Inquests may now be done online – DOJ

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 30 2020 03:52 PM

MANILA – Inquest proceedings, which determine whether a detainee should be charged in court, can now be done online as more government functions go digital during the coronavirus pandemic, justice officials said Monday.

An inquest is done when a person is arrested and detained without a warrant. During which, a public prosecutor determines whether a person should remain detained and charged in court.

"It’s just the same procedure done online among internet-capable PNP units, courts, and prosecution offices,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

It is the "virtual conduct of inquest proceeding using any online platform for video calls and conferences and all available electronic communications," Prosecutor General Benedict Malcontento said. It is paperless and does not require physical presence of parties in the same area

"Any platform" can be used for e-inquest as long as it complies with basic requirements of procedures," he said, adding e-inquests started last Friday. It is optional and city prosecutors should craft their own guidelines.

Courts and prosecution officers were shut from March 23 due to the Luzon lockdown though they are still accessible by phone, email and Facebook.

HOW E-INQUESTS ARE DONE

E-inquest will require coordination among different agencies, Malcontento said.

Law enforcement authorities are first required to coordinate with the point persons of the docket or records section of the Office of the Prosecutor General before filing the complaint for e-inquest.

The point person will require submission of scanned documents before referring the complaint to the inquest chief, head of division or city prosecutor who will assign an inquest prosecutor.

The point person will initiate the online video call or conference, with the go-signal of the inquest prosecutor.

The inquest prosecutor will then follow the usual procedure of ensuring attendance of parties, recording the events and narrations in the minutes and administering the oath, among others.

The inquest prosecutor will use electronic or scanned signature. Submissions and approvals of the inquest resolution will be done online.

“After e-inquest, the prosecutor may dismiss the complaint, file an information before the court, or order a regular preliminary investigation to be conducted,” DOJ Usec. Markk Perete said.

An order for a regular preliminary investigation means the person arrested will be released and the complaint will go through a preliminary investigation where both parties are heard through submission of affidavits and evidence.

“We are currently coordinating with the DILG to temporarily release booked suspects even before the commencement of the formal preliminary investigation,” he said.

The DOJ however suspended the conduct of preliminary investigation during the period of public health emergency. Law enforcers will be asked to submit all documents pertinent to the e-inquest once the health emergency declaration is lifted, according to prosecutors' guidelines.