This is the first part of a two-part article on CAM and JDR. This part of the article will discuss the expanded coverage of CAM and JDR. The CAM and JDR procedures will be discussed in the October issue.

On January 11, 2011, the Philippine Supreme Court approved new guidelines to expand the coverage of court-annexed mediation (CAM) and judicial dispute resolution (JDR) [“Guidelines”]. The Guidelines were issued through Resolution A.M. No. 11-1-6-SC-PHILJA .

The Guidelines adopted the policy of diverting court cases to CAM and JDR to “put an end to pending litigation through a compromise agreement of the parties and thereby help solve the ever-pressing problem of court docket congestion.”  While recognizing that criminal cases may not be compromised, this policy strongly indicates that the ultimate objective of CAM and JDR is to end all litigation, not merely its civil aspect.

The Guidelines are empowers the parties to resolve their own disputes and give practical effect to the State policy in Rep. Act No. 9285 (The ADR Act of 2004) “to actively promote party autonomy in the resolution of disputes or the freedom of the parties to make their own arrangement to resolve disputes” (Sec. 2).  The reference to RA 9285 is interesting because the Act does not cover court-annexed mediation (Sec. 7).  Moreover, the mandatory nature of CAM and JDR and the restriction of the parties’ ability to choose their mediators makes CAM and JDR somehow inconsistent with the idea that in an alternative dispute resolution system, the parties have the freedom to determine how their dispute should be resolved.

Three stages of diversion

The Guidelines define three stages of court diversion, namely: CAM, JDR and Appeals Court Mediation (ACM).  Each was previously covered by a separate Supreme Court issuance, which somehow made it difficult to see that they were meant to complement each other.  The Guidelines now clarify that CAM, JDR and ACM have the same objective and that they are merely different stages of a comprehensive dispute resolution process aimed at abating or ending court-docket congestion.

1.  During CAM, the first stage of court diversion, the judge refers the parties to the Philippine Mediation Center (PMC) for the mediation of their dispute by trained and accredited mediators.

2.  If CAMfails, the second stage, called the JDR, is undertaken by the JDR judge, acting as a mediator-conciliator-early neutral evaluator.[1]

3.  The third stage is during appeal, where covered cases are referred to ACM.

Expanded jurisdiction

In addition to consolidating the existing CAM and JDR rules, the Guidelines covers the civil aspect of less grave felonies punishable by correctional penalties not exceeding six years imprisonment, where the offended party is a private person.[2]

The purpose is for the court diversion process to achieve a greater impact.  The expansion to less grave offenses is needed since civil cases constitute only a small 16 percent of all cases filed in court, while special proceedings constitute even a smaller 7.6 percent.  Since correctional penalties are intended for rehabilitation and correction of the offender, there is no reason why crimes punishable by correctional penalties may not be compromised, as to their civil aspect.  However, it is not clear if the Guidelines applies to the civil aspect of criminal cases that are governed by special laws, although punishable with imprisonment not exceeding six years.  In a strict sense, the term “less grave felonies” applies to crimes under the Revised Penal Code but not crimes governed by special laws.

Despite the non-mediatable nature of the principal action, like annulment of marriage, other issues such as custody of children, support, visitation, property relations and guardianship may be referred to CAM and JDR to limit the issues for trial.

Role of lawyers

Finally, the Guidelines define the role of lawyers inCAMand JDR as that of adviser and consultant to their clients.  They are encouraged to drop their combative role in the adjudicative process and to give up their dominant role in judicial trials, in order to allow the parties more opportunities to craft their own agreement.

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[1]The JDR judge acts as a mediator, neutral evaluator and/or conciliator. As mediator and conciliator, he facilitates the settlement discussions between the parties and tries to reconcile their differences. As a neutral evaluator, he assesses the relative strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case, makes a non-binding and impartial evaluation of the chances of each party’s success in the case, and persuades the parties to a fair and mutually acceptable settlement of their dispute.
[2] The other cases subject to mandatory CAM/JDR are:
(1)  All civil cases and the civil liability of criminal cases covered by the Rule on Summary Procedure, including the civil liability for violation of B.P. 22, except cases which may not be compromised.
(2)  Special proceedings for the settlement of estates.
(3)  All civil and criminal cases filed with a certificate to file action issued by the Punong Barangay or the Pangkat ng Tagapagkasundo under the Revised Katarungang Pambarangay Law.
(4)  The civil aspect of Quasi-Offenses under Title 14 of the Revised Penal Code.
(5)  The civil aspect of estafa, theft and libel.
(6)  All civil cases, probate proceedings, forcible entry and unlawful, cases involving title to or possession of real property or an interest therein, and habeas corpus cases decided by the first level courts in the absence of the Regional Trial Court judge, brought on appeal from the exclusive and original jurisdiction granted to the first level courts.

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