Pandemic or not, litigants can expect faster and cheaper litigation as the Supreme Court is currently developing its rules on how to implement videoconferencing for the hearing of cases in court.
In his speech at the 130th Founding Day and Law Day of the Philippine Bar Association – the oldest national voluntary organization of lawyers in the country – Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said that the SC Committee on virtual hearings and electronic testimony is currently working on the rules.
The Supreme Court authorized the use of videoconferencing for court proceedings during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have enacted the Guidelines for the Conduct of Video Conferencing, which have institutionalized the conduct of virtual hearings and electronic testimony for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gesmundo told PBA member attorneys.
“In line with our efforts for a technology-driven justice system, we have decided to allow all court proceedings to be conducted by videoconference even after the pandemic is over.”
The first magistrate indicated that the adoption of videoconferencing for judicial proceedings is part of the Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022-2027 (SPJI) of the CS.
The SPJI is the institutional blueprint for Court en banc plans and programs for the delivery of responsive, real-time justice.
For this reason, Gesmundo urged lawyers to embrace technology for the Court to fully implement its programs under the SPJI.
“I hope the PBA helps lead the way as we advance these innovations across the judiciary. In particular, I hope the PBA can contribute its resources, expertise and networks to bring the reforms that we are pursuing,” he said.
The senior magistrate also welcomed the recent relaunch of its website by the PBA in a bid to capitalize on social media and other technological tools to increase engagement with its members and the public.
“All of this will be very useful in informing our colleagues in this profession, but also our collaborators,” he said.
“I know that the current goal of the PBA is not just to remain resilient in the face of emerging challenges, but to remain relevant, especially in the face of changing technology…I’m glad to see that we are one for that purpose,” Gesmundo said.
He said the SPJI is anchored on four guiding principles – prompt and fair justice, transparent and accountable justice, equal and inclusive justice, and technologically adaptive management – and aims for three outcomes: efficiency, innovation and l ‘access.
Under the first outcome, efficiency, judicial systems, both jurisdictional and administrative, will be streamlined according to the needs of stakeholders inside and outside the justice system.
The SC will therefore undertake a judicial-wide organizational review and restructuring.
Under the second innovation outcome, the SC will transfer and execute all decision-making and administrative processes to an automated platform.
For the third and final access outcome, the SC will strive to bring its services faster, closer and more effectively to people.
Gesmundo expressed optimism that the PBA will align its plans and programs with the court’s SPJI to successfully implement these reforms.
“I hope that the Court can also count on you to push both for the adoption of these reforms in the judicial system and for the adaptation of your peers in the profession to innovations and technological advances. I urge you to invest in the skills and resources necessary to enable the change we envision,” the Chief Justice said.
“I know from experience that it’s not as easy as it looks – after all, we’ve all had to keep up with technology, and that includes High Court judges too.”
“But we remain firm: advances in technology are already shaping the way we work and live; indeed, they are already reshaping society itself – and we must be prepared to adapt and use them to our advantage and to the benefit of the people we serve,” he said.