Image courtesy from Asia-Pacific UNDP Organization.

The Supreme Court (SC) saw technology’s crucial part in the Philippine justice system under the new normal.

“All told, the new normal can be justice is accessible to everyone at all times. We just have to embrace enabling technologies that are reliable, malware-free, and COVID-free,” said Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez.

A prime example of this is the integration of videoconference that enables the court to resume sessions despite the extended community quarantine as the COVID-19 crisis continues to affect the country.

Marquez said that 1,350 trial courts conducted 3,201 videoconference hearings, resulting in the release of 22,522 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) since the start of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) on March 17.

Breaking down the total, the courts had released a total of 9,731 PDLs from March 17 to April 29, followed by 4,683 PDLs from April 30 to May 8, 3,941 from May 9 to 15, and 4,167 PDLs from May 16 to 22.

Marquez added that the SC initially authorized 1,000 trial courts to pilot-test the conduct of videoconference hearings only on urgent matters in criminal cases involving PDLs.

The SC eventually expanded the coverage of videoconference hearings to “all matters pending before (the courts), in both criminal and civil cases, whether newly-filed or pending and regardless of the stage of trial”.

Presently, the SC authorized about 350 more courts to conduct videoconference hearings, bringing the total number to 1,350 trial courts.

Marquez said the courts released the PDLs through bail or recognizance, or after serving the minimum imposable penalty for the crime they committed.

He added that this not only decongested the country’s jail facilities but also minimized the risk of further spread of COVID-19 infection among inmates.

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