SOME 58,625 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), including children in conflict with the law have been ordered released since community quarantines were enforced in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The PDLs, according to the Supreme Court, were released since March 17 even while courts in coronavirus-stricken areas were physically closed.
The inmates were released “either through bail or recognizance, or after serving the minimum imposable penalty for the crime they were charged" because of the SC's implementation of court hearings via videoconferencing.
Also, the release of the PDLs “eliminated the risk of further spread of COVID-19 infection to the inmates inside the jail facilities.”
Of the 58, 625 PDLs released, 12,726 were from the National Capital Judicial Region (NCJR), 10,354 in Region IV, 6,970 in Region VII, and the rest were freed from other areas in the country.
According to the high court, videoconferencing may continue to be availed of by litigants in authorized courts during coronavirus lockdows.
The conduct of videoconferencing hearings ensure cases are heard in a timely manner, during the pandemic, and comply with the government’s social distancing and remote work guidelines.
The SC has authorized hundreds of courts nationwide to conduct hearings in criminal and civil cases through videoconferencing following the coronavirus outbreak which restricted access to courts.
Videoconferencing for court hearings was approved by the SC in June last year. It was pilot-tested in Davao City courts.