A small claims case is an action before a first level court for payment of a sum of money, not exceeding P300,000. Small claims cases are governed by A.M. No. 08-8-7-SC, as amended OCA Circular No. 165-2018. These Rules provides the procedure in actions before the first-level courts where the value of the claim does not exceed P300,000, exclusive of interest and costs. The plaintiff-claimant may join in a single statement of claim one or more separate small claims against a defendant provided that the total amount claimed, exclusive of interest and costs, does not exceed P300,000.
The Rules are applicable in all actions that are purely civil in nature where the claim or relief prayed for by the plaintiff-claimant is solely for payment or reimbursement of sum of money. Among others, the claim or demand may be:
- For money owed under any of the following:
Contract of Lease;
Contract of Loan;
Contract of Services;
Contract of Sale; or
Contract of Mortgage; and
- For liquidated damages arising from contract.
Filing of Small Claims Action
A small claims action is commenced by filing with the court an accomplished and verified Statement of Claim (Form 1-SCC) in duplicate, accompanied by a Certification Against Forum Shopping (Form 1-A-SCC), and two duly certified photocopies of the actionable document/s subject of the claim, as well as the affidavits of witnesses and other evidence to support the claim.
The plaintiff must state in the Statement of Claim if he/she/it is engaged in the business of lending, banking and similar activities, and the number of small claims cases filed within the calendar year regardless of judicial station. No formal pleading, other than the Statement of Claim/s described in this Rule, is necessary to initiate a small claims action.
A small claims action must be filed in the city/municipality where the plaintiff-claimant or defendant resides. If the action involves private juridical entities, the principal place of business determines its residence.
The affidavits submitted under this Rule shall state only facts of direct personal knowledge of the affiants or based on authentic records, which are admissible in evidence.
The plaintiff shall pay the docket and legal fees, unless allowed to litigate as an indigent. The maximum docket and legal fee is P3,500.However, if more than five (5) small claims are filed by one party within the calendar year, regardless of the judicial station, an additional filing fee of P500.00 shall be paid for every claim filed after the fifth (5th) claim, and an additional P100.00 or a total of P600.00 for every claim filed after the tenth (10th) claim, and another P100.00 or a total of P700 for every claim filed after the fifteenth (15th) claim, progressively and cumulativel
The court will then examine the claim. It may dismiss the case outright if it finds grounds to justify the dismissal. If no ground for dismissal is found, the court shall issue summons on the day of receipt of the Statement of Claim, directing the defendant to submit a verified Response.
If the Defendant cannot be served with Summons, the court shall order the Plaintiff to cause the service of summons within thirty (30) days from Notice. Otherwise, the case shall be dismissed.
The court shall also issue a Notice to both parties, directing them to appear before it on a specific date and time for hearing, with a warning that no unjustified postponement shall be allowed.
The defendant shall file with the court and serve on the plaintiff a duly accomplished and verified Response within a non–extendible period of ten (10) days from receipt of summons. The Response shall be accompanied by certified photocopies of documents, as well as affidavits of witnesses and other evidence in support thereof. No evidence shall be allowed during the hearing which was not attached to or submitted together with the Response, unless good cause is shown for the admission of additional evidence.
The parties shall appear at the designated date of hearing personally or through a representative authorized under a Special Power of Attorney. However, a lawyer cannot appear to represent the party.
Decision and Execution
After the hearing, the court shall render its decision based on the facts established by the evidence (Form 11-SCC), within twenty-four (24) hours from termination of the hearing. The decision shall immediately be entered by the Clerk of Court in the court docket for civil cases and a copy thereof forthwith served on the parties. The decision shall be final, executory and unappealable. When the decision is rendered, execution shall issue upon motion (Form 12-SCC) of the winning party.
An ordinary collection suit is filed for money claims exceeding P300,000. If the aggregate amount of the money claim, exclusive of interests and costs, exceeds P300,000, the Revised Rules of Procedure for Small Claims Cases finds no application and the Rules of Civil Procedure shall apply. If filed within Metro Manila, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) has jurisdiction over cases where the aggregate money claim exceeds P400,000. If the aggregate money is P400,000 or below, the action shall be filed before the Metropolitan Trial Courts. If filed outside Metro Manila, the RTC has jurisdiction where the aggregate money claim exceeds P300,000; if P300,000 or below, then in the MTC, MTCC or MCTC and under the rules for small claims. The rules on venue are the same as that of small claims (i.e. residence or principal place of business of the plaintiff or the defendant).
Upon the filing of the complaint and payment of the docket and legal fees, the Office of the Clerk of Court will docket it. Then, it will be raffled to one of the branches in that court. Summons will be issued to the defendant in order to acquire jurisdiction over his person. If summons was properly served, defendant will then file his Answer to the Complaint. Reply, Rejoinder and Sur-Rejoinder may be filed after the filing of the Answer. Upon the filing of the last pleading, the case will be set for pre-trial.
During the Pre-Trial Conference, the possibility of amicable settlement will be discussed and the case may be referred to mediation or conciliation. If the case is not settled, then it will proceed to trial where the parties will be given the opportunity to present their evidence.
(Jorge Patrick A. Yasay joined the Firm in July 2018 and works with Founding Partner Sig Fortun as part of the Litigation and Dispute Resolution practice group. Jorge may be reached at email@example.com.)