Davao court holds PHL’s first videoconferencing hearing

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 2 Sept) – For the first time in the Philippine judicial system, videoconferencing technology was used in a hearing in a court here on Monday, wherein two suspected criminals underwent trial without leaving jail.

Judge Emmanuel Carpio conducts the arraignment of Davao City Jail inmate Leonilo Gonzales, appearing in court via video teleconferencing for his attempted murder case, on Monday (2 September 2019). It was the first time videoconferencing was used in Philippine courts. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

“This is a very momentous day for the courts because this is an initial project of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) who found the need to conduct this video teleconferencing trial,” said Judge Emmanuel Carpio of Regional Trial Court Branch 16.

The first case to use the technology was for the arraignment of Leonilo Gonzales, a suspected member of the New People’s Army currently detained at the Davao City Jail, for allegedly getting involved in the ambush of military personnel in 2014, thus classified as a high-risk inmate.

The case was followed by the pre-trial of a frustrated murder case against Romart Mandi Uy.

Carpio did the arraignment and pre-trial of the two cases in 15 minutes where both the accused appearing in court via video teleconferencing.

In 2017, the BJMP Region XI asked for the adoption of teleconferencing technology to facilitate the hearings of high-risk inmates who pose “considerable threat to the security of our facilities as well as the community.” They cited the “serious risk” of transporting high-value targets who are under detention in the three jails of Davao City.

Carpio said that the use of video technology not only focuses on the security concerns for the accused but also of the judges and lawyers. Furthermore, it helps save time and transportation costs in bringing inmates from the jail to appear in court.

Also being accommodated to use video teleconferencing technology are inmates who are suffering from contagious diseases or who are sick and cannot travel to court to attend hearings.

The videoconferencing technology is currently on a two-year pilot testing as approved by the Supreme Court en banc on June 25, 2019 and may be used in all stages of active and pending criminal proceedings, including arraignment, pre-trial, bail hearing, trial proper and promulgation of judgement.

Inside RTC Branch 16 two widescreen LCD television sets were set up, both simultaneously showing the accused and the courtroom. Microphones were placed near the judge, the counsels of the prosecution and defense, and the accused.

There were three video cameras, too.

A similar set up was apparently installed in the jail.

A telephone unit was provided each for the defense counsel and the accused as their means to speak privately. (Manman Dejeto / MindaNews)