Due to the influx of cases involving cybercrime, competition, and intellectual property, the Supreme Court has designated 77 more branches of the regional trial courts (RTCs) to act as special commercial courts (SCCs).
With 77 more designated RTCs, there are now 147 SCCs spread in 12 judicial regions in the country, Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez.
The designations, recommended by Marquez, were approved for the SC by Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo, Senior Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas Bernabe and Associate Justice Marvic M. V. F. Leonen.
The SCCs will also be known as special cybercrime courts and special competition courts.
The designation of SCCs started in 2000 with the passage of Republic Act No. 8799, the Securities Regulations Code, which transferred to the courts the jurisdiction of cases erstwhile cognizable by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Initially, SCCs have jurisdiction over commercial cases like intra-corporate disputes, issuance of search and seizure in civil actions, admiralty and maritime laws, dissolution of partnerships, financial rehabilitation, and liquidation, among others.
Later, cases involving intellectual property were added to the SCCs jurisdiction.
In late 2016, the SC further designated the SCCs as cybercrime courts for cases involving the Cybercrime Prevention Act under Republic Act No. 10175.
In 2019, the jurisdiction of the SCCs was expanded to cover issues involving the Philippine Competition Act under RA 10667.
“Not all provinces and cities in each judicial region have designated SCCs. Thus, litigants have to file their cases in the nearest designated SCCs within the judicial region, thereby incurring additional travelling expenses in attending the hearings of their cases,” Marquez said in his circular to all trial court judges.
“Due to influx of cases that may be filed in view of the expanded jurisdiction of the SCCs and their designation as cybercrime courts and competition courts, additional branches of the RTCs may be designated as SCCs to promote expediency and efficiency in handling all cases under the jurisdiction of SCCs,” he said.
“To ensure a just and equitable distribution of cases among the said SCCs and the regular courts, the designated SCCs shall continue to be included in the raffle of regular cases provided that the inflow of commercial, cybercrime and competition cases is minimal and is lower than the average caseload of the other courts in those stations as determined by the court administrator,” he also said.
Marquez’s office, which supervises all lower courts for the SC, was mandated to monitor closely the caseloads of the SCCs and “to undertake the necessary measures to ensure the efficient distribution and disposition of cases.”