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Supreme Court Deploys E-Payment Solutions for Small Claims Case in the Philippines

COVID-19 has disrupted not only the health sector, business and work but also the justice systems. Courts around the world have had to respond quickly to the challenges posed by the pandemic and the social distancing restrictions that have resulted. In a first for the nation, the Supreme Court of the Philippines launched the Judiciary ePayment solution – an online payment for legal fees for small claims cases.

The option of cashless payment for litigants in small claims cases will be tested in nearly a thousand first-level courts across the country. The launch happened shortly after the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the e-payment platform and a Philippine payment solution company that also owns one of the country’s mobile wallet apps.

All Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts can now accept payments for small claims through the mobile app. The ePayment services of the e-payment are the newest addition to the growing list of collection channels that will be later integrated with the Judiciary ePayment Solution, which is currently being developed by the company platform.

The Judiciary ePayment Solution, which is available to all banks and account holders, is an application designed to give the platform and all of the country’s courts the ability to receive fees and payments digitally from litigants, their counsels, and representatives. It entails the use of an automated tool that will enable authorised judicial personnel to process and manage payment-related activities. Its goal is to streamline the processes of assessing and paying court fees, as well as to provide the platform with efficient accounting and auditing mechanisms.

For a country of its size, the Philippines has been hesitant to cross the “digital divide” at a faster pace prior to this year, owing largely to the massive unbanked population around the islands, with more than two-thirds of the adult population – at least 51 million adults – lacking a bank account in 2019.

The government of the Philippines made e-commerce and electronic payment methods a priority in efforts to boost both financial and digital inclusion throughout the country, a collection of over 7,500 islands where physical logistical challenges may be overcome with digital enhancements.

When the coronavirus threatened to engulf the mostly cash-reliant archipelago, the Philippines unexpectedly saw a steady take-up of cashless and digital payment methods, a steadier acceptance of e-commerce over physical shopping, and even the establishment of the Philippines’ first ‘cash-lite’ community.

Some economic transactions may have shifted to online marketplaces during this time period, as people and businesses increasingly turned to online platforms to conduct economic and social activities. Nevertheless, the rise in platform use was highly variable across industries and countries.

Countries with higher levels of economic and technological development, easier access to infrastructure and connectivity, better digital skills, and wider Internet use tended to see a larger increase in the use of online marketplaces, potentially mitigating the COVID-19 shock’s negative effects on output and jobs.

OpenGov Asia reported that as competition becomes the norm in many digital and application spaces, the consumer’s interaction with a company becomes increasingly important. Customer experience is essential to a company’s ability to retain customers and grow its customer base through organic referrals.

Technology can be used by courts and judges to support the judicial role, engage with the public and users, and support triage, dispute resolution, self-help, and case management functions. Furthermore, courts can use the opportunities provided by technology to change the way courts work and function, as well as the way reform occurs. Most courts, however, have used technology to replicate existing systems and processes rather than focusing on reforming the structures and processes that exist within the justice system.

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