Friday, April 19, 2024

SC launches tech-aided remote hearing program in Tawi-Tawi

In a historic move towards fostering inclusivity and innovation in the delivery of justice, the Supreme Court inaugurated the Remote Hearing and Equal Access to Law and Justice (REAL Justice) program in Tawi-Tawi.

The event, held at the Hall of Justice Building in Bongao, was also attended by SC senior associate justices Marvic Leonen, Jhosep Lopez, Japar Dimaampao, Jose Midas Marquez, Antonio Kho Jr., and court administrator Raul B. Villanueva.

The REAL Justice program is an off shoot of the original Justice on Wheels (JOW) program started in 2004 wherein buses were retrofitted to serve as mobile complementary courts aimed at de-clogging court dockets.

It was then re-launched in 2008 as the “Enhanced Justice on Wheels” program which offered mediation services and legal aid clinics for underprivileged litigants in remote areas. This saw various cases promulgated which led to the release of many persons deprived of liberty.

Technicians install the Starlink satellite to help ensure high-speed, low-latency Internet for video conferencing of court proceedings in remote areas. (Photo courtesy of SC Public Information Office)

The program’s success, along with the technological advancements that have since become available, raised the need to improve the delivery of legal services for effective access to justice in an archipelago.

This opened the door to consider other forms of transportation in reaching far-flung areas, such as speedboats and motorcycles, hence its acronym.

Leonen broke down the REAL Justice program in three parts: First, the retrofitted buses will be put in areas in the territorial jurisdiction of judges which are difficult to reach.

Second, alternative forms of transportation will be used to bring technology to far-flung areas otherwise inaccessible to buses.

And third, use the buses to give bail during instances where the court is not in session so that those who are arrested would be able to post bail when necessary.

Bongao Regional Trial Court Branch 5 executive judge Abdulmoin M. Pakam presides over hearing on a motion in a petition for the cancellation of a marriage certificate. (Photo courtesy of the SC Public Information Office)

Gesmundo, who made history by being the first incumbent chief justice to visit Tawi-Tawi expressed gratitude for the collaboration with local government leaders and stakeholders in Tawi-Tawi, highlighting the importance of partnerships for the success of the program.

He underscored the significance of the initiative, stating that “real justice” means justice accessible in real-time, irrespective of geographical location.

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