How to File Small Claims Cases

If someone owes you money amounting to Four Hundred Thousand Pesos (Php400,000.00) or less, you may file a small claims action before the Municipal/Metropolitan Trial Courts to collect it. The whole process is very fast (may even take less than a month) and affordable (does not require a lawyer).

Below, we answer the frequently asked questions on small claims cases.

Q: What are considered small claims actions?
A: Claims for payment or reimbursement of money not exceeding Four Hundred Thousand Pesos (Php400,000.00). (Note: Effective April 1, 2019, the amount covered was increased from Php300,000.00 to Php400,000.00)

Q: What if I have claims for damages (moral, exemplary, etc.)?
A: You cannot include them in a small claims action since the Rules require that your action is "solely" for payment or reimbursement of sum of money (Sec. 5). The only class of damages you can include in your action is a claim for "liquidated damages" or amounts expressly stated in your contract to be paid in case of breach or violation of its provisions by the parties.

Q: What specific claims or demands are covered?
A: The claim or demand may be:

(a) For money owed under any of the following:
 1. Contract of Lease;
 2. Contract of Loan;
 3. Contract of Services;
 4. Contract of Sale; or
 5. Contract of Mortgage;

(b) For liquidated damages arising from contracts;

(c) The enforcement of a barangay amicable settlement or an
arbitration award involving a money claim covered by this
Rule pursuant to Sec. 417 of Republic Act 7160, otherwise
known as The Local Government Code of 1991.

Q: Where do I file a small claims action?
A: You file it before the first-level courts, such as the Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC), Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), or the Municipal Circuit Trial Courts (MCTC). Since it is a civil action, you may file it before the court: (a) where you are residing; or (b) where the person you want to sue resides.

Q: How do I file a small claims action?
A: Just proceed to the Office of the Clerk of Court (OCC) for MTCs and ask for a small claims complaint form, known as the "Statement of Claim" or "Habla ng Pagsisingil," then fill out all the requested information therein and attach all your documents, affidavits of your witnesses and other evidence to support your claim. You may download the sample forms by clicking here. Below are sample pages from a small claims complaint form for your reference:

Q: How much does it cost to file the small claims action?
A: The OCC will require you to pay docket and other legal fees under Rule 141 of the Rules of Court (Php150.00 to Php1,250.00), unless you file the action as an indigent litigant (one who has no money or property sufficient and available for food, shelter and basic necessities for himself and his family). You may request a certification from the nearest Public Attorney's Office (PAO) or the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for this purpose.

However, whether you qualify as an indigent litigant or not, you still need to pay One Thousand Pesos (Php1,000.00) as costs for furnishing the opposing party the court summons and copy of your complaint and its attachments.

Q: What happens after I file the complaint?
A: The court shall issue summons together with your complaint to the opposing party requiring him to file a verified Response within ten (10) days from receipt. A blank Response Form is attached to the summons for the opposing party to fill out.

The court will also issue a Notice of Hearing setting the date of hearing, which should not be more than thirty (30) days from the filing of the Statement of Claims. (This will ensure that the case is terminated in a month)

Q: What if the opposing party does not file a Response or attend the hearing?
A: The court will decide the case based solely on your complaint and evidence. If he failed to file a Response but attended the hearing, the court may still consider his defenses.

Q: What if I cannot appear during the hearing?
A: For a valid cause, you may send a representative who MUST be your relative or next-of-kin. He can't be a lawyer. If you fail to send a representative, the court will dismiss your case but you may still re-file it later.

Q: What happens during the hearing?
A: The hearing is informal. The judge will try to bring you to an amicable settlement. If the efforts at settlement fail, the court will proceed to hear the case which will be terminated within the same day.

Q: When will the decision come out?
A: Within twenty-four (24) hours from the termination of the hearing. The decision is final, executory, and cannot be appealed.

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