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SC Institutionalizes videoconferencing hearings

The Philippines’ justice system has taken a significant digital leap forward as the Supreme Court of the Philippines formally institutionalized videoconference proceedings for all its courts nationwide.

Utilizing Microsoft 365 — a unified communication and collaboration platform with innovative Office web applications, intelligent cloud services, and world-class security —transparent proceedings and fair justice is becoming more available for more Filipinos at all levels of the justice system, even amid the ongoing community quarantine throughout the nation, a press release from Microsoft said.

The Supreme Court recently approved the Guidelines on the Conduct of Videoconferencing, allowing remote appearances in court proceedings from individuals across and even outside the Philippines.

“On January 16, 2021, videoconferencing was formally institutionalized, and the guidelines and the conduct of video conferencing became effective. For the first time in its 119-year history, the Philippine judiciary has blazed a new trail by allowing remote testimony from parties situated in even in different parts of nation and the globe,” said Honorable Jose Midas P. Marquez, Court Administrator of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.

The Supreme Court chose Microsoft to be one of its key partners in their digital transformation journey and invested in Microsoft 365 because the solution is cost-efficient and ensures security and compliance. Moreover, it is interoperable with the judiciary’s other projects, and Microsoft supported the necessary skilling for their IT team throughout the pandemic.

“We are privileged to work alongside the Supreme Court of the Philippines in this historic achievement where remote appearances from parties across and beyond the country are now part of court proceedings. The leaders of the national judiciary aspire to provide Filipinos with innovative and accessible citizen services, and we’re fully committed to empowering them with the right technology solutions to do so—today and in the future,” said Microsoft Philippines Public Sector Director Joanna Rodriguez.

During Microsoft’s recent “AsensoPilipinas: Building Digital Resilience” Summit, Marquez shared how the Supreme Court of the Philippines embraced innovation to spark digital transformation throughout the 27,000 courts across the country under its jurisdiction.

“At present, all courts are authorized to conduct videoconferencing hearings bringing the total to 2,715 courts. I am pleased to note that from May 4, 2020, to January 8, 2021, while parts of the country are still on varying forms of a lockdown and with hardly any mentoring, almost 170,000 video conferencing hearings in both civil and criminal cases have already been conducted by our judges with a success rate of 80 percent. “

Marquez said the imposition of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) at the onset of the pandemic brought challenges across all judicial levels.

In the early months of the pandemic, Community Quarantine and reported infections of Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) with COVID-19 in different detention facilities restrained the movement and travel of PDLs, judges, and court personnel. At that time, Marquez said, the judiciary worked with a skeletal workforce and was mandated only to act and resolve matters filed before the courts electronically.

“This was as much as we could do as we did not have any official regulating platform to mount video conferencing hearings which was badly needed at that time,” Marquez said.*

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