SC Unveils Virtual Courtrooms During Community Quarantine

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Amidst the quarantine impositions by the Philippine Government, the Supreme Court (SC) has partnered with Microsoft to improve the efficiency and productivity of the country’s legal proceedings though videoconferencing hearings. The conduct of videoconferencing hearings ensure cases are heard in a timely manner, during the pandemic, and comply with the government’s social distancing and remote work guidelines.

The initial implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and General Community Quarantine (GCQ) measures brought challenges to legal proceedings in the Philippines. Furthermore, reported infections of Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) with COVID-19 in the different detention facilities restrained the movement and travel of PDLs, judges and court personnel.

As a result, the Supreme Court—under the guidance of the Honorable Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta and Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez—teamed up with Microsoft to enable videoconferencing hearings using Microsoft 365, a unified communication and collaboration platform with innovative Office web applications, intelligent cloud services, and world-class security.

On April 27, 2020, the Honorable Chief Justice Peralta issued Administrative Circular 37-2020, directing all Litigants, Judges and Court personnel of 925 First and Second Level Courts nationwide to immediately begin virtual court hearings.

In the first nine days of piloting videoconferencing hearings, 4,683 PDLs were released, a 125% increase in daily releases compared to 9,731 from six weeks prior to implementation of Microsoft 365. Videoconferencing hearings are being done in Metro Manila and select courts in key cities nationwide. Aside from videoconferencing hearings, the high court also allowed the e-filing of complaints, petitions for bail as well as the submission of requirements for bail to minimize physical contact.

“We thank Microsoft for extending Microsoft 365 to us, and commend them for supporting the Philippine Judiciary in our quest for digital transformation, with the aim of realizing expedited, efficient, and secure trials that are more user-friendly for court users especially during this time of public health emergency,” said the Honorable Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta

In addition, Microsoft 365 will be the official medium for communications by the entire Judicial Branch of the Philippine Government. On 12 May 2020, the Supreme court utilized Microsoft’s Stream platform to conduct a webinar titled ‘The New Normal: Cybersecurity in a COVID-Free, Malware-Free Judiciary.’

“I am so proud to be a part of this historic moment in the Philippines. This is the first time the Supreme Court has moved to a virtual courtroom, to ensure they continue to provide justice and due process during COVID-19. This agility creates government resilience and ensures they remain accessible to citizens and communities during these challenging times,” said Andres Ortola, Microsoft Philippines Country General Manager.

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