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The small claims courts have already proven to be a success, as evidenced by a well-attended and fruitful meeting between barangay leaders in Metro Manila, Supreme Court judges, court administrators and ABA ROLI staff. Discussions at the event, which was open to the public, addressed how small claims courts integrate their existing local mediation programs by providing certified judgments to help mediate—and in some cases, resolve by decision—long-simmering village disputes.
After less than two month’s in existence, the Philippines Small Claims Courts have proven to be an early success. ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) Country Director Scott Ciment and the National Chief Court Administrator attended the opening session of the Small Claims Pilot Court in Ilo Ilo, a mid-size city in Visayas, Philippines.
Although the courts officially opened on October 1, 2008, November 7 was the first day a case was scheduled for hearing. ABA ROLI has been involved in the courts’ establishment and provided initial training to jurists.
In the past, a civil case would not have a court hearing for at least six months after the date of filing, and then would likely involve lawyers arguing about the next court date. Instead, on the first case of the opening day for the small claims court in Ilo Ilo, the judge was able to get the parties to resolve the dispute and sign an executed judgment containing a payment plan endorsed by the judge.
The plaintiff spoke to Ciment, explaining that the small claims court was a “gift from God” that allowed her to finally collect the money she loaned a neighbor two years ago to start a small business. She said that before the small claims court opened, she could do nothing but ask for the money, since she could not afford a lawyer to help her recover the amount in dispute.
This program is supported by funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
For more information on our work in the Philippines, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.