Online court hearings for OFWs start July 1 — SC

Published May 7, 2021, 11:49 AM

by Rey Panaligan 

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court (SC) has moved to July 1 the implementation of online hearings via video conferencing for testimonies of Filipinos abroad, particularly Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), whose appearance is required by the courts.

In a May 5, 2021 circular issued by Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez, the SC said the extension was requested by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. and approved by Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo.

The online testimonies of Filipinos abroad would have been implemented last April 1, but Locsin told the SC that personnel of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) need more training on video conferencing.

It was late last year when the SC allowed the taking of testimonies of Filipinos abroad through video conferencing. That was set to start last Jan. 16. The first postponement to April 1 was also requested by Locsin.

The move of hearing civil and criminal cases by the courts through video conferencing was a measure adopted by the SC to fight the spread of the dreaded corona virus disease (COVID-19).

It started in May 2020 with a few trial courts, but its success prompted the SC to allow almost all courts in the country to conduct video conferencing in hearing and resolving civil and criminal cases.

Another innovation adopted on video conferencing is when the SC allowed the public, with the approval of the judges, to access online all trial court hearings.

But the SC, in a circular also issued by Marquez, said that the online hearings “are official court proceedings, and hence, a person may be held liable for direct contempt… for any misbehavior as to obstruct or interrupt, including unauthorized recording of the proceedings….”