Public may attend local court hearings via videoconferencing
MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court’s Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) has directed all first and second level courts across the country to allow the public to attend the hearings of criminal cases being conducted through videoconferencing.
This is “to further comply with the constitutional right of the accused to a public trial and to resemble or mirror more, as far as practicable, the in-court proceedings,” Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said in a circular issued on Friday and addressed to judges, lawyers and court users.
Marquez said any person who wishes to attend a videoconferencing hearing must email the concerned court at least three days before the scheduled hearing through the court’s official Philippine Judiciary Office 365 email address.
The would-be attendee must provide his or her full name, email address, contact number and scanned copy of a government-issued ID bearing his or her photograph and signature.
The court has the discretion to refuse access if it finds that the information given is erroneous or fictitious.
Proper court decorum
To preserve the dignity of the proceedings, the court may also order a person’s removal from the videoconferencing hearing, Marquez said.
Any attendee may be held liable for direct contempt for any misbehavior that obstructs or interrupts the the videoconferencing hearings, including unauthorized recording.
Applying the rules of court, the judge may also exclude the public “when the evidence to be adduced is of such nature as to require their exclusion in the interest of morality or decency,” or when a child would be testifying.
“Proper court decorum shall likewise be observed at all times and those participating therein shall be in appropriate attire,” Marquez added.
According to OCA statistics, first and second level courts handling criminal and civil cases conducted 106,666 videoconferencing hearings nationwide between May 4 and Oct. 2, with an average success rate of 88.50 percent.
The first-level courts are the metropolitan trial courts, municipal trial courts in cities, municipal trial courts, municipal circuit trial courts and Sharia circuit courts.
The second tier consists of the single- or multiple-branch regional trial courts found in the 13 judicial regions of the Philippines and the Sharia district courts. —Jerome Aning
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.