The Supreme Court will soon implement the new rule allowing high-risk detainees, including arrested terrorists, to stand trial in courts from their detention facilities without the need to go to the courtrooms.
Court Administrator Midas Marquez said on Monday that the SC has already adopted the resolution allowing the “tele-hearing” system or the use of video conferencing technology to allow the remote testimonies and appearances of those facings charges and detained in jail.
Marquez, also the Court’s spokesman, said the new system will be pilot-tested in Davao City Jail, where arrested members of terrorist groups Maute, Abu Sayaff and New People’s Army are currently detained.
Marquez said the necessary equipment, including laptops and monitors, had already been installed in the hearing room built inside the Davao City Jail which he personally inspected last Friday, Feb. 8.
Marquez said the new “tele-hearing” system is part of a four-point judicial reform agenda of Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin.
Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, who was tapped as working chair 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 jail 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, in a statement.
The SC approved the latest measure upon the recommendation by the Office of the Court Administrator.
Through video conference, the 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 SC assured the public 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 pilot testing of the latest measure adopted by the Court will also apply to detainees who are diagnosed with grave and serious medical conditions in Davao.
The latest measure adopted by the judiciary was approved specifically upon request of Davao City Jail Warden Supt. Grace Taculin, who cited security threats by the transportation of “high-risk detainees” with terrorism cases and with contagious diseases to the courts.
The Bureau of Jail Management of Penology in Davao City manages three city jail facilities with an aggregate population of about 4,000 detainees.
Marquez said the new measure would, later on, be implemented in other areas.