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Jails unclogged by tele-court hearings

Alvin Murcia

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COURT Administrator Midas Marquez

Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said Sunday court hearings via video conferencing, particularly on cases involving persons deprived of liberty (PDL), will continue in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ).

He said the decision to continue with video conferencing was prompted by its success in the release of PDL to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in jail facilities in the country.

Marquez said that since 4 May, some 1,350 trial courts have conducted 7,624 hearings via video conferencing that resulted in the release of 22,522 PDL mostly detained at the lockup cells of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“Hence in GCQ areas, if a party wishes that a testimony of a witness be heard via video conferencing, the proper motion just needs to be filed in court, and the judge, using his or her sound discretion, can either grant or deny the motion,” Marquez said.

Video conferencing can be done in both criminal and civil cases and is authorized by Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta in previous circulars, he said.

PDL are persons charged in court with criminal offenses and violations of city and municipal ordinances and are detained while petitioning to post bail, attending hearings, and awaiting the decisions on their cases.

Earlier, Chief Justice Peralta had issued a circular which announced that all courts nationwide will be in full operation starting Monday (1June)  In Metro Manila, courts will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.

Courts outside Metro Manila will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Night courts and Saturday courts remain suspended.

Peralta said that since mass transportation is not yet in full operation in areas under the GCQ “the courts and offices of the courts may continue to function at work with a skeleton staff….”

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