SC to pilot-test video conferencing of trials during public health emergency
MANILA, Philippines – As the courts in some areas with extended enhanced community quarantine remain physically closed until May 15, the Supreme Court announced that it will pilot test hearings on urgent matters in criminal cases through video conferencing.
In two Administrative Circulars made public Monday, signed by Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta and approved by the en banc, announced the pilot testing of videoconferencing in some areas to restrain the movement and travel of court users, a person deprived of liberty (PDLs), judges and court personnel.
Pilot testing of videoconferencing for urgent matters in criminal cases shall be pilot tested in the following areas:
Region I – La Trinidad, Benguet; Baguio City; Dagupan City, Pangasinan;
Region II – Ilagan, Isabela; Santiago City; Cabagan, Isabela; Roxas, Isabela; and Lubuagan, Kalinga;
Region III – Olongapo City; Balanga City; Mariveles, Bataan; Gapan City; Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija; San Fernando, Pampanga; Guagua, Pampanga; Angeles City; Capas, Tarlac;
Region IV – Tanauan, Batangas; Balayan, Batangas; Nasugbu, Batangas; Rosario, Batangas; Tagaytay City; Trece Martires, Cavite; Imus, Cavite; Naic, Cavite; San Pablo City; Calamba, Laguna; Lucena City, Gumaca, Quezon; Binangonan, Rizal; San Mateo, Rizal; Morong, Rizal; Antipolo City; Boac, Marinduque; Calapan City; Puerto Princesa, Palawan;
Region V – Legazpi City; Naga City; Sorsogon City;
Region VI – Iloilo City; Bacolod City; San Jose, Antique; San Carlos City, Negros Occidental;
Region VII – Cebu City; Lapu Lapu City; Mandaue City; Dumaguete City; Tanjay City;
Region VIII – Tacloban City; Ormoc City;
Region IX – Dipolog City; Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay; Zamboanga City; Pagadian City; Isabela City, Basilan; Jolo, Sulu;
Region X – Cagayan de Oro City; Surigao City; Malaybalay City, Bukidnon;
Region XI – Tandag City; Digos City; Gen. Santos City; Koronadal City; Polomok City; Alabel, Sarangani;
Region XII – Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao; Marawi City; Iligan City; Kidapawan City and Midsayap, North Cotabato.
The hearings through videoconferencing shall cover all PDLs and may apply to all of newly-filed and pending criminal cases, including but not limited to, arraignment, pre-trial, bail hearings, trial proper and promulgation of judgment.
The proceedings will be guided by the Administrative Matter No. 19-05-05 or the guidelines on the use of technology for the remote appearance of PDLs in jails.
“The dignity and solemnity of in-court proceedings shall at all times be mirrored in videoconference proceedings,” the high court said.
The courts that will be part of the pilot run will be given a Microsoft Office 365 E1 licenses to host the proceedings.
“No other platforms shall be used for the videoconference proceedings, and neither shall the courts use a different email address aside from the authorized account officially provided,” the high court said.
Hearings in criminal cases through videoconferencing shall apply only during the duration fo the public health emergency.
The high court, in a separate circular, said the online filing of criminal complaints and informations, posting of bail, submission of urgent pleadings shall continue until May 15 in the ECQ areas while electronic communications must be transmitted by court users from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
The high court said all hearings in ECQ areas except on urgent matters as set under AC No. 31-2020 shall remain suspended until May 15, 2020.