I say all the time that we’re not building rockets here. But we are building a ship of sorts, and a leaky ship means lost cargo, and perhaps the inability to reach port. Serving process in the Republic of the Philippines is now subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which U.S. or Canadian venue is hearing the matter. Noting that the Foreign Ministry has yet to submit declarations to the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the following guidelines are drawn from Administrative Order No. 251-2020, by the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines.
Some background is in order, if you’re so inclined, before we cut to the chase.
- The roadmap to the overall process—the recipe to our Secret Sauce.
- The structure of the Convention itself is discussed in this four-part series.
- And an absolutely critical note: the Hague Service Convention does not confer coercive effect on subpoenas. Repeat after me—you can’t just SERVE a subpoena in the Philippines and have it actually do what you want it to do. You have to file a Letter Rogatory, which is dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.
Now, here’s how service of everything else is done…
Article 5 Service
- Again, no declaration to Article 5(3) discusses translation, but the Supreme Court’s Order indicates that documents must be in either English or Filipino. Your docs are in English, so game over, right? Pack up and go home? Not so fast, counsel… make sure your defendant speaks English, because his U.S. Due Process rights follow him, in a sense. Anybody sued in a U.S. court must be served in a language they understand, so if they don’t speak English, translation is still necessary.
- Fill out a USM-94. Be very careful about ensuring that it is complete and concise, and make sure that it is signed by a court official or an attorney. If it is not, make sure that the person signing is commissioned by the court.
- Send to the Central Authority, along with the requisite advance fee.
- Sit tight. It may take a while from submission to return of proof. The judge is just going to have to accept that fact, because there is no viable alternative…
Article 10 alternative methods
- Forget them, because without any declarations to Article 10, it’s impossible to tell the forum judge with a straight face that they’re valid. True, Article 10 says specifically that “Provided the State of destination does not object, the present Convention shall not interfere with…” those methods. It could be argued, then, that because they haven’t expressly objected, alternatives are valid. I wouldn’t take a chance just because a quicker & cheaper alternative* seems plausible. There is a mechanism in place that leads to essentially bulletproof proof of service.
The Philippines’ declarations and Central Authority information—as well as those of all the other countries in the treaty—can be found here.
Seriously—that’s all there is to it in the Philippines, but don’t get excited just yet. The method is straightforward and simple, but this is a brand new procedure for the Philippines’ courts. Until there’s a track record, predictions are impossible.
* I’m looking at the mailman here. Quick & easy is a bad idea.