A total of 137,645 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), including children in conflict with the law (CICL), has been released as of last April 9 through video conferencing hearings that was implemented in May 2020 amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
In a report to Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo, Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez said that from May 5, 2020 until April 9, 2021, courts in the country have conducted 234,540 video conferencing hearings on civil and criminal cases.
Marquez, whose office supervises for the Supreme Court (SC) all lower courts in the country, said video conferencing posted 87.75 per cent success rate in court hearings.
Those released were either through the posting of bail or freed through recognizance, had served the minimum period of their penalty, or granted probation, Marquez said.
With the onset of 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.
The SC as a full court had directed Marquez to monitor all trial courts in the conduct of video conferencing that was pilot tested in Davao City in late 2019.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the SC has also allowed the online filing of petitions and other court pleadings.
All courts in areas under localized enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and those under the modified ECQ (MECQ) ordered by the national government are physically closed until April 30.
All court proceedings are conducted through video conferencing. Essential court offices maintain skeletal staff to attend to urgent matters.