Supreme court OKs rules for inmate videoconferencing

Robie de Guzman   •   August 6, 2019   •   453

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.

JBC extends deadline for Chief Justice application, nomination to Sept. 2

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) has extended until September 2 the deadline for application and nomination of the next Chief Justice of Supreme Court, a panel member announced on Thursday.

According to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, the council decided to extend the deadline to invite more applicants to the position.

The application for the next chief justice initially closed on August 20.

Only four Supreme Court justices have filed their application and acceptance of nomination, namely, Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Andres Reyes Jr and Jose Reyes Jr.

Perlas-Bernabe and Peralta were among the five SC senior associate justices who were automatically nominated for the post. The other three magistrates are Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Marvic Leonen and Benjamin Caguiao who all rejected their automatic nominations.

Carpio earlier said he declined his nomination as he is set to retire in October. Leonen and Caguiao, however, did not cite their reasons.

The chief justice position will be vacated when CJ Lucas Bersamin will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 on October 18.

Bersamin was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as chief justice on November 28, 2018.

Supreme Court imposes fines on MWSS, Maynilad, Manila Water

Robie de Guzman   •   August 6, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and water concessionaires, Manila Water and Maynilad to pay fines for their non-compliance of the Clean Water Act.

In its decision, the SC fined Manila Water and Maynilad both with more than P900 million. The same amount of fine is required for Manila Water to be jointly paid with the MWSS for the period of May 7, 2009 until the date of promulgation.

The concessionaires are required to pay the fine within 15 days from receipt of a copy of the ruling.

From receipt of the decision until the fine is fully paid, they shall also pay the amount of P322,000 per day for every day of their non-compliance with the Clean Water Act.

The SC added that a legal interest of six percent per annum will also be applied.

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IBP moves to withdraw West Philippine Sea Kalikasan case

Robie de Guzman   •   July 19, 2019

FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows the Pagasa (Hope) Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) located off the coast of western Philippines July 20, 2011. REUTERS/ROLEX DELA PENA/POOL

MANILA, Philippines – The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said on Friday that it has filed a motion to withdraw its petition for Writ of Kalikasan, seeking for the protection of the environment in the West Philippine Sea.

In its motion, the IBP asked the Supreme Court to grant its request to withdraw the suit for eight of the petitioners, including the organization itself.

“With due regard to the plight and position of the fishermen-petitioners, the views and recommendations of the handling lawyers and the IBP Chapters involved, and the matters raised and guidance by the Honorable Supreme Court, a motion has been filed for the withdrawal or discharge of the counsels for the fishermen and for the withdrawal of the petition,” the IBP said in a statement, signed by its president Domingo Egon Cayosa.

The IBP’s motion is the latest in a series of case updates that followed after Solicitor General Jose Calida claimed last week that several Zambales and Palawan fishermen who were named as petitioners backed out from the case.

Petitioners of the case originally sought the Court to order the Duterte administration to stop neglecting its duty to protect the Ayungin Shoal, Panatag Shoal and Panganiban Reef, following reports of Chinese fishers harvesting endangered marine species in the area.

But Calida claimed, 19 fishermen have denied knowledge of the case, 13 of the total 37 petitioners also did not sign their affidavits while 24 signed but had no identification.

Calida’s claims led to the suspension of the oral arguments and Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin calling for a closed-door meeting of the parties.

After the conference, Calida said the government and the petitioners’ lawyers agreed that the case be dismissed.

The petitioners’ side did not confirm Calida’s statement but requested the high court to give them time to confer with their clients on the developments of the case.

READ: IBP wants time to talk with fishermen in West PH Sea Kalikasan petition

The SC later granted IBP’s motion for extension to comply with the order to move in the premises in the Writ of Kalikasan suit.

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