A total of 43,171 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) and prisoners who have served the minimum period of their jail terms have been ordered released by various trial courts in the country through hearings conducted via video conferencing as of July 3.
In a report to Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez said that those released included children in conflict with the law (CCWL).
Marquez said the PDLs were released after hearings either on bail or on their recognizance.
With the onset of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country, video conferencing was utilized by the Supreme Court (SC) as a means to expedite resolution of cases and decongest jails to prevent the spread of the disease.
More than 1,500 trial courts have been authorized by the SC to conduct hearings via video conferencing.
Chief Justice Peralta said the SC is set to issue the rules of court on video conferencing to institutionalize the use of the online system in all courts in both civil and criminal cases.
In his report, Marquez said that as of July 3, a total of 8,909 PDLs were released in the National Capital Region; 3,621 in Region 1; 1,796 in Region 2; 6,203 in Region 3; 7,443 in Region 4; 1,192 in Region 5; 1,431 in Region 6; 4,528 in Region 7; 1,183 in Region 8; 1,158 in Region 9; 2,537 in Region 10; 2,168 in Region 11; and 1,002 in Region 12.
Marquez, in his earlier report, said: “There have already been three convictions promulgated online by our trial courts. There was a case for qualified human trafficking in Angeles City, and for large scale trafficking for prostitution and rape both in Cebu City. In all three, the accused were sentenced to life imprisonment and reclusion perpetua.”
Earlier, the SC had issued a circular which authorized the use of video conferencing even on civil cases and on cases involving CCWL.
PDLs are those 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.
A CCWL is “anyone under 18 years old who comes into contact with the justice system as a result of being suspected or accused of committing an offence.”