Around 300 courts nationwide will adopt the eCourt system by the end of 2017, Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno announced.
“By 2017, eCourts will be deployed in 10 cities, including Cebu City, or a total of 298 courts. As of August 2017, eCourts have been deployed to 274 courts, while the remaining 24 courts are undergoing training” Sereno reported during the SC’s Ulat sa Bayan forum held recently in Cebu City.
She pointed out that out of 274 courts already adopting the eCourt system, 159 are conducting automated hearings, where court orders are released immediately after hearings.
The system is estimated to shorten the trial time by at least a month since it would speed up the pace of litigation.
“In other words, when you begin your careers as lawyers, you can litigate your cases by just looking at your smartphones and laptops. It will be justice at the tip of your fingers,” Sereno stressed.
The eCourt system was pilot-tested in 2013 in Quezon City. It is a case management system which records all incidents in a court case in a database that indicates the age of each case and highlights pending matters requiring the resolution of presiding judges.
The system also notifies judges of deliverables and deadlines, providing them with templates for orders and decisions in order to fast-track the release of resolutions, and urging them to prioritize prolonged cases to ultimately reduce case backlogs.
Witnesses, meanwhile, will no longer need to go to court for the presentation of their testimonies and only be required to execute affidavits. However, they will have to be present during the cross-examination by opposing counsels.
Aside from speeding up the pace off litigation, the system is also seen to help curb corruption as it enables random electronic sampling and raffling of cases.
“Our I.T. Master Plan, the Enterprise Information Systems Plan or EISP is the Judiciary’s IT Master Plan, will also pave the way for a modern, efficient and transparent court system. Its key component, the eCourts system, is a path to a future when lawyers can file pleadings by uploading them online while in their offices; when litigants can check the status of their cases and view their online case records through their computers or smartphones; when electronic notices to parties are sent via email or SMS,” Sereno said.
She added: “It is a future when halls of justice are not littered with piles of papers as all court documents are digitized; when judges automatically issue almost all court orders immediately after hearings using templates in an app; when judges access all their records and manage their court dockets with the click of a mouse.”
Meanwhile, the Chief Justice also announced that the Enhanced Justice on Wheels (EJOW) saw improved access to courts through mobile court hearings since its launch in 2009, during the tenure of former Chief Justice Reynato Puno.
“To further the reach of access to justice, especially to the underserved parts of the country, the EJOW Program was launched to enable make-shift court buses to reach far flung areas. While it has already facilitated the release of 9,000 plus prisoners as of date, we expect it to further touch the lives of many more Filipinos whose life still rests in uncertainty inside detention cells/prisons,” Sereno said.
She also highlighted the gains from the SC’s implementation of a large-scale court decongestion program through the deployment of decongestion officers.