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City pioneers videocon hearings

The Regional Trial Court (RTC) here conducted Monday the hearing of two cases through the videoconferencing technology, the first in the country.

“This is very momentous,” Davao City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Executive Judge Emmanuel Carpio told media personnel in an interview after the hearing on the two cases via videoconferencing technology.

The first case to use the technology was for the arraignment of Leonilo Gonzales, a suspected member of the New People’s Army (NPA) 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.

According to the judge, the program’s advantages include the security not just of the accused but also of the prosecution and judges.

It will also save time and resources of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) that initiated the project.

“It will save much time not only among the court employees but also of the lawyers, and judges because they may be affected by the BJMP vehicles,” said Carpio.

Currently, the videoconferencing covers high profile cases and cases where the accused may be physically indisposed or suffering from communicable diseases.

“For high profile cases, we may ensure more security on the part of the accused because they are more prone to ambush or rescue,” said Jail Inspector Helen Rose Saragena, chief of BJMP-Davao’s community relations and welfare and development.

She added that accused suffering from communicable diseases will be relieved from the problems of being transported from the jail to the courts.

Carpio also said they may cater special requests from the accused upon recommendation by the jail warden.

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.”

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.

The project has the support of the GoJust or Governance in Justice – a program of the national government with support from the European Union.

“We will be purchasing additional equipment and refurbishing the court room,” said Ingrid Gorre, a key expert Case Management Specialist of GoJust.

Among the equipment include cameras, monitors, and microphones, among others.

“We will ensure that the sound quality is improved, no glare,” Gorre said.

She said that three courts in the city will have the setup for the videoconferencing technology. While in BJMP, three cubicles will also be setup with the same.

“There can be three simultaneous hearings,” said Gorre, mentioning that the three is set to be completed by October.

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. (with Mindanews)

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