MANILA – The United States government has donated to the Supreme Court (SC) PHP4.2 million worth of videoconferencing equipment in support of the tribunal’s efforts to mitigate risks from face-to-face court hearings during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement Friday, the high court said US Embassy in Manila Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Heather Variava met with Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo on Thursday for the turnover of the donation from the US State Department’s Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) including nine units of videoconferencing tools, nine 55-inch television sets, a professional high-bright teleprompter, and other accessories.
This equipment will be used by the SC and will be distributed to several lower courts to support videoconferencing of hearings and mitigate risks associated with in-person engagements during the pandemic.
The donation also includes the Training Registration and Management System, a browser-based data collection system specially programmed and designed to help the Philippine Judicial Academy manage the information and data gathered for seminars it conducts.
Joining the Chief Justice were Senior Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas- Bernabe and Associate Justices Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, Rodil V. Zalameda, Mario V. Lopez, Ricardo R. Rosario, Jhosep Y. Lopez, Japar B. Dimaampao and Jose Midas P. Marquez.
Variava was accompanied by INL Director Kelia Cummins and INL legal specialist Chudney Ngo.
The courtesy call was held inside the SC session hall instead of the dignitaries’ lounge to ensure physical distancing.
Gesmundo also discussed the bill establishing the Office of the Judicial Marshals which is expected to be signed into law by the President anytime soon.
He added that he will seek the assistance of the US government in the operationalization of the Office of the Judicial Marshals, especially in establishing a judicial marshals academy.
The Chief Justice also discussed how the Philippine courts managed to make the wheels of justice turn in spite of the pandemic through the conduct of videoconferencing hearings.
He also thanked the US government for its donation to the Court of the videoconferencing equipment.
“We truly appreciate all the help and support that the US government has extended to the Court,” said Gesmundo adding that Washington DC’s donation of videoconferencing equipment “will contribute to our collective commitment in expanding the public’s access to justice through technology.”
For her part, Variava reaffirmed the commitment and support of the US government to the Court’s judicial reform projects, as well as to the creation of the Office of the Judicial Marshals.
She said it was “great to see how technology is being used for court proceedings” and that the US government will “help and support you in ways we can.
“We highly value your friendship,” Variava added. (PNA)