MANILA, Philippines – Scrap those court summons being sent in hand-carry mails that take weeks or months; “electronic subpoenas” can now be used and transmitted in matter of seconds.
Considered a “major breakthrough,” the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, Philippine National Police officially launched on Wednesday the e-Subpoena system, a web-based information system that speeds up the transmittal of court subpoenas and notices to the police.
The system particularly addresses negligence of police officers, who are witnesses in criminal cases, in responding to summons issued by the court.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, and Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina signed the Memorandum of Agreement at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.
In a speech, Sereno recalled one time when she surveyed the court judges on their usual woes.
“I asked them (judges), who among the case witnesses we are mainly having problems with when appearing at hearings? Their common answer – policemen, especially those who were witnesses for drug cases,” she said.
On an average, when subpoenas are sent to the responsible police stations, it usually takes two to four months before it reaches the police.
In a day, there are around 960 subpoenas sent by the court. But PNP said most of the court summons are sent to the police units with delays, slowing down the progress of cases.
“I’ve also heard from some practicing lawyers that they have colleagues who block couriers from bringing the subpoena to the police station,” Roxas, meanwhile, said in his speech.
After the signing, a live demonstration of the first online transmittal of subpoena from Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 84 to a police officer assigned at QC Police District Kamuning station was conducted.
The e-subpoena process
“The courts, through its court administrator, will send the subpoenas to PNP units concerned in the PNP identified website,” the PNP said in a statement.
The clerk of court will encode the details of the subpoena in a computer connected to the Internet.
In just a matter of seconds, the subpoena is sent to the police unit where a police witness is assigned.
The Chief of Police of that unit will then acknowledge the subpoena, print a copy, and hand it to the witness.
But if the police witness was reassigned to another station, the court process officer (CPO) will re-send a copy to the unit the police is currently assigned.
“The police stations, through the CPO and PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM), will give feedback on the availability or non-availability of the police officer concerned within three working days from receipt thereof,” the PNP added.
In a statement, the Department of the Interior and Local (DILG) secretary said that once the system is fully operational, it would allow the PNP to monitor the police’s attendance and non-attendance of scheduled court hearings.
Their attendance “will eventually form part of the performance evaluation under the merit and demerit system of the PNP,” said Roxas.
The system will be made possible with at least one computer unit per police station, an Internet connection, an office or unit PNP private e-mail account, a web browser, and a user account.
Roxas said all units of the PNP have been given e-mail accounts that can be accessed through the PNP website.
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