SC allows videoconferencing for detainees in proceedings
MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court has approved the guidelines on the use of videoconferencing technology for the remote court appearance or testimony of those detained in jail.
The move seeks to “eliminate the safety, security and health risks posed by the personal appearance of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) who are ‘considered to be high-risk or afflicted with highly contagious diseases’” while at the same time protecting their constitutional right in court proceedings.
“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 Public Information Office said in a statement released Tuesday.
Under the guidelines, “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.”
The guidelines also state that the remote location should be “viewed as an extension of the courtroom,” adding that the dignity and solemnity of the videoconference proceedings should be the same as those of an in-court proceeding.
The guidelines also include giving the trial court an option to suspend the videoconference proceeding if technical issues are observed that could possibly affect the fairness of the proceeding or if matters needing the detainee’s physical presence in the court arise.
“Video cameras must be placed and positioned in such a way so as to cover the same image the PDLs at the remote location would see if he or she were physically present in the courtroom,” the Court’s PIO said.
The Supreme Court en banc approved the guidelines, which was drafted by a special committee chaired by Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, last June and will take effect in September.
The guidelines will be pilot-tested for a period of not more than two years between the following courts and detention centers:
- Davao City Hall of Justice and the Davao City Jail
- Davao City Hall of Justice and the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan
- Davao City Hall of Justice and the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City
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