THE Office of the Court Administrator has released a circular reminding judges and branch clerk of courts that sensitive photographs and recordings of sexual abuses involving women and children should be presented in-court, not via videoconferencing.
The order was contained in OCA Circular No. 136-2021 signed by Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez.
“.. taking into paramount consideration the welfare of women and children, all judges and clerk of courts of first and second level courts are hereby directed to ensure that evidence containing sensitive photographs and recordings, including sexual abuse images and sound recordings involving women and children, shall only be presented through in-court proceedings and not through videoconferencing, ” the circular reads.
Courts nationwide have conducted videoconferencing hearings since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
Videoconferencing hearings ensure cases are heard in a timely manner, and comply with the government’s social distancing and remote work guidelines because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Videoconferencing for court hearings was approved by the Supreme Court in June last year. It was pilot-tested in Davao City courts.
On March 16, 2020, then chief justice Diosdado Peralta, in response to the exponential spread of COVID-19 cases in the country, issued A.C. 31-2020, and ordered that “all courts nationwide shall drastically reduce operations” and maintain only the necessary skeleton-staff to immediately act on urgent matters brought before them.