The Supreme Court came out with a directive thru A.M. 14-03-02-SC dated March 8, 2014 the piloting of Rules 22 and 24 of the draft Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, reproduced below. These Rules shall, beginning February 16, 2015, apply to all civil actions in the following first and second level courts that have not yet undergone pretrial.
The Supreme court identified some couts that will serve as project pilots therefore it is not yet applicable to all courts as of this writing.
Agulto vs. Tecson (GR 145276)
While it would have been more prudent for counsel of petitioners to inquire from the RTC whether or not the pre-trial had in fact been scheduled on the date suggested by her, the duty of the court to serve notice of pre-trial should not be shifted to the counsels of the parties (or to the parties themselves). Otherwise, the mandatory character of the notice of pre-trial will be for naught.
Tiu vs. Middleton (GR 134998)
Pre-trial is an essential device for the speedy disposition of disputes. Hence, parties cannot brush it aside as a mere technicality. Where the pre-trial brief does not contain the names of witnesses and the synopses of their testimonies as required by the Rules of Court, the trial court, through its pre-trial order, may bar the witnesses from testifying. However, an order allowing the presentation of unnamed witnesses may no longer be modified during the trial, without the consent of the parties affected.
Carlos vs. Cruz (GR 182426)
While heavy pressures of work was not considered a persuasive reason to justify the failure to set the case for pre-trial in Olave v. Mistas, however, unlike the respondents in the said case, herein respondent never failed to comply with the Rules of Court or any order of the trial court at any other time. Failing to file a motion to set the case for pre-trial was her first and only technical lapse during the entire proceedings. Neither has she manifested an evident pattern or a scheme to delay the disposition of the case nor a wanton failure to observe the mandatory requirement of the rules. Accordingly, the ends of justice and fairness would best be served if the parties are given the full opportunity to litigate their claims and the real issues involved in the case are threshed out in a full-blown trial. Besides, petitioners would not be prejudiced should the case proceed as they are not stripped of any affirmative defenses nor deprived of due process of law.
This is not to say that adherence to the Rules could be dispensed with. However, exigencies and situations might occasionally demand flexibility in their application. Indeed, on several occasions, the Court relaxed the rigid application of the rules of procedure to afford the parties opportunity to fully ventilate the merits of their cases. This is in line with the time-honored principle that cases should be decided only after giving all parties the chance to argue their causes and defenses. Technicality and procedural imperfection should thus not serve as basis of decisions.
Tolentino vs. Laurel (GR 181368)
In the case at bar, the trial court gave petitioners every chance to air their side and even reconsidered its first order declaring petitioners in default. Notwithstanding, petitioners and their counsel failed to take advantage of such opportunity and disregarded the legal processes, by continuously failing to appear during the pre-trial of the case without any valid cause. Clearly, when the trial court allowed the respondents to present evidence ex parte due to the continued failure of the petitioners to attend the pre-trial conference, it did so in accordance with Rule 18 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and with due regard to the constitutional guarantee of due process. Plainly, petitioners cannot complain that they were denied due process. What the fundamental law prohibits is total absence of opportunity to be heard. When a party has been afforded opportunity to present his side, he cannot feign denial of due process.
In The Philippine American Life & General Insurance Company v. Enario, the Court held that pre-trial cannot be taken for granted. It is not a mere technicality in court proceedings for it serves a vital objective: the simplification, abbreviation and expedition of the trial, if not indeed its dispensation.
BPI vs. Dando (GR 177456)
The counsel of BPI invokes heavy pressures of work to explain his failure to file the Pre-Trial Brief with the RTC and to serve a copy thereof to Dando at least three days prior to the scheduled Pre-Trial Conference. True, in Olave v. Mistas, we did not find heavy pressures of work as sufficient justification for the failure of therein respondents counsel to timely move for pre-trial. However, unlike the respondents in Olave, the failure of BPI to file its Pre-Trial Brief with the RTC and provide Dando with a copy thereof within the prescribed period under Section 1, Rule 18 of the Rules of Court, was the first and, so far, only procedural lapse committed by the bank in Civil Case No. 03-281. BPI did not manifest an evident pattern or scheme to delay the disposition of the case or a wanton failure to observe a mandatory requirement of the Rules. In fact, BPI, for the most part, exhibited diligence and reasonable dispatch in prosecuting its claim against Dando by immediately moving to set Civil Case No. 03-281 for Pre-Trial Conference after its receipt of Dandos Answer to the Complaint; and in instantaneously filing a Motion for Reconsideration of the 10 October 2003 Order of the RTC dismissing Civil Case No. 03-281.