saw it fit to provide Regional Trial Courts with a special and summary procedure for Admiralty cases as defined by The Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 or Batas Pambansa (B.P.) Blg. 129, as amended.

Thus, under The Rules, the Supreme Court shall designate existing branches of the Regional Trial Courts as Admiralty courts which shall have jurisdiction over all actions in Admiralty (Part V, Rule 9, Section 5). The regular procedure prescribed in the Rules of Court, and other pertinent Supreme Court Circulars and Resolutions, shall apply to The Rules in a suppletory capacity insofar as they are not inconsistent (Part V, Rule 9, Section 2). The Philippine Judicial Academy will be training judges and courts personnel accordingly (Part V, Rule 9, Section 6, par.2).

The application and adherence to The Rules shall also be subject to periodic monitoring through the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA). For this purpose, all designated Admiralty courts shall accomplish and submit a periodic report of data in a form to be generated and distributed by the OCA (Part V, Rule 9, Section 6).

The Rules cover civil actions filed under shipping and other related laws, rules, and regulations, while allowing international shipping norms and standards to apply. Innovations from foreign jurisdictions are introduced, such as the arrest of a vessel, cargo or freight to secure a maritime claim, and the appointment of appraisers to determine a vessel’s or cargo’s value when sold to satisfy a final judgment. The Rules also establish a special proceeding for limitation actions to facilitate the application of the “limited liability rule” under the Code of Commerce. In certain instances, ship owners may limit their liability for claims arising from marine casualties by constituting a limitation fund and abandoning their vessel. Likewise incorporated in The Rules are concepts proven to reduce trial time and speed up case resolution, such as prohibited pleadings and motions, continuous trial, and defined timelines for every stage of trial.The Rules shall take effect on January 1, 2020 following its publication in the Official Gazette or in two papers of national circulation.

The Special Committee for The Rules of Procedure for Admiralty Cases is headed by Supreme Court Associate Justices Diosdado M. Peralta and Alexander G. Gesmundo as the Chairperson and Vice Chairperson, respectively.

Justice Peralta, who was tasked by then Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin to address procedural issues encountered in Admiralty cases, explained that “a procedure that promotes the speedy and efficient resolution of admiralty cases, as well as courts that are up to speed with international norms, standards, and best practices, will help the Philippines become more progressive and competitive in the global shipping industry.” The Rules were drafted in consultation with the different stakeholders in the maritime industry.

Under A.M. NO. 03-03-03-SC dated June 21, 2016, cases involving admiralty and maritime laws are currently under the jurisdiction of Regional Trial Courts designated as “Special Commercial Courts.”

SOURCE: Supreme Court (2019). SC Adopts Rules of Procedure for Admiralty Cases. October 18, 2019.