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Civil Cases

Civil cases generally involve enforcement of rights, collection of sum of money, claims for damages, actions affecting title to or interest in real property, implementation of contracts, and disputes concerning family relations.

1.   A civil case is generally commenced by filing a complaint in court in the place of residence of the complainant or of the defendant, or, if the matter involves interest in a real property, in the place where the property is located.

2.   The trial court summons the defendant and directs the filing his/her/its answer to the complaint.

3.   As part of the pre-trial proceedings, the case is referred to mediation where the parties discuss the issues and strive to settle the dispute amicably. If mediation is successful, the parties enter into a compromise agreement. If mediation fails, the case is referred back to court.

4.   When the case is referred back to court, the parties undergo another mediation phase referred to as judicial dispute resolution or “JDR”, which is facilitated by the judge. The parties again try to settle the dispute amicably. If JDR is successful, the parties enter into a compromise agreement. If JDR fails, the case proceeds to trial.

5.   During trial, the parties present their evidence in support of their respective positions.

6.   Based on the evidence presented, the court resolves the matter and issues a decision. The party who is able to establish his/her/its case with a “preponderance of evidence” will be awarded his/her/its claims. Preponderance of evidence refers to “evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief that that which is offered in opposition thereto” [30 Am Jur 2d §1164, 339].

7.   The decision may be appealed by any of the parties. If no appeal is made, the decision becomes final and executory.

 

Intra-Corporate Disputes

Intra-corporate disputes generally involve controversies arising out of the activities or relations in a partnership or corporation.

Like civil cases, an intra-corporate dispute is typically commenced with the filing of a case in court, and similarly undergoes mediation and JDR to explore the possibility of amicably settling the dispute.

If the parties are unable to settle amicably, the case likewise undergoes trial until the matter is resolved by the trial court on the basis of the evidence presented. The decision of the trial court may also be appealed by any of the parties.

 

Criminal Cases

Criminal cases involve the prosecution of offenses committed in violation of the Revised Penal Code and other penal provisions under special laws.

1.   A criminal action is generally commenced by filing a complaint with the police or with the public prosecutor’s office where the crime or offense was committed. If the complaint is filed with the police, the police gathers the needed evidence and thereafter files the complaint with the public prosecutor’s office.

2.   The public prosecutor conducts a preliminary investigation, during which the parties present their respective evidence to the public prosecutor, for the purpose of determining the existence of probable cause to indict the respondent.

3.   Based on the evidence presented, the public prosecutor determines whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the case in court. If the public prosecutor finds that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the case, the public prosecutor files the corresponding charge sheet against the accused in court. If the public prosecutor finds that the evidence is insufficient, the public prosecutor dismisses the action.

4.   When the charges are filed in court, the court makes an independent evaluation of the records of the case to determine if there is sufficient basis to issue a warrant of arrest.

5.   Depending on the nature of the case, the accused may be detained or he/she may post bail while the case is pending to ensure his/her presence during the hearing whenever required by the court.

6.   The case then goes to trial during which the prosecution and the defense present their respective evidence.

7.   Based on the evidence presented, the court determines whether the accused is guilty of the offense and, if so, imposes the appropriate penalty. If the accused is found guilty, the decision may be subject to an appeal. However, if the accused is acquitted, the decision is final and unappealable. In order to warrant a conviction, the prosecution is required, in the discharge of the burden imposed upon it of establishing by proof all the essential elements of the crime with which the accused in charged in the indictment, to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the crime charged, and in the absence of such a degree of proof of the guilt of the accused, he is entitled to an acquittal [30 Am Jur 2d §1170, 349].

 

Labor Cases

Labor cases involve claims under the Labor Code and other special laws affecting the rights of workers.

1.   A labor case is generally initiated by filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Commission (“NLRC”).

2.   A labor arbiter conducts conciliation proceedings during which the parties try to settle the case amicably. If conciliation is successful, the case is terminated; if conciliation fails, the labor arbiter proceeds to hear the case.

3.   During the hearing, parties submit their position papers and evidence in support of their respective claims. Unless the labor arbiter finds it necessary to conduct clarificatory hearings, the submissions made by the parties shall suffice to enable the labor arbiter to decide the case.

4.   Based on the evidence presented, labor arbiter resolves the matter and issues a decision. Its decision may be appealed by any of the parties within the prescribed period. If no appeal is made, the decision becomes final and executory.

