IBP to SC: Make online trial court hearings “the general rule”

(Eagle News)–The Integrated Bar of the Philippines has called on the Supreme Court to make online trial court hearings the “general rule” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, IBP president Domingo Egon Cayosa noted that “beyond helping contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus and keeping litigants and workers in the justice sector safe, the wise use of IT promotes efficiency, accessibility, integrity, transparency, accountability and speed in the resolution of cases.”

He added that other countries have computerized their justice system and turned to online proceedings “with positive results and great advantages.”

“Any remaining kinks in the Philippine setting like IT hardware, training, and internet availability or speed can and should be adequately addressed,” Cayosa said, noting that the Philippine justice sector should harness IT to promote the swift administration of justice and for the country to be at par with global standards and best practices

“We support the efforts of other appellate courts towards online hearings,” he said, noting also the efforts by the Energy Regulatory Commission, the National Labor Relations Commission, and other quasi-judicial bodies to shift to online hearings.

Earlier, Supreme Court Administrator Midas Marquez said videoconferencing hearings were allowed in general community quarantine areas.

“[I]f a party wishes his/her case to be heard via videoconferencing, the proper motion just needs to be filed, and the court, using its sound discretion, can either grant or deny the motion. This remedy is available in both civil and criminal cases,” Marquez had said.