VIDEO conferencing has become the order of the day for both public and private organizations because of Covid-19 quarantine and its restrictions.
Meetings, media briefings, press conferences, education/learning sessions, etc., are into video conferencing nowadays.
Closer to home in Manila, the Supreme Court of the Philippines is making history it “invades” the virtual space.
The High Court thus became another public entity now harnessing the power of technology as it unveiled its virtual courtrooms.
The High Tribunal is going into the virtual space amid the quarantine in the country imposed by the government since March.
To realize this, the High Tribunal has partnered with Microsoft to improve the efficiency and productivity of the country’s legal proceedings with hearings conducted through video conferencing
The conduct of video conferencing hearings ensure cases are heard in a timely manner, during the pandemic, and comply with the government’s social distancing and remote work guidelines.
Legal proceedings in the country have faced challenges during the initial implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and General Community Quarantine (GCQ).
Furthermore, reported infections of Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) with Covid-19 in the different detention facilities restrained the movement and travel of PDLs, judges and court personnel.
As a result, the Supreme Court — under the guidance of the Honorable Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta and Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez — teamed up with Microsoft to enable video conferencing hearings using Microsoft 365, a unified communication and collaboration platform with innovative Office web applications, intelligent cloud services, and world-class security.
On April 27, 2020, Chief Justice Peralta issued Administrative Circular 37-2020, directing all Litigants, Judges and Court personnel of 925 First and Second Level Courts nationwide to immediately begin virtual court hearings.
In the first nine days of piloting video conferencing hearings, 4,683 PDLs were released, a 125% increase in daily releases compared to 9,731 from six weeks prior to implementation of Microsoft 365.
Video conferencing hearings are being done in Metro Manila and select courts in key cities nationwide. Aside from video conferencing hearings, the high court also allowed the e-filing of complaints, petitions for bail as well as the submission of requirements for bail to minimize physical contact.
“We thank Microsoft for extending Microsoft 365 to us, and commend them for supporting the Philippine Judiciary in our quest for digital transformation, with the aim of realizing expedited, efficient, and secure trials that are more user-friendly for court users especially during this time of public health emergency,” said Chief Justice Peralta.
In addition, Microsoft 365 will be the official medium for communications by the entire Judicial Branch of the Philippine Government. On 12 May 2020, the Supreme court utilized Microsoft’s Stream platform to conduct a webinar titled “The New Normal: Cybersecurity in a Covid-Free, Malware-Free Judiciary.”
“I am so proud to be a part of this historic moment in the Philippines. This is the first time the Supreme Court has moved to a virtual courtroom, to ensure they continue to provide justice and due process during Covid-19. This agility creates government resilience and ensures they remain accessible to citizens and communities during these challenging times,” said Microsoft Philippines Country General Manager Andres Ortola. (Supreme Court/Microsoft)
Featured image of the Supreme Court courtesy of Skylines of the Philippines on Facebook.