How to turn litigation into dispute resolution

The fundamental aim of court-annexed mediation (CAM) and judicial dispute resolution (JDR) is to effect disposition of pending cases through compromise agreement between parties and, in the process of doing so, cause the decongestion of courts, an issue which has long haunted our judicial system. Another noble purpose of these processes is to advocate empowerment of parties in the the resolution of their own disputes and provide practical effect to the State policy of party autonomy. Collaterally, in the process of empowering disputants, the Constitutional ideal of speedy and impartial justice may also be realized.

The process of turning litigation into dispute resolution is three-stage.

[1] The first stage is court-annexed mediation or CAM. CAM is where the judge remands the issue to the Philippine Mediation Center (PMC) in order for the parties to undergo mediation with the help of highly-trained and accredited mediators.

[2] Upon failing to secure settlement of the dispute during this stage, another attempt, a second one, will be made. This second attempt is the judicial dispute resolution or JDR. It is in JDR where judges become mediators/conciliators/early neutral evaluators. This is so in order to push forward a continuing effort to secure settlement. The aim is settlement.

What if the second attempt fails? The mediator-judge is required to turn over the case to another judge. This means that the case is to be raffled or passed to the nearest or pair judge. The successor-judge will try to settle the unsettled case. Here, the trial judge shall continue with the pre-trial proper and, thereafter, proceed to try and decide the case.[3] The third stage. This is during the appeal where covered cases are referred to the PMC-Appeals Court Mediation (ACM) unit for another attempt to mediate.

The Katarungang Pambarangay Law and the CAM eye on the same aim: the restoration of the role of the judiciary as the forum of last recourse. It is an undying principle that the courts should only be resorted to after all prior earnest efforts to arrive at private accommodation and resolution of disputes have failed.

In A.M. No, 11-1-6-SC-PHILJA, the Supreme Court did not fail to make mention and notice of Article 2034 of the Civil Code of the Philippines. This Article reads: "There may be a compromise upon the civil liability arising from the offense, but such compromise shall not extinguish the public action for the imposition of the legal penalty."

The above provision means that there can be an agreement between the parties as regards the amount of indemnification by the offender. However, when it comes to the prison time and fine imposed upon the convict, parties are not free to stipulate because it is only the State which can enter into a compromise for such matters. Therefore, the allowed compromise of civil liability can be applied to all crimes, subject only to the policy considerations of deterrence variables arising from the celerity, certainty and severity of the punishment actually imposed.