Sunday, May 11, 2014

E-Subpoena Will Reform Justice System

Many considered this as a possible part of the "computerization" of the country's judicial procedures. And the new system was launched last 30 April 2014 that will allow courts to transmit subpoenas to law enforcers through the Internet.

During the launch of the "e-subpoena" system at Camp Crame, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno described the new system as a "major breakthrough" in the government's efforts to reform the justice system.

Sereno was joined by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas in witnessing the signing of the memorandum of agreement for the new system.

De Lima said that while shifting to an electronic subpoena system was long overdue, “it takes a can-do attitude to get things done and this is exemplified by people manning our institutions.”

"I believe that a new day is here for the police, investigators, prosecutors and public defenders, judges, corrections officers," De Lima said. "We will no longer be public servants who procrastinate and allow ourselves to be inflicted with the 'okay na yan' syndrome."

Roxas, for his part, said prior to the introduction of the new system, there had been instances when cases got dismissed because of the delay in serving subpoenas.

He said it was disheartening to learn that some cases get "'murdered'... by virtue of non-appearance."

Roxas said that subpoenas are traditionally sent through registered mail, which could take as long as two months before they reach the hands of police officers who are tasked to serve them.

"Dagdag pa dito, may mga napag-alaman ako na may mga abugado na may technique pa na aabangan ang kartero para hindi makarating ang subpoena sa [police] station," Roxas said.

Roxas said that the new system would be pilot-tested at the Quezon City Regional Trial Courts. "And hopefully, magka-cascade sa ibang korte hanggang ang PNP ay papasok na rin dito," he said.

Roxas said in coming up with the new system, the Justice Sector Coordinating Council's "over-arching theme was 'Justice, not just tiis.'"

Sereno meanwhile said police officers presented as witnesses in cases, especially drug-related, also contribute to the delay when they fail to show up during trial because subpoenas sent to them do not arrive on time.

"Natanong ko po yung mga testigo kung sino po ang karamihan ng nagkakaroon ng problema sa pagsisipot sa ating mga hearing at ang sinasabi po nila sa akin ay ang mga pulis daw po, lalong lalo na po sa mga drug cases," she said.

"Kasi po sabi nila kapag nagpadala sila ng subpoena na ayon sa traditional na pamamaraan na papel ang ginagamit, mga dalawang buwan po ang maaaring abutin bago makarating ang subpoenang ipinadala ng korte sa natatakdang police station," she said.

Sereno said prosecutors, without any police witness to present, usually are left with no choice but to ask for a postponement or a reset of the hearing

"Mga apat na buwan o anim na buwan [ang aabutin] matapos ng huling setting. Kung pagsama-sama niyo po ang mga setting na iyon, nakakaawa po ang sistema ng hustisya na namamalas niyo sa ating mga korte," she added.

Roxas also said the e-subpoena system is equipped with the technology that would allow the government to monitor if police officers are effectively able to serve the subpoenas.

"Kinokonekta na nito lahat... mayroon nang electronic record na makikita na kaagad sa service folder ng official o pulis kung ito ba ay tumutugon sa pag-serve ng subpoena," Roxas said.

He added: "Through the e-subpoena system, we are able to produce a swift impetus to a reliable justice system in the country."

According to the JSCC, around 960 subpoenas are sent out daily to the country's courts, but most end up not reaching police stations on time, eventually causing delay in the trials or the dismissal of cases.

At the Quezon City Police District alone, 80 subpoenas are sent out everyday.

During the launch, the e-subpoena was tested in front of Sereno, De Lima, and Roxas. During the demonstration, an electronic subpoena was sent over the Internet to the QCPD Station 10 in Kamuning.

After receiving the e-subpoena, a court subpoena case officer at the Kamuning police station, seen through a video feed being projected live inside the PNP Multi-Purpose Hall, printed the subpoena and handed it over to a police officer who will serve it.

Sereno had earlier expressed her desire to have an e-subpoena system in the Philippines.

In November 2012, the Supreme Court approved rules in electronic filing, which requires petitioners to submit digital copies of their pleadings, aside from the hard copies they file. In June the following year, the high court introduced the first-ever "electronic Court," a computer-based system to organize and control work flow, from filing to implementation.

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