Supreme court OKs rules for inmate videoconferencing

Robie de Guzman   •   August 6, 2019   •   690

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday said it has approved the guidelines on the use of videoconferencing technology to allow the remote appearance and testimonies for inmates.

In a resolution issued on June 25, 2019, the Court En Banc approved A.M. No. 19-05-05 or the proposed Guidelines on the Use of Videoconferencing Technology for the Remote Appearance or Testimony of Certain Persons Deprived of Liberty in Jails and National Penitentiaries.

This aims to guarantee and preserve the constitutional rights of the accused in court proceedings being detained in a district, city or provincial jail or a national inmate committed in a national penitentiary.

The court said the utilization of the technology is to eliminate the safety, security and health risks posed by the personal appearance of inmates who are “considered to be high-risk or afflicted with highly contagious diseases.”

“Such risk is not only posed on the accused but also to judges, court personnel, and the public in general. This will also guarantee the accused’s rights to be present and confront witnesses against them and to ensure the continuity of proceedings in criminal cases,” the SC said in a statement.

The guidelines provide that “the remote appearance and testimony of an accused in a videoconference proceeding shall closely resemble his or her otherwise in-person courtroom testimony and experience.”

Further, “the dignity and solemnity in a videoconference proceeding shall be the same as those of an in-court proceeding. The remote location shall be viewed as an extension of the courtroom.”

The Guidelines also detail the procedures to be observed allowing the defense counsel to be physically present with their clients at the jail or in court at the inmate’s option.

The rules also state that the video cameras must be placed and positioned in such a way so as to cover the same image the inmates at the remote location would see if he or she were physically present in the courtroom.

The trial court, however, may exercise its discretion to suspend the videoconference proceeding when there are technical issues which would affect its fairness or if matters should arise warranting the PDLs’ physical appearance in the courtroom.

The SC said the guidelines will take effect on September 1 and will be tested in Davao.

Tests on its use will be conducted for a period of not more than two years between the following: the Davao City Hall of Justice and the Davao City Jail; the Davao City Hall of Justice and the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA), Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan; and the Davao City Hall of Justice and the New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa City.

The SC said it has been “employing modern technology” in the hearing of some cases. It cited as an example the use of live-link television testimony in criminal cases where the witness or the victim is a child and the presentation of testimonial evidence through electronic means in both civil and criminal cases.”

In 2001, the Court gave the family courts the green light to use video-conferencing equipment in trials involving the testimonies of children.

CJ Peralta hopes verdict on Maguindanao massacre will be issued before year-end

Maris Federez   •   November 8, 2019

FILE PHOTO: Journalism students of Bulacan State University light candles in commemoration of the 4th anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre in front of Bulacan Capitol, Malolos City, Bulacan. Photo taken November 21, 2013. | PVI/Junnel Aquino

The Supreme Court (SC) has allowed Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes a 30-day extension in issuing her verdict on the Maguindanao Massacre case.

The case has already been submitted for resolution on August 22 and the court was supposed to come up with a verdict within 90 days or until the third week of November but Judge Reyes requested an extension.

CJ Peralta said they understand Reyes’ predicament due to the voluminous records and evidence that she had to consider which prompted the Supreme Court to approve her request for a one-month extension.

“We also allow meritorious motion for extension and we understand her predicament,” said Peralta.

The chief magistrate, however, expressed hope that Judge Reyes will no longer ask for another extension in issuing her verdict on the case.

“I hope that she will no longer ask for another extension so that before the end of the year those cases will finally be decided,” he said.

According to the memorandum that the SC sent to Reyes, she has until December 30 to arrive at a decision and it is already non-extendible.

On November 23, 2009, armed men ambushed 58 individuals, including 32 members of the media, in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Among the slain was the wife of former Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu who was supposed to file his certificate of candidacy for Maguindanao gubernatorial election, opposing the Ampatuan clan.

The Maguindanao Massacre is considered the world’s worst election-related incident of violence and the deadliest attack against the members of the media. (from the report of Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

CJ Peralta ensures swift action on alleged narco judges

Maris Federez   •   November 8, 2019

Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralto

Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralto on Friday gave his assurance that his office will conduct swift action against the alleged narco judges.

Based on the narco list or the roll of personalities involved in illegal drugs in the possession of the president, included in the record are 13 judges and 10 are prosecutors.

Peralta said several recommendations related to this had been filed before the Supreme Court and they will issue their decision in the nearest possible time.

“There are also recommendations submitted to the court en banc in due time we will coming up with some with resolutions on these alleged narco judges,” Peralta said. (with details from Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

CJ Peralta proposes to Congress: install marshals in Phl courts

Maris Federez   •   November 8, 2019

The Supreme Court is set to urge Congress to file a law that will create a position of marshals in the judiciary amidst the growing number of judges getting slain in the country.

A recent addition to that record is the gunning down of Regional Trial Court Judge Mario Anacleto Bañez in La Union on Tuesday (November 5).

Aside from ensuring security in courthouses, the marshals will be given investigative power like that of the National Bureau of Investigation.

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said they will have the same functions as that of the marshals in the United States.

“Our marshal can do the work, in other words, they can investigate, they can summon witnesses to appear in an investigation. Likewise, ask the different agencies to help us,” said CJ Peralta. (with details from Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

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