THE Supreme Court has allowed first and second level courts in the National Capital Judicial Region and in key cities in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao to conduct videoconferencing hearings of urgent matters involving persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).
“Considering the successful conduct of videoconferencing hearings and the fact that all courts are already capable of conducting videoconferencing hearings through their respective Philippine Judiciary 365 Accounts, there is a need to authorize all other first and second level courts not yet authorized to conduct videoconferencing hearings to do so, in order to avoid any further delay of court action on pending cases before them “ the SC said in a memorandum circular dated September 24 issued by the Office of the Court Administrator.
The circular said these courts are now authorized to conduct videoconferencing hearings on civil and criminal cases, “regardless of the stage of the trial, in accordance with existing rules and regulations.”
It will be recalled that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SC allowed the conduct of videoconferencing in first and second level courts (they are the trial courts and finders of facts of cases at the first stance) so as not to unduly delay the resolution of cases by trial courts as well as to handle such urgent matters as petition for bail.
Initially, it allowed 1, 000 courts to conduct videoconferencing hearings and later expanded this to 1, 430.
Last month, it allowed a further 882 courts to do so.
It also allowed the filing on online petitions and informations.
The OCA earlier said that from May 4 to August 7, more than 47, 600 videoconferencing hearings were conducted by these courts.
From March 17 to August 14, the OCA said 58,625 PDLs have been ordered released by trial courts through hearings on bail, recognizance or after serving the minimum jail sentence.