THREE COURTS in Davao City will be equipped with videoconferencing facilities for the conduct of remote hearings involving persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) as part of the Justice Sector Reform Programme: Governance in Justice (GOJUST) program. “Right now we are still awaiting for the equipment and refurbishment of the rooms as it still a temporary set up,” Ingrid L. Gorre, key expert-case management specialist of GOJUST, said in an interview on Sept. 2 after the pilot run of the remote hearing implementation at the Davao City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 16. GOJUST is a government project with support from the European Union. The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) will set up three counterpart rooms at prisons within Davao City for what it calls “tele-hearings.” The tele-hearing concept was proposed by the BJMP-Davao Region management in 2017 in consideration of “high-value” PDLs such as members of groups like the Maute, Abu Sayaff, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and New People’s Army (NPA). In January this year, the Supreme Court issued a resolution for the implementation and pilot-testing of the tele-hearing project between three Davao City jails and the Hall of Justice. “This is a very momentous day for the courts because this is an initial project with BJMP who found the need for this videoconferencing trial with end purpose of securing the concerns not only on the part of the accused but also on the part of the judges, prosecution, not to mention the savings on time and transportation in coming from the jail to the court back and forth,” Mr. Carpio said in an interview. Monday’s tele-hearing, involving two cases, lasted for 15 minutes. The tele-hearings aim to eliminate not just safety and security risks, but also for PDLs with serious or grave medical condition. — Maya M. Padillo