Supreme court OKs rules for inmate videoconferencing

Robie de Guzman   •   August 6, 2019   •   845

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.

Alleged violations of ABS-CBN on its franchise sought in Senate

Maris Federez   •   February 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker is pushing for the Senate to look into the operation of ABS-CBN Corporation in relation to the allegations of franchise violations, following the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor-General Jose Calida before the Supreme Court seeking for the revocation of the broadcast network’s legislative franchise.

Senator Grace Poe said the investigation will check on the manner that the said media network complied with the terms and conditions stipulated in the franchise that was approved on March 30, 1995.

The Senate Committee on Public Services which Poe chairs will be the one to set the hearing once the House of Representatives has completed its own investigation on the matter.

Several senators expressed their support on Poe’s move.

“‘Yung senate inquiry, iba naman ang pakay. In aid of legislation, para baguhin ang Franchise Law, para baguhin ‘yung mga telecoms at NTC Act,” said Sen. Imee Marcos.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, however, clarified that this hearing is apart from the Senate’s hearing on ABS-CBN’s application renewal which is currently being heard at the Lower House.

He said Poe’s committee’s investigation will just give an input that will help the Senate determine whether or not ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal application must be approved.

It will also give the media network the opportunity to set the record straight on the allegations thrown at them.

“This is a good venue para makita natin kung may katotohanan ba talaga ‘yung kanilang mga allegations. This is a check and balance process. Hindi lang naman ABS ang nagpaparenew ng mass media franchise. Ang daming radio stations, nagpaparenew. And this is the check-and-balance power ng Kongreso,” Gatchalian said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also expressed his support, saying, that Congress is the only body that has jurisdiction to review ABS-CBN’s compliance of its franchise and not the Supreme Court.

“I will support Sen. Poe’s reso. Congress, not the Supreme Court, is the body that has jurisdiction to review compliance by ABS-CBN of the terms of the franchise granted by Congress, especially that there are pending bills seeking renewal of franchise,” said Drilon.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, on the other hand, said the matter must be discussed first in a caucus as he believes this might go against the sub-judice rule now that the Supreme Court has given the media network 10 days to give its comment on the Solgen’s petition.

“I will suggest to the SP (Senate President) and our colleagues, we may have to discuss it in caucus first as it may be violative of the sub judice rule, now that the SC has already asked ABS-CBN to file their comment within 10 days,” Lacson said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III will set a caucus on Monday to discuss Poe’s resolution. —(from the report of Harlene Delgado)

OSG files quo-warranto petition vs ABS-CBN before SC

UNTV News   •   February 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Solicitor-General on Monday filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court seeking the revocation of the legislative franchises of ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiary, the ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc.

Government lawyers accused the television network of “unlawfully exercising their legislative franchises.”

Solicitor General Jose Calida led the filing of the quo warranto petition against the broadcast network.

“We want to put an end to what we discovered to be highly abusive practices of ABS-CBN benefitting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers. These practices have gone unnoticed or were disregarded for years,” Calida said in a statement.

Calida asserted that ABS-CBN has issued Philippine Depositary Receipts to foreigners and that ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc. has resorted to an “ingenious corporate layering scheme” that transfers its franchise without Congressional approval.

“It also failed to publicly offer any of its outstanding capital stock to any securities exchange within the Philippines within five years from the start of its operations, which is an indispensable condition in its franchise,” Calida said.

The OSG also alleged that ABS-CBN has been operating KBO Channel — a pay-per-view channel in ABS-CBN TV Plus “without prior approval or permit from the National Telecommunications Commission.”

ABS-CBN’s franchise is set to expire on March 30.

A bill for the renewal of its franchise has been filed before the Lower House in July 2019.

PH Supreme court affirms dismissal of petition for same-sex marriage

Robie de Guzman   •   January 6, 2020

Couples identified with the LGBT community hold a banner during a mass wedding ceremony in Quezon City, east of Manila, Philippines, 24 June 2018. EPA-EFE/ROLEX DELA PENA

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court upheld its decision to dismiss a petition seeking the legalization of same-sex marriage in the country.

In a notice sent to reporters on Monday, January 6, the Supreme Court en banc denied with finality the motion for reconsideration filed by the petitioners appealing the ruling issued in September.

“[T]he Court resolved to deny with finality the said motion for reconsideration as no substantial arguments were presented to warrant the reversal of the questioned decision,” the court said in a resolution dated December 10 but was only made public Monday.

Lawyer Jesus Falcis III and an LGBT group filed the petition asking the court to strike down as unconstitutional some of the provisions on the Family Code that limited marriage to a union between a man and a woman.

The high court in September ruled that the petition was deficient, lacked legal standing, and violated the principle of the hierarchy of courts.

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