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E-filing of pleadings: Come to lawyers’ aid, IBP asked

/ 08:11 PM January 13, 2014

Please allow us to comment publicly on the new electronic filing of pleadings recently mandated by the Supreme Court effective on Oct. 1, 2013. The avowed intent: to attain some “efficient use of paper,” “in preparation for the eventual establishment of an e-filing paperless system in the judiciary” (AM No. 11-9-4-SC). The “guidelines on submission… of soft copies of Supreme Court-bound papers” were approved on Sept. 10, 2013 (AM No. 10-3-7-SC).

The new rules require that in addition to the filing in stated number of hard copies of any Supreme Court-bound pleading, a “soft copy in PDF format” must be simultaneously filed by e-mail. For that purpose, notarial intervention is required each and every time any such “soft copy” is filed. That sworn  (notarized) declaration is to the effect that the soft copy filed electronically is a true and faithful copy of the hard copy filed physically in the Supreme Court.

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Why the Court still requires lawyers to swear to that is a puzzlement. Are not lawyers supposed to be presumed honest? Should it not go without saying that, as officers of the court, they are expected to act in good faith? Can sanctions be imposed if they intentionally try to deceive the Court? Of course. Even without the sworn declaration, they can be disciplined or disbarred!

Besides, if the intent is to eventually go “paperless,” why not start right off by dispensing with the additional (i.e., needless)  paperwork of having everything filed electronically, accompanied by a notarized declaration of faithfulness? Each electronic filing can easily translate to reams of paper used for such notarization over a period of time. So, more paper, not less paper! To avoid more paper clutter, all it really takes is the good old-fashioned presumption that lawyers are of sound mind. But more than that, pity the pro bono advocates who have to dig into their own pockets for the notarial fees (ranging from P100 to P200 each time, on behalf of less-privileged litigants) just to swear again and again that they are not liars!

And lest we forget, not all practitioners have big law offices that boast of techno-savvy capabilities. A great number of practitioners in the entire archipelago may be dabbling in computers, but they don’t really have the foggiest idea how to file pleadings electronically, let alone know what the heck a “PDF format” is! Since the minutiae of the “guidelines” came out only in September 2013 (just four months ago), are they not entitled to some period of adjustment or calibration to get a handle on (read: study) the new order of business being now made compulsory? Or are they now to be shut out altogether from practice in the Supreme Court for being such computer-challenged dopes? As of now, we know many of them are scouring bookstores for some computer reads, hard put on trying to decide between two choices: “computer guide for idiots” and “computer guide for morons”! This is such a pickle they are in and they need help. The Integrated Bar of the Philippines should really wake up and lend its voice on this matter.

—GEORGE DEL MAR,

[email protected]

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