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Terror suspects won't have to appear in court -- SC.

By Rey Panaligan

Members of terrorist groups facing criminal charges need not appear in court personally for their testimonies or cross examinations during the trial of their cases with the implementation of the Supreme Court's (SC) "tele-hearing" mechanism that would be pilot tested in Davao City.

This means that members of groups of Maute, Abu Sayaff and New People's Army (NPA) who were charged in court will testify and be cross examined right inside their detention cells.

"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."

Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez, who recommended the "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 will be built within the Davao Hall of Justice and will be connected to the three jail facilities in the city.

Marquez said three courtrooms will be equipped for pilot testing. There will be procedural safeguards to protect the constitutional rights of the accused during the "tele-hearing."

"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.


Hon. Jose Midas P. Marquez, Court Administrator of Supreme Court of the Philippines (Kevin Tristan Espiritu / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Oct 14, 2018
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