Courts to test videoconferencing for criminal trials during public health emergency
This file photo shows the Supreme Court compound in Padre Faura, Manila.
Philstar.com/Erwin Cagadas
Courts to test videoconferencing for criminal trials during public health emergency
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - April 27, 2020 - 8:39pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court directed all courts in Metro Manila and select courts in parts of the country to conduct hearings through videoconferencing in light of restrictions in movement because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta on Monday issued Administrative Circular No. 37-2020 allowing the pilot testing of videoconferencing on “hearings on urgent maters in criminal cases involving [Persons Deprived of Liberty]” during the period of public health emergency.

The following court stations will conduct the videoteleconferencing:

  • All court stations in the National Capital Judicial Region

Luzon

  • Region I – La Trinidad, Benguet; Baguio City; Dagupan City, Pangasinan
  • Region II – Ilagan, Isbela; Cabagan, Isabela; Roxas, Isabela; 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

Visayas

  • 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

Mindanao

  • Region IX – Dipolog City; Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay; Zambonga 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 Office of the Court Administrator is directed to issue the directives and take steps to implement the pilot testing.

The hearings will cover all stages of trial of “newly-filed and pending criminal cases, including but not limited to, arraignment, pre-trial, bail hearings, trial proper and promulgation of judgment.”

The courts shall ensure that all constitutional rights of the accused are upheld aty all times during the trial, Peralta said.

The SC however stressed that these videoconferencing hearings of criminal cases "are only for pilot testing, and shall apply only during this public health emergency period.”

The OCA is also ordered to submit a report to the SC within six months from the implementation of the circular, or immediately after the period of public health emergency, whichever is earlier.

All courts in ECQ areas ‘physically closed’ until May 15

Peralta, in a separate administrative order, also said courts in areas under Enhanced Community Quarantine shall remain physically closed until May 15, and may be reached through hotline numbers of email addresses.

These courts will operate from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but electronic submissions may be sent from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Night and Saturday courts in these areas will remain suspended until May 15.

President Rodrigo Duterte extended the implementation of ECQ in NCR and other areas deemed "high risk" until May 15.

Areas considered moderate and low-risk in the spread of the novel coronavirus will be placed under general community quarantine.

Areas that are now placed under General Community Quarantine, meanwhile, “shall be governed by and comply with the circular issued under GCQ.”

RELATED: General community quarantine to be implemented in moderate, low-risk areas

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