Supreme Court Formally Institutionalizes Videocon Proceedings Nationwide

A digital leap forward has just been taken by the country’s justice system 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.

The Guidelines on the Conduct of Videoconferencing, allowing remote appearances in court proceedings from individuals across and even outside the Philippines, was just approved by the judiciary.

“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,” according to Hon. 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.

At the recent “Asenso Pilipinas: Building Digital Resilience” Summit organized by the software giant, 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.

According to Marquez, 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.

The Supreme Court evaluated various tools in the market that will enable them to launch virtual court hearings immediately. After assessing the full spectrum and balance of Microsoft 365 with their security, privacy, and compliance requirements through collaborative workshops, the Supreme Court decided to avail the solution for a trial.

With the substantial capability to launch virtual hearings, the Honorable Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta issued Administrative Circular 37-2020 for the pilot testing of hearings of criminal cases through videoconferencing in select courts in cities nationwide on 27 April 2020.

In just over a week of the pilot testing, 4,683 PDLs were released, and after two months, 21,375 videoconferencing hearings were conducted by judges. As of October 2020, more than 81,000 PDLs and children in conflict with the law were released through virtual court hearings.