Philippine Supreme Court to lead ASEAN Working Group on the Conduct of Videoconferencing Hearings
November 7, 2022
At the conclusion of the two-day meeting of Southeast Asian Chief Justices held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from November 4 to 5, 2022, the Supreme Court of the Philippines was appointed by the Council of ASEAN Chief Justices (CACJ) as Chair of the newly created Working Group on the Conduct of Videoconferencing Hearings (Working Group on VCH).
The Working Group on VCH was established during the 10th CACJ Meeting pursuant to the proposal of Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo for the adoption of common principles and guidelines in the conduct of videoconference hearings involving parties and witnesses outside the territory of a State where the action is pending, but still within the ASEAN.
Chief Justice Gesmundo shared with the CACJ the Philippine Supreme Court’s efforts towards a shift to technology-based systems and infrastructure for both adjudicative and administrative processes. One concrete example resulting from these efforts is the Court’s successful recourse to online hearings during the pandemic. This was facilitated by the Supreme Court’s issuance of the Guidelines for the Conduct of Video Conference Hearings “to ensure the uninterrupted and timely delivery of our court services despite the continuing threat of the COVID-19 virus.”
Encouraged by its success, the Supreme Court is presently updating the Guidelines for its continued implementation post-pandemic, “making it a permanent device and option in every Filipino judge’s trial toolkit, specially for the best interest of child witnesses; for enhanced victim protection and prevention of re-victimization; for easier access to counsel and even family for detained witnesses and parties; and in general, for greater time and cost efficiency.”
The same rationale was applied by the Chief Justice in the Philippine Supreme Court’s recommendation to adopt videoconference hearings within the ASEAN. “As our economic interests, educational pursuits, science, and technological advancements, and even our public health and environmental concerns intersect across our physical borders more and more, we will see an increase in transnational transactions, interactions and, predictably, legal conflicts. In the interest of consistency, efficiency, and mutual protection, therefore, a CACJ ASEAN protocol on the conduct of video conference hearings would be ideal.”
Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Midas P. Marquez, Philippine Representative to the Working Group on ASEAN+ Meetings and Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh, Philippine Co- Representative to the Study Group on Future Work of the CACJ, further discussed before the CACJ the Philippine Judiciary’s concept note regarding the Model Rule on Videoconferencing.
Chief Justice Gesmundo and Justices Marquez and Singh were joined at the CACJ Meeting by Senior Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, Philippine Representative to the Working Group on Case Management and Court Technology; Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez; Associate Jhosep Y. Lopez, Philippine Representative to the Working Group on ASEAN Judiciaries Portal; Associate Justice Japar B. Dimaampao; and Associate Justice Antonio T. Kho, Jr. They were also joined by other Supreme Court officials.
In addition to leading the Working Group on VCH, the Philippines also co-chairs the Working Group on Cross-Border Disputes Involving Children (Working Group on CBDIC) which has agreed to explore the possibility of making available a list of mediators and organizations that provide mediation for cross-border disputes involving children. The Working Group on CBDIC has also agreed to hold the 3rd ASEAN Family Judges Forum in conjunction with the Hague Conference on Private International Law 2023, Judicial Roundtable on the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and the 1996 Hague Convention on Parental Responsibility and Protection of Children.
The Philippine Representative to the Working Group on CBDIC is Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, represented by Court of Appeals Justice Angelene Mary W. Quimpo-Sale who delivered the Working Group’s report together with co-chair Singapore.
Another Working Group co-chaired by the Philippines is the Working Group on Judicial Education and Training (Working Group on JET), led by Philippine Judicial Academy Chancellor Rosmari D. Carandang who presented the Working Group’s report together with co-chair Indonesia.
The CACJ has agreed to authorize the Working Group on JET to work with the Asian Development Bank in the development and operation of the new online Learning Management System as a platform for future online self-learning content for ASEAN judges.
The complete text of the CACJ declarations at the 10th CACJ Meeting may be viewed by accessing the Kuala Lumpur Declaration here: https://cacj-ajp.org/cacj-activities/declarations/kuala-lumpur- declaration/