298 courts to go hi-tech this year: Sereno

MANILA -- Close to 300 courts nationwide will have the eCourt system in place this year, Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno said.

By 2017, eCourts will be deployed in 10 cities, including Cebu City, or a total of 298 courts. As of August 2017, eCourts have been deployed to 274 courts, while the remaining 24 courts are undergoing training Sereno said during the Ulat sa Hudikatura in Cebu on Thursday.

The Chief Justice added that out of the 274 eCourts, 159 are conducting automated hearings, where courts issue their orders within minutes after their hearings, cutting trial time by at least a month because the orders need not go through snail mail to reach the lawyers and litigants.

In other words, when you begin your careers as lawyers, you can litigate your cases by just looking at your smartphones and laptops. It will be justice at the tip of your fingers, she noted.

The eCourt system was pilot-tested last 2013 in Quezon City.

The E-courts, as a case management system, record all incidents in an information system that shows the age of each case and highlights pending incidents that require action.

It also notifies judges of deliverables and deadlines, and provides them with templates for orders and decisions to fast-track their orders immediately after the hearing, target aged cases, and ultimately reduce case backlogs.

The E-courts which not only help in the speedy resolution of cases but also make the courts less prone to corruption since it provides for random electronic sampling and raffling of cases, the continuous trial system and the use of judicial affidavits in lieu of taking of direct testimony of witnesses.

Under this set-up, witnesses need not go to the court for their testimony since they just execute affidavits though they will have to be present during the cross-examination by defense lawyers.

Our I.T. Master Plan, the Enterprise Information Systems Plan or EISP is the Judiciary's IT Master Plan, will also pave the way for a modern, efficient and transparent court system. Its key component, the eCourts system, is a path to a future when lawyers can file pleadings by uploading them online while in their offices; when litigants can check the status of their cases and view their online case records through their computers or smartphones; when electronic notices to parties are sent via email or SMS, the Chief Justice said

It is a future when halls of justice are not littered with piles of papers as all court documents are digitized; when judges automatically issue almost all court orders immediately after hearings using templates in an app; when judges access all their records and manage their court dockets with the click of a mouse, she noted.

Meanwhile, Sereno said the Enhanced Justice on Wheels or EJOW successfully improved access to justice through its mobile court hearings since its launch in 2009.

To further the reach of access to justice, especially to the underserved parts of the country, the EJOW Program was launched to enable make-shift court buses to reach far flung areas. While it has already facilitated the release of 9,000+ prisoners as of date, we expect it to further touch the lives of many more Filipinos whose life still rests in uncertainty inside detention cells/prisons, Sereno explained.

Sereno also reported the revised guidelines for continuous trial system which will take effect nationwide on Sept. 1 will allow us to conduct trials which are set one day apart, uninterrupted by dilatory postponements

Sereno said reforms are being instituted to declog cases in courts across the country.

As much as we can also, reforms are spread out to different parts of the country, in our goal of increasing access to justice. You will see that reforms are being implemented in regions outside the capital, where people often do not have sufficient access to lawyers and courts or even if they have access to courts, these courts do not have the complete resources to do their jobs, said Sereno .

Sereno said that among these is the deployment of 635 court decongestion officers to help decongest all courts across the country.

The deployment of decongestion officers is an expansion of Hustisyeah, a one-time case decongestion program participated in by law students who assisted judges in legal research and formulation of case decongestion plans. Since its inception in 2013 to date, 62 percent or 32,060 out of 51,825 priority cases targeted for disposition have been removed from the dockets. Hustisyeah is another clear example of the youth's potential in shaping the direction of our country, the Chief Justice said.

Source: Philippine News Agency