PH named head of ASEAN judiciaries to review, propose guidelines on video conferencing in courts

Supreme Court Justices led by Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo during the Council of ASEAN Chief Justices in Malaysia, Nov. 5, 2022.

The Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines has been named by the Council of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Chief Justices (CACJ) as head of a working group on the adoption of common principles and guidelines on the conduct of video conference hearings (VCH) in judicial cases within the region.

A working group on VCH was set up by the ASEAN chief justices at the conclusion of the two-day CACJ meeting last Nov. 5 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The adoption of VCH in the ASEAN judiciaries was proposed by Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo as he cited the gains achieved by the Philippines’ judiciary in the use of technology-based system and infrastructure at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his message last Nov. 4 to CACJ delegates and other participants, Chief Justice Gesmundo said “in the interest of consistency, efficiency, and mutual protection, therefore, a CACJ ASEAN protocol on the conduct of video conference hearings would be ideal.”

He said the Philippine judiciary “has successfully adopted the VCH modality for all our courts, including the Supreme Court (SC).”

“Aptly dubbed ‘a child of necessity,’ we issued Guidelines for the VCH to ensure the uninterrupted and timely delivery of our court services despite the continuing threat of the Covid-19 virus,” he also said.

He pointed out that “due to this high success rate, the Supreme Court is presently updating its Guidelines on VCH to transition the use of the rule to a post-pandemic world, making it a permanent device and option in every Filipino judge’s trial toolkit, especially for the best interests of child witnesses, for enhanced victim protection and prevention of re-victimization, for easier access to counsel and even family for detained witnesses and parties; and, in general, for greater time and cost efficiency.”

The use of VCH, which will be further enhanced in the Supreme Court’s (SC) five-year Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations (SPJI), has resulted in the release of 132,916 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) with 2,120 of them children in conflict with the law.

In its meeting with the Philippines’ justice system stakeholders in Davao City last Oct. 24, SC Associate Justice Midas P. Marquez said as of Oct. 13, 2022 there had been 1,139,720 VCHs conducted by the courts nationwide with a success rate of 89.27 per cent.

VCH was pilot tested by the SC in 2019 and utilized during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 so as not to disrupt court operations nationwide.

“As our economic interests, educational pursuits, science, and technological advancements, and even our public health and environmental concerns intersect across our physical borders more and more, we will see an increase in transnational transactions, interactions and, predictably, legal conflicts. In the interest of consistency, efficiency, and mutual protection, therefore, a CACJ ASEAN protocol on the conduct of video conference hearings would be ideal,” Gesmundo also told his counterparts in ASEAN.

Associate Justice Marquez, Philippine representative to the Working Group on ASEAN+ Meetings, and Associate Justices Maria Filomena D. Singh, Philippine co-representative to the Study Group on Future Work of the CACJ, further discussed before the CACJ the Philippine judiciary’s concept note regarding the Model Rule on VCH.

Senior Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, Philippine representative to the Working Group on Case Management and Court Technology; Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez; Associate Jhosep Y. Lopez, Philippine representative to the Working Group on ASEAN Judiciaries Portal; Associate Justice Japar B. Dimaampao; and Associate Justice Antonio T. Kho, Jr. also attended the CACJ meeting.

The SC’s public information office (PIO) said that aside from the working group on VCH, the Philippine judiciary also co-chairs the Working Group on Cross-Border Disputes Involving Children (Working Group on CBDIC) which has agreed to explore the possibility of making available a list of mediators and organizations that provide mediation for cross-border disputes involving children.

It said the Working Group on CBDIC has also agreed to hold the 3rd ASEAN Family Judges Forum in conjunction with the Hague Conference on Private International Law 2023, Judicial Roundtable on the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and the 1996 Hague Convention on Parental Responsibility and Protection of Children.

The Philippine representative to the Working Group on CBDIC is Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, who was represented by Court of Appeals Justice Angelene Mary W. Quimpo-Sale in the CACJ meeting.

The PIO said another working group co-chaired by the Philippines is the Working Group on Judicial Education and Training (Working Group on JET), led by Philippine Judicial Academy Chancellor Rosmari D. Carandang who also attending the meeting.

It also said the CACJ has agreed to authorize the Working Group on JET to work with the Asian Development Bank in the development and operation of the new online Learning Management System as a platform for future online self-learning content for ASEAN judges.

TAGS: #SC #CJ Gesmundo # CACJ