The Supreme Court of the Philippines has rolled out Microsoft 365 as the communications platform of choice amid plans to run virtual courtrooms in response to Covid-19.
Following widespread national lockdown measures, the highest court in the land has moved to improve “efficiency and productivity” through the roll out of videoconferencing hearings leveraging Microsoft technologies, spanning web applications, cloud services and security solutions.
First unveiled in July 2017, Microsoft 365 was released as a single offering combining Windows 10, Office 365, enterprise mobility and security capabilities, representing a shift in how Redmond goes to market with its commercial offerings.
“I am so proud to be a part of this historic moment in the Philippines,” said Andres Ortola, country general manager of Philippines at Microsoft. “This is the first time the Supreme Court has moved to a virtual courtroom, to ensure they continue to provide justice and due process during Covid-19. This agility creates government resilience and ensures they remain accessible to citizens and communities during these challenging times.”
The deployment was triggered by challenges to legal proceedings in the Philippines following the initial implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and General Community Quarantine (GCQ) measures. Furthermore, reported infections of Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) with Covid-19 in different detention facilities restrained the movement and travel of PDLs, judges and court personnel.
In response, a directive was issue on 27 April to all litigants, judges and court personnel of 925 First and Second Level Courts nationwide to immediately begin virtual court hearings.
During the first nine days of piloting videoconferencing hearings, 4,683 PDLs were released, represent a 125 per cent increase in daily releases compared to 9,731 from six weeks prior to implementation of Microsoft 365.
Virtual hearings are being conducted in Metro Manila and select courts in key cities across the country, backed by the deployment of e-filing of complaints, petitions for bail and the submission of requirements for bail to minimise physical contact.
“We thank Microsoft for extending Microsoft 365 to us, and commend them for supporting the Philippine Judiciary in our quest for digital transformation, with the aim of realising expedited, efficient, and secure trials that are more user-friendly for court users especially during this time of public health emergency,” added the Honorable Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta.
According to Justice Peralta, virtual hearings ensure cases are heard in a timely manner during the pandemic, while complying with the government’s social distancing and remote work guidelines.
Going forward, Microsoft 365 will become the official medium for communications by the entire Judicial Branch of the Philippine Government.