SC approves video conferencing in trials of high-risk detainees
MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) will soon allow the use of video conferencing technology in trials of high-risk detainees such as terrorists.
Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said the high court recently issued a resolution for the “tele-hearing” system or the use of video conferencing technology to allow remote testimonies as well as remote monitoring of trials.
The new system is part of the judicial reform agenda of Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin.
It was approved by the High Court upon Marquez’ recommendation.
Marquez said pilot testing of the new system will be in Davao City Jail where arrested members of the Maute Group, Abu Sayyaf and New People’s Army are detained.
He said, equipment such as laptops and monitors have already been installed inside the jail which he personally inspected last Feb. 8.
Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, who was tapped as working chairperson of the new SC revision of rules committee, has been tasked to draft the guidelines that would govern the remote testimony and appearances of the accused from their jail cells.
“This is trailblazing because it can pave the way for long-distance court appearances of OFWs working abroad who have pending civil cases in the country,” Peralta explained in a statement.
Through video conference, the arrested members of Maute, Abu Sayyaf and NPA will no longer be required to physically appear before the courts and may face trial while inside the jails.
A 100-foot monopole tower with necessary equipment was built within the Davao Hall of Justice and will be connected to the three jail facilities in the city.
“In order to ensure that the accused’s constitutional rights are adequately protected, the counsel of the accused shall be present with the accused in the same designated room in the jail facility throughout the duration of the tele-hearing,” Marquez explained.
The pilot testing of the latest measure adopted by the Court will also apply to detainees who are diagnosed with grave and serious medical conditions in Davao.
The latest measure adopted by the judiciary was approved specifically upon request of Davao City Jail Warden Supt. Grace Taculin, who cited security threats by the transportation of “high-risk detainees” with terrorism cases and with contagious diseases to the courts.
The Bureau of Jail Management of Penology in Davao City manages three city jail facilities with an aggregate population of about 4,000 detainees.
Marquez said the new measure would later on be implemented in other areas. /gsg
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