THE Civil Service Commission (CSC) adopted guidelines on the use of videoconferencing platforms for hearings and pre-hearings of cases for the speedy disposition of administrative complaints in state offices even during the pandemic.
The CSC resolution issued on June 2 allows virtual hearings and pre-hearing conferences before the CSC and its regional offices effective August 13 or 15 days from its publication.
According to the CSC, the move would not only result in speedy disposition of cases but will also keep participants safe from health risks.
The new guidelines are applicable not only during the declaration of a community quarantine but also in cases of unforseen or fortuitous events that prevent in-person appearances before the Central Office.
The guidelines provide technical and operational standards along with detailed procedures to ensure that the proceedings would closely resemble-in-person including maintaining fairness, order and confidentiality.
Under the new method, the CSC will be using Microsoft Teams for its virtual pre-hearing conferences and hearings.
Participants should secure the MS Teams link or access code provided to them by the CSC hearing officer, and be at the virtual waiting room or lobby at least 15 minutes before the actual proceedings.
Should there be any problems accessing the virtual platform, participants should immediately inform the CSC hearing officer via email, phone call, or other electronic means.
Participants will be joining a test run shortly before an actual hearing in order to resolve any technical problems. They will also be briefed on the procedures before starting so they know what to expect during the proceedings.
At this point, the CSC and the participants will be ensuring steady connectivity, clear audio and video connection, and correct settings in order to proceed smoothly.
Other procedures usually done during in-person hearings, such as placing a witness under oath, testifying, and presenting documentary or objective evidence, will also be done online.
A virtual hearing may be suspended, or an in-person hearing may instead be ordered.
Should technical problems persist with any one of the participants despite conducting test runs and briefings, the hearing may be suspended.
If the exhibition, examination, or viewing of documentary evidence or the marking or examination of the object evidence is impossible, insufficient, or difficult due to the limitations of the virtual platform or some other compelling reasons, the in-person hearing may instead be ordered by the hearing officer for the purpose of presenting or completing the testimony of a witness.
At any time in the formal investigation, the parties may decide to terminate the proceedings by submitting their respective positions papers and submit the case for resolution.
The CSC ensured that all hearings will be dealt with utmost privacy and confidentiality.
Virtual proceedings will be recorded and encrypted by the CSC, and any party may request in writing for the official recording of the proceeding for his or her use in relation to his or her case.
Any person found responsible for the alteration of video recordings shall be held liable administratively and criminally.
Any intentional disruption of digital communications intended to deny participation by any party, coaching of any witness presented for examination, and knowingly presenting falsified digital images or evidence will be considered as an administrative offense and shall be dealt with severely.