By