Supreme Court to hold first-ever virtual session on prisoner release, Duterte health

Lian Buan

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Supreme Court to hold first-ever virtual session on prisoner release, Duterte health

Ben Nabong

Like others in government, the justices of the High Court are adapting to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court will hold its first-ever virtual en banc session on Friday, April 17, to tackle petitions for the release of sick and elderly prisoners and the disclosure of the state of President Rodrigo Duterte’s health.

“Atty Ed Aricheta, the Clerk of Court En Banc, confirms the meeting of the Supreme Court En Banc on April 17, 2020,” Supreme Court Spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka told reporters on Wednesday, April 15.

Hosaka said it would be the first time that a virtual en banc session would be held since the imposition of the Luzon-wide lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic. It would also be the first-ever virtual en banc session in the history of the Philippine Supreme Court.

Sources confirmed to Rappler that part of the agenda are the recent petitions asking for the temporary release of sick, elderly, and low-risk prisoners; and the disclosure of Duterte’s state of health.

Human rights groups had filed the petition for the temporary release of sick, elderly, and vulnerable political prisoners, but included an overarching request for all similarly-situated prisoners who couldn’t otherwise join the petition because of the lockdown restrictions.

Lawyer Dino de Leon filed the Petition for Mandamus seeking to compel Duterte to submit health records, invoking  Section 12, Article VII of the Constitution which says that: “In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health.”

Duterte, who had been exposed to several personalities who later tested positive for coronavirus, had tested negative for the disease. over the last several weeks, he had appeared from time to time on state-run PTV4 which ran his pre-recorded speeches usually near midnight. 

Sources said the justices are looking at using video conferencing apps for the virtual en banc session. A dry run will be conducted before Friday.

“We still don’t know what platform will be used. Our Management Information System Office (MISO) is handling the technical aspect taking into consideration security concerns,” said Hosaka.


The High Court usually holds its weekly en banc session on Tuesdays, but the April 14 session was canceled. The government had extended the Luzon lockdown from April 12 to April 30.

The Supreme Court had earlier allowed the electronic filing of charges and posting of bail as Luzon and other parts of the country were placed on lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.