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SC okays e-subpoenas, says Roxas

/ 10:25 PM April 25, 2014

The Supreme Court building in Manila. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines–The Supreme Court now allows subpoenas to be sent online, part of a process of improving trial procedures that is being undertaken by the Justice Sector Coordinating Council, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said here on Friday.

Roxas, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno met here on Thursday to discuss the benefits of using the Internet to make the judicial process more efficient.

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Courts and government prosecutors all over the country may start issuing electronic subpoenas or e-subpoenas on April 30, after the judiciary, law enforcement agencies like the Philippine National Police, and the Department of Justice synchronize their respective systems, Roxas said.

He said the council discussed reform measures to speed up trials but did not tackle other cases like the plunder charges faced by alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.

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“Napoles was not on our agenda,” Roxas told reporters at a news conference here on Friday.

“These days, when a lawsuit goes to trial, legal communication is done by paper [or letters] sent through the post office, and it takes two months for the registered mail to reach witnesses or whoever has been subpoenaed,” Roxas said. “When a litigant is poor, he or she can’t afford to wait for two months or three months of trial postponement, so the council agreed to start using the electronic mail.”

E-subpoenas are but the first of many changes being enforced in the judiciary, Roxas said, to enable courts to conduct “continuous trials.”

He said cases often take about 10 years to resolve, “and we rarely determine the real culprits.”

Continuous trials mean each court will be required to conduct trials every day until a case reaches its conclusion, Roxas said.

This means, he said, that a litigant must hire lawyers who are not overburdened with multiple cases.

Online court warrants and judicial notices are also being discussed by the council, he said, “but this must be implemented one step at a time.”

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“This would mean aligning the documentary processes of various agencies…. It is not just a matter of sending communication by e-mail because these communications would also need to be secured [against tampering or hacking],” Roxas said.

“We in the PNP also changed our rules, so a police officer who must testify for a trial must be assigned automatically where the trial would take place,” he added. “We need true justice, not ‘just tiis’ (a pun, which means enduring the slow pace of justice),” he said.

Roxas said the council dealt with reform options that would not require legislation.

Congress has been deliberating on two other reform measures that would alter the way trials are conducted in the Philippines.

On April 3, the House committee on justice mounted a public consultation here for Book 1 of a new crime codification measure (House Bill 2300 or the proposed Philippine Code of Crimes) and a bill that would require prosecutors to coordinate with the police in the early stages of a criminal investigation (HB 2032 or the Criminal Investigation Act of 2013).

Allowing prosecutors to scrutinize the direction of a police probe would help strengthen cases that would be built against a suspected criminal, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., the committee chair, told reporters at the consultation.

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TOPICS: e-subpoena, Internet, justice system, Mar Roxas, subpoena, Supreme Court
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