Privacy Commission Now Allows E-Hearings
The National Privacy Commission released Advisory 2020-02 or the “Guidelines on the Use of Videoconferencing Technology for the Remote Appearance and Testimony of Parties Before the NPC.” With this advisory, the National Privacy Commission now allows for e-hearings in lieu of physical hearings for all its quasi-judicial proceedings, such as discovery conferences, summary hearings, mediation conferences, investigations, clarificatory hearings, and other hearings conducted by the Commission or its divisions. The advisory outlined the proceedings for pre-hearing, hearing, and post-hearing.
Appearances before the National Privacy Commission can now be made through videoconferencing as detailed by the Guidelines. Before an e-hearing can be availed of, the parties must first consent by affixing their electronic signatures to the consent forms. A secure and reliable videoconferencing platform is to be used by the Commission and communicated properly to the parties, who must comply with minimum technical requirements for videoconferencing technology. In preparation of the e-hearing, the personnel of the NPC will undergo technical capacity building and ensure proper preparation prior to the scheduled e-hearing.
During the hearing, the parties remotely appear from a remote facility and the parties who are speaking must always be within camera view and microphone range. Muting their microphones are allowed should they need to confer with their counsel during the hearing. If any documents need to be submitted or filed, it will be done in accordance with the NPC Rules of Procedure. Should there be any technical issues or an instance arises that could affect the fairness of the proceedings, the videoconference will be discontinued.
It must be noted that to add to the security of the proceedings, all proceedings are recorded and the recordings form part of the records of the case. The record of the videoconferencing proceeding is put in an encrypted master copy which is retained by the authorized personnel of the Commission. Parties are allowed to view the copy of the recording upon written application. After the e-hearing, subsequent orders are to be sent via e-mail to the parties. Said e-mailed orders are equivalent to physical copies sent through mail.
Given these new Guidelines, the NPC is trying its best to thrive despite the difficult times we face. The adoption of videoconferencing effectively accomplishes the goals of quasi-judicial proceedings and at the same time reduces any additional infections that could come about should government agencies refuse to adjust its procedure to this new normal.