81,888 PDLs, 880 of them children released by courts

A total of 81,888 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), including children in conflict with the law (CICL), and prisoners who have served the minimum period of their jail terms have been released by trial courts from March 17 to October 16 either through in-court hearings or via video conferencing.

Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, in his online meeting with journalists covering the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday, said 110,369 hearings have been conducted in both civil and criminal cases before the trial courts with a success rate of 88 per cent.

Peralta held a press briefing to report what the SC has done, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, since he assumed the post of Chief Justice on Oct. 23, 2019. He is expected to head the judiciary until March 26, 2022 or a day before his 70th birthday.

Of the PDLs released, Peralta reported that 46,032 were freed through hearings via video conferencing.

Those released either through the posting of bail or through recognizance have served the minimum period of their penalty or granted probation, he said.

There were also 880 CICL – “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” – who were released, he added.

With the onset of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country, video conferencing was utilized by the SC as a means to expedite resolution of cases and decongest jails to prevent the spread of the disease.

Now, all trial courts in the country have been authorized to conduct hearings via video conferencing in both civil and criminal cases.

The SC has directed Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez to monitor all trial courts in the conduct of video conferencing that was pilot tested in Davao City last year.

Peralta said the SC is now in the process of institutionalizing the use of video conferencing in all procedures before the courts.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the SC has also allowed the online filing of petitions and other court pleadings.