New court rules authorizing the use of video-teleconferencing for high risk detainees to be tried without the need to actually stepping into courtrooms will soon be tested, the Supreme Court (SC) said yesterday.
Court Administrator Midas Marquez said the new system will be pilot-tested in the Davao City Jail, where members of terrorist groups Maute, Abu Sayaff and New People's Army (NPA) are detained.
He said the new “tele-hearing” system is part of the judicial reform agenda of Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin.
Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, chairman of the new SC revision of rules committee, has been tasked to draft the guidelines that would govern the remote testimony and appearances of the accused from their cells.
“This is trailblazing because it can pave the way for long-distance court appearances of OFWs working abroad who have pending civil cases in the country,” Peralta said.
Arrested members of Maute, Abu Sayyaf and NPA will no longer be required to physically appear before the courts and may face trial while inside the jails.
A 100-foot monopole tower with necessary equipment was built within the Davao Hall of Justice and will be connected to the three jail facilities in the city.
The High Court assured that the constitutional rights of the accused will be protected through procedural safeguards in the implementing rules.
“In order to ensure that the accused's constitutional rights are adequately protected, the counsel of the accused shall be present with the accused in the same designated room in the jail facility throughout the duration of the tele-hearing,” Marquez said.
The rule will also apply to detainees diagnosed with grave and serious medical conditions in Davao.
The measure adopted by the judiciary was approved upon the request of Davao City Jail Warden, Supt. Grace Taculin, who cited security threats in the transportation of high-risk detainees with terrorism cases and spread of diseases in courts.*PNA
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