Philippine Mediation Center
The Philippine Mediation Center was launched on 6 April 2001 to promote the use of court-annexed mediation, training and accrediting new mediators, ensuring quality mediation services and developing and prescribing curriculum for mediation training. It was the culmination of a series of initiatives of the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) aimed at implementing two sets of laws - the 1987 Philippine Constitution which called for a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, and the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure requiring that the courts consider the possibility of amicable settlement or a submission to alternative modes of dispute resolution1.
The PMC and PHILJA are the key mediation institutions in the Philippines, and are the designated center for court referred, court related mediation cases. PMC enjoys strong support from the Supreme Court.
In June 2002, the Judicial Reforms Initiative Support (JURIS) Project was implemented by the Supreme Court, through PHILJA, to strengthen court-annexed mediation and other forms of ADR. The JURIS Project introduced a second mediation opportunity after mediation in the PMC, that is, judge-lead conciliations, early neutral evaluations and mediations. In the same year, mediation was introduced in the Appellate courts.
PMC has highly qualified mediators. Retired justices and judges, and senior law practitioners and professors perform appellate mediations. Other mediators, including lawyers, retired government employees, the self-employed and other professionals, form a strong cohort of mediators. The PMC has mediators in many regions and provinces of the country, and is expanding its coverage within the Philippines on a continuing basis.
Terms of Mediation
As PMC’s main role is dealing with Court annexed mediation, its mediation procedures are established in legislation. Voluntary or ad hoc mediation can also take place and is governed by the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 2004 which requires that its provisions prevail over the institutional mediation rules of any institution to which parties submit their disputes for mediation.
Legal System of the Philippines
The Philippine legal system is a blend of customary usage, and Roman (civil law) and Anglo-American (common law) systems. Civil law operates in areas such as family relations, property, succession, contract and criminal law while statutes and principles of common law origin are evident in such areas as constitutional law, procedure, corporation law, negotiable instruments, taxation, insurance, labor relations, banking and currency. In some Southern parts of the islands, Islamic law is observed2.
The Code of Commerce became effective on 01 December 1888. largely taken from the Spanish Code of Commerce of 1885, with some modifications to suit local conditions, it has been so modified by several extensive amendments by special commercial laws such as the Corporation Code, Insolvency Law, Chattel Mortgage Law, Negotiable Instruments Act, Warehouse Receipts Act, Revised Securities Act, Trademark Law, Central Bank Act, General Banking Law, and the Omnibus Investments Code, that only a bare outline of the original code remains. Its unrevealed portions define the qualifications of merchants and acts of commerce in general, letters of credit, joint accounts, mercantile registry and bookkeeping3.
Attitudes towards Mediation
Filipinos are generally adverse to adversarial encounters. The system of barangay justice requires that minor disputes involving individuals residing in the same district, or barangay, be referred to the Lupong Tagapamayapa (peace committee)4. The Lupong consists of ten to twenty members of the barangay who are possessed with integrity, impartiality, independence of mind and a sense of fairness and have a reputation for probity. From among the Lupong, a conciliation panel is formed for each dispute.
Set in this context, the growth of court annexed mediation has been phenomenal.
Republic Act 9285 or the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 2004 governs private mediations where the dispute is not yet within the jurisdiction of the court. It does not apply to court-annexed mediation, the kind of mediation being implemented by the Philippine Supreme Court through PHILJA and the Philippine Mediation Center. Court annex mediation is A.M. No. 01-10-5-SC-PHILJA promulgated by the Supreme Court of the Philippines on 16 October 2001.
For more information on the Philippine Mediation Center, see their website at http://pmc.org.ph/.
1 Report provided by the PMC in December 2007.
2 Legal System of The Philippines, accessible at http://www.aseanlawassociation.org/papers/ phil_chp1.pdf, last accessed 8 January 2008.
3 Legal System of The Philippines, accessible at http://www.aseanlawassociation.org/papers/ phil_chp2.pdf, last accessed 8 January 2008.
4 Victor P. Lazatin, “The Philippines” in Dispute Resolution in Asia, 3rd Edition, Michael Pryles Ed., (Kluwer Law International, 2006).