Videoconferencing Hearings to Continue in General Community Quarantine (GCQ) Areas

Videoconferencing hearings will continue in General Community Quarantine (GCQ) areas, the Supreme Court’s Public Information Office (PIO) announced on 31 May 2020. The government has lifted the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) in all areas in the Philippines, relaxing the quarantine to either GCQ or Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ).

The announcement clarifies any confusion stemming from the difference in language in two Supreme Court circulars. In SC Administrative Circular No. 40-2020, providing for the guidelines in GCQ areas from 16-31 May 2020, the Supreme Court directed that “[a]ll the courts in the GCQ areas shall continue to resolve and decide all the cases pending before them. The hearings, either in-court or through videoconferencing, of all the matters pending before them, in both criminal and civil cases, whether newly-filed or pending, and regardless of the stage of the trial, are now herein authorized.” (Underscoring supplied)

On the other hand, SC Administrative Circular No. 41-2020, setting forth the guidelines beginning 1 June 2020, provides that “[t]he hearings of cases, regardless of the stage of the trial, shall be in-court,  except in cases involving Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) who shall continue to appear remotely from the detention facility, and in cases with extraordinary circumstances as may be determined by the justices and judges, which shall be heard through videoconferencing.” (Underscoring supplied) 

The full text of the SC-PIO announcement reads:


Citing   the   initial   success   of   videoconferencing   hearings   in authorized courts nationwide where more than 7,000 videoconferencing hearings  were  done  in  a  month,  and  the  more than  22,000  PDLs  were released  during  the  lockdown,  Court  Administrator  Jose  Midas  P. Marquez said: “Videoconferencing hearings will continue during GCQ. This  is  authorized  by  both  AC  40-2020  and  AC  41-2020  which  were issued  by  Chief  Justice  Diosdado  M.  Peralta. Hence,  for  example  if a party wishes his/her case to be heard via videoconferencing, the proper motion just needs to be filed, and the court, using its sound discretion, can  either  grant  or  deny  the  motion. This  remedy  is  available  in  both civil and criminal cases.”

“There  have  already  been  three  convictions  promulgated  online by our trial courts. There was a case for qualified human trafficking in Angeles  City, and  for  large  scale  trafficking  for  prostitution,  and  rape both  in  Cebu  City.  In  all  three,  the  accused  were  sentenced  to  life imprisonment and reclusion perpetua,” Marquez added.

P&L Law

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