After formally institutionalizing videoconference proceedings for all its courts nationwide, the Supreme Court (SC) said its virtual hearings have posted a success rate of 80 percent.
Court administrator Midas Marquez said 27,000 courts across the country have carried out 170,000 videocon hearings from May 4, 2020 to January 8, 2021.
“At present, all courts are authorized to conduct videoconferencing hearings, bringing the total to 2,715 courts,” Marquez said during Microsoft’s recent “Asenso Pilipinas: Building Digital Resilience” Summit.
According to Marquez, the imposition of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) at the onset of the pandemic brought challenges across all judicial levels.
In the early months of the pandemic, community quarantine and reported infections of Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) with Covid-19 in different detention facilities restrained the movement and travel of PDLs, judges, and court personnel.
At that time, Marquez said, the judiciary worked with a skeletal workforce and was mandated only to act and resolve matters filed before the courts electronically.
“This was as much as we could do as we did not have any official regulating platform to mount video conferencing hearings which was badly needed at that time,” Marquez said.
In April 27, 2020, the SC issued Administrative Circular 37-2020 for the pilot testing of hearings of criminal cases through videoconferencing in select courts in cities nationwide.
In just over a week of the pilot testing, 4,683 PDLs were released, and after two months, 21,375 videoconferencing hearings were conducted by judges.
As of October 2020, more than 81,000 PDLs and children in conflict with the law were released through virtual court hearings.
Recently, the SC approved the Guidelines on the Conduct of Videoconferencing, allowing remote appearances in court proceedings from individuals across and even outside the Philippines.
“On January 16, 2021, videoconferencing was formally institutionalized, and the guidelines and the conduct of video conferencing became effective. For the first time in its 119-year history, the Philippine judiciary has blazed a new trail by allowing remote testimony from parties situated in even in different parts of nation and the globe,” said Marquez.
The SC picked Microsoft 365, a communication and collaboration platform which is also interoperable with the judiciary’s other projects.
“We are privileged to work alongside the Supreme Court in this historic achievement where remote appearances from parties across and beyond the country are now part of court proceedings,” said Microsoft Philippines public sector director Joanna Rodriguez.