SC uses blockchain tech for remote legal education


The legal practice has had to embrace technology to stay functional amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines led by example, digitizing its case library, allowing remote hearings, utilizing new technologies for mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) courses, and shifting payments to a judiciary e-payment solution, according to SC Associate Justice Jhosep Y. Lopez.

“We’ve begun leveraging emerging technologies like blockchain in the issuance of learning certificates for MCLE. The blockchain’s use case in recordkeeping has been taking root in various industries,” said Mr. Lopez, in the first installment of a four-part webinar series hosted this August by education startup Apptitude for the legal community.

Apptitude uses blockchain technology to verify the identity and attendance of participants at online MCLE courses, which are required for upskilling court officers. It also prevents tampering of information and the circulation of fraudulent copies.

Marcelino “Mars” G. Veloso III, Apptitude founder and chief executive officer, explained that the MCLE courses require verification of the learners before, during, and after the event: “Before they sign up, they take a selfie and submit a government ID … Then while someone is giving the lecture, the camera must be on, with consent to have random snapshots while taking the course.”

Blockchain technology is then used to verify attendance information over a decentralized database.

Remote hearings via videoconference, meanwhile, continue to be used for health and safety purposes after being pilot tested in 2020 (after just nine days of implementation, there was a 125% increase in daily releases of persons deprived of liberty).

“In many ways, the issue of congestion in court dockets was born out of the limits of the physical infrastructure of courts. Technology holds the promise of enabling us to address these challenges and tap into its many benefits,” said Mr. Lopez.

The Supreme Court also partnered with UnionBank of the Philippines in March this year, giving all courts the option to receive fees and payments digitally from litigants, counsels, and representatives real-time 24/7.

“We’ve been partnering with the judiciary to address issues with their e-payment system, which is very timely because right now, bar examinees are paying for the bar exam. They will have the opportunity to pay from the safety and convenience of their homes,” said Henry Rhoel R. Aguda, UnionBank senior executive vice-president and chief technology and operations officer.

Agreeing with the need for technology to streamline processes, Mr. Lopez reminded Filipino law practitioners: “We must see technology as the enabler that it is, so that all of us can do our jobs better, faster, and more efficiently … With the amount of information available at our fingertips, lawyers are more capable of producing quality legal work.” — Bronte H. Lacsamana

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