Complaints against overseas recruitment agencies are generally filed with and heard by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (“POEA”).

Cases against local manning agencies and their foreign principals initiated by seafarers are filed with and heard by the NLRC or, if subject to arbitration, by the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (“NCMB”).

Cases involving deadlocks in negotiations for collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) are generally filed with and resolved by the NCMB.

 

Intellectual Property Rights Cases

Intellectual property rights cases involve infringements of registered patents, trademarks and copyrights, and other violations of the Intellectual Property Code.

1.   An intellectual property case that is civil in nature is generally commenced by filing a complaint in court or at the Intellectual Property Office (“IPO”). If the claim for damages is less than Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (PHP200,000.00), the complaint is filed in court; if the claim for damages is Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (PHP200,000.00) or more, the complaint is filed with the IPO.

2.   If the complaint is filed in court, the rules applicable to civil actions generally apply. If the complaint is filed with the IPO, the IPO summons the respondent and directs him/her/it to file his/her/its answer to the complaint.

3.   The hearing officer of the IPO then conducts trial during which the parties present their evidence in support of their respective positions.

4.   Based on the evidence presented, the hearing officer resolves the matter and issues a decision. The hearing officer may impose administrative penalties, such as seizure of the products, imposition of fine or assessment of damages.

5.   The decision may be appealed by any of the parties. If no appeal is made, the decision becomes final and executory.

Violations of the penal provisions of the Intellectual Property Code are considered criminal offenses which are prosecuted in accordance with the rules on criminal procedure.

 

Cases before Quasi-Judicial Agencies

Many regulatory bodies of the government perform quasi-judicial functions. When performing quasi-judicial functions, a government agency determines if a person or entity subject of the agency’s regulations has violated any law or rule which may call for the imposition of penalties. Government agencies with exercise quasi-judicial functions include the Securities and Exchange Commission, Energy Regulatory Board, Housing Land Use and Regulatory Board, and National Telecommunications Commission.

1.   A case before a quasi-judicial agency is generally commenced by filing a complaint.

2.   The agency summons the respondent and requires the respondent to submit an answer.

3.   The agency may conduct clarificatory hearings or trial during which the parties present evidence in support of their respective positions.

4.   The agency resolves the case and issues a decision. The decision may include the imposition of penalties such as revocation of a permit or license, or assessment of a fine.

5.   The decision may be appealed by any of the parties. If no appeal is made, the decision generally becomes final and executory.

Violations of the penal provisions of pertinent laws involving a quasi-judicial agency are considered criminal offenses which are prosecuted in accordance with the rules on criminal procedure.

 

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative Dispute Resolution or “ADR” is a procedure by which a dispute or controversy is resolved using procedures other than court litigation or hearings before a government agency. ADR is voluntary and is resorted to by agreement of the parties. Dispute resolution via ADR is encouraged since it is generally less time-consuming and entails lower costs.

There are various forms of ADR, such as arbitration, mediation, early neutral evaluation and mini-trial.

1.   Arbitration is a form of ADR wherein the parties appoint one or more arbitrators who hear the respective positions of the parties and thereafter resolve the dispute by rendering an arbitral award. The arbitral award may be submitted to court which may approve, modify, correct or vacate the arbitral award. The action of the court on the arbitral award may be appealed by any of the parties.

2.   Mediation is a form of ADR wherein a mediator facilitates communication and negotiation between the parties, and assists them in reaching an amicable settlement of the dispute.

3.   Mediation-Arbitration or Med-Arb is a two-step dispute resolution process wherein the parties first submit the dispute to mediation. If mediation fails, the parties then submit the dispute to arbitration.

4.   Early Neutral Evaluation is an ADR process wherein the parties present summaries of their cases to an experienced, neutral person with expertise in the subject matter of the dispute. Such expert studies the positions of the parties and issues a non-binding assessment.

5.   Mini-Trial is a structured dispute resolution method in which the merits of a case are argued before a panel comprised of senior decision makers with or without the presence of a neutral third person after which the parties seek a negotiated settlement. [Republic Act No. 9285, otherwise known as the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 2004]

Disputes in the construction industry are commonly resolved via arbitration conducted by the Construction Industry Arbitration Commission (“CIAC”).