By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) is ready to implement its new rule that would allow detained persons to testify and be cross-examined on their criminal cases inside prison facilities.
Called “tele-hearing,” the system will be pilot-tested in Davao City for detained members of the Maute, Abu Sayaff and New People’s Army, Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez said Monday.
Marquez said the necessary equipment needed have been installed in a hearing room built inside the Davao City jail. He inspected the facilities last Friday.
He said that SC Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, who chairs the SC’s committee on revision of rules, has been directed by Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin to draft the guidelines for “tele-hearing.”
In a statement, Peralta said: “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.”
“Tele-hearing” is the SC’s term for “video conferencing” that has long been practiced and adopted during court trial of cases in the technologically advanced countries like the United States.
It is “the holding of a conference among people at remote locations by means of transmitted audio and video signals.” Through these conferences, “individuals meet one another in a real-time virtual manner ‘as if they were in the same room’ without the hassle and expense of traveling.”
Marquez, who recommended “tele-hearing” that was approved by the SC during the time of retired Chief Justice Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro, said the mechanism will also apply to prisoners who are diagnosed with grave and serious medical conditions.
To support “tele-hearing,” a 100-foot monopole tower with necessary equipment was built within the Davao Hall of Justice and connected to the three jail facilities in the city.
There will be procedural safeguards to protect the constitutional rights of the accused during the “tele-hearing,” Marquez said.
“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,” he explained.
Records showed that there are about 4,000 detainees in three Davao City jails that are managed by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). Hundreds of Maute, Abu Sayaff and NPA members are detained in these jail facilities.
“Tele-hearing” was requested by Davao City Jail Warden Supt. Grace Taculin who cited security risks in the transport of high-profile prisoners from their detention cells to the courts.
The request was favorably acted upon by Marquez’s office which recommended its approval by the SC as a full court.