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DAR Camarines Norte, Philippines adapts virtual court hearing

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) will conduct virtual court hearings to improve the efficiency of its legal proceedings through video conferencing, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attorney Antonio Ricardo P. Tejada, who heads the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) Office said that the DAR has been forced to take the idea of remote trials seriously because it cannot afford to delay justice to people awaiting trials.

Since lockdown commenced in March, PARAD has been operating on a significantly reduced basis although their first virtual court hearing took place on 26 May, the first also in the entire Bicol Region.

A press release quoted Tejada noting that COVID-19 has undoubtedly led to slower progress in the litigation of agrarian cases, however, the organisation should be quick to step in and ensure that the old legal dictum “justice delayed is justice denied” does not happen now because it will bring further considerable strain to persons seeking justice.

The PARAD chief encourages its clientele to use digital or electronic technology in filing petitions, manifestations, and other legal documents while other concerns and queries may also be coursed through the Office’s official email account (paradcamnorte@gmail.com).

Having this virtual court hearing would bring hope and may preempt the outburst of discontent or displeasures among the opposing and involved parties, he noted. The country is in the ‘new normal’ era, digital technology is inevitable, and there is no other choice but to improvise and adapt technology.

All sectors including the DAR are working hard to look at what can be done remotely and safely so as not to delay services to the public, the release claimed.

Litigants and their counsels should be aware that remote electronically facilitated hearings are now the norm, and they must be prepared to proceed on that basis.

Virtual court hearings work like a customary court hearing. Instead of physical appearance in court, counsels of both parties are advised to attend and hear the case through videoconferencing.

In case the client or both parties wish to hear the case in persons for some valid reasons, the office will set a separate schedule for the request while maintaining the principles of health protocols such as social distancing in the courtroom.

Adopting such an approach will ultimately save time and money for both parties and lead to cases being resolved sooner than expected.

Meanwhile, Camarines Norte agrarian reform program officer said that they support the successful conduct of the virtual court hearing led by Tejada and it was the first to happen in the Region with the purpose of continuing DAR’s judgments on cases that have been subjected to some form of delay.

Hopefully, positive things to take from the pandemic will be a long-term change for the better in terms of the use of technology in a litigation context, he said.

The University of the Philippines Institute for Administration of Justice (UP-IAJ), together with co-convenors that comprise the Courts of Appointments Watch (CAW) held the second instalment of its three-part webinar series #EyesontheCourt: A Court Appointments Watch Webinar Series on the Impact of COVID-19 on Access to Justice and the Judiciary’s Role in Shaping the New Normal.

This initiative aims to tackle the impact of COVID-19 on access to justice and the judiciary’s role in shaping the new normal.

#EyesontheCourt seeks to generate heightened engagement of the public on judicial issues and contribute to a judicial leadership that is grounded on issues and is able to connect to its constituency in order to address access to justice issues effectively.

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