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Nation

SC to pilot-test videoconferencing of trials

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Hearings of criminal cases through videoconferencing will be pilot-tested in selected cities amid the public health emergency due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta issued an administrative circular on videoconference hearings following reports that some inmates have tested positive for the virus.

“Considering the extension of the enhanced community quarantine and the imposition of general community quarantine in various provinces and cities in the country and the reported infection of some persons deprived of liberty... there is a serious need to further restrain the movement and travel of court users, PDLs, judges and court personnel to reduce the spread of the dreaded infectious disease,” Peralta said.

He said videoconferencing would be applied in all stages of the trial, whether the case is newly filed, pending before a court or to be promulgated.

“Videoconference hearings should closely resemble in-person appearances and mirror the dignity and solemnity of in-court proceedings,” the circular read.

Courts remain closed

In another administrative circular, Peralta said courts in areas under ECQ would remain closed until May 15.

“All courts in ECQ areas... may be reached only through their hotline numbers, email addresses and/or Facebook accounts as posted on the website of the Supreme Court,” Peralta said.

However, he said courts to be manned by justices and judges and skeleton staff would continue to operate from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Monday to Friday.

He said justices and judges shall continue to draft decisions and orders. These decisions shall be promulgated or issued once the courts are fully operational, except decisions and orders on urgent matters.

Criminal complaints and informations, posting of bails and submission of urgent pleadings can be filed online.

Flag-raising and flag retreat ceremonies as well as night courts and Saturday courts along with trainings, seminars and official meetings are deferred until May 15, except those called or authorized by the Chief Justice or the Judicial Task Force on the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.

In a separate administrative circular, Peralta ordered all courts under GCQ to open starting May 4. Courts will function with skeleton staff to assist the judge and shall act only on urgent matters.

He said judges and court personnel aged 59 and above and with health issues would report only when there are urgent matters.

Courts in areas under general community quarantine will be open from  9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, but hearings will remain suspended until May 15. Only hearings on urgent matters will be held.

Such hearings will be pilot tested in first and second level courts in Metro Manila.

The other pilot testing sites are:

Ilocos: La Trinidad, Benguet; Baguio City, and Dagupan City, Pangasinan.

Cagayan Valley: Ilagan, Santiago City, Cabagan and Roxas, Isabela; Lubuagan, Kalinga.

Central Luzon: Olongapo City, Balanga City and Mariveles in Bataan; Gapan City and Sto. Domingo in Nueva Ecija; San Fernando, Guagua and Angeles City in Pampanga, and Capas, Tarlac.

Calabarzon: Tanauan, Balayan, Nasugbu, Rosario in Batangas; Tagaytay City, Trece Martires, Imus and Naic in Cavite; San Pablo City and Calamba City in Laguna; Lucena City and Gumaca in Quezon; Binangonan, San Mateo, Morong and Antipolo City in Rizal; Boac, Marinduque; Calapan City, and Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

Bicol: Legazpi City, Naga City and Sorsogon City.

Western Visayas: Iloilo City, Bacolod City, San Jose in Antique and San Carlos City, Negros Occidental.

Central Visayas: Cebu City, Lapu Lapu City; Mandaue City,  Dumaguete City  and Tanjay City.

Eastern Visayas: Tacloban City and Ormoc City.

Zamboagan peninsula: Dipolog City; Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay; Zamboanga City; Pagadian City; Isabela, Basilan, and Jolo, Sulu.

Northern Mindanao: Cagayan de Oro City, Surigao City and Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.

Davao: Tandag City, Digos City, General Santos City, Koronadal City, Polomok City and Alabel, Sarangani.

Soccsksargen: Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao; Marawi City, Iligan City, Kidapawan City and Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Courts in ECQ areas to remain closed until May 15

Courts in Metro Manila and provinces under enhanced community quarantine will remain closed until May 15.

“All courts in ECQ areas shall remain physically closed to all court users until May 15 and may be reached only through their respective hotline numbers, email addresses and/or Facebook accounts as posted on the website of the Supreme Court,” Chief Justice Diosdado said in an administrative circular.

However, Peralta said courts would continue to operate from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Monday to Friday.

He said they would assign justices and judges-on-duty and skeleton staff.

He said justices and judges shall continue drafting decisions and orders. These decisions shall be promulgated or issued once the courts are fully operational, except decisions and orders on urgent matters.

The filing of criminal complaints and informations, posting of bails and submission of urgent pleadings will be online.

Flag raising and flag retreat ceremonies as well as night courts and Saturday courts along with trainings, seminars and official meetings are deferred until May 15 except those called or authorized by the Chief Justice or the Judicial Task Force on COVID-19.

In a separate administrative circular, Peralta ordered all courts under general community quarantine to open starting May 4. Courts will function with skeleton staff to assist the judge and shall act only on urgent matters.

He said judges and court personnel who are more than 59 years old and with medical condition would report to court only when there are urgent matters.

Lawyers who are 59 years old and above may only attend court hearings when there are urgent matters,.

Peralta said younger lawyers  should be sent to attend court hearings.

Courts in GCQ areas will be open 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., Mondays to Fridays, but hearings will remain suspended until May 15. Only hearings on urgent matters will be held.

DIOSDADO PERALTA PDL
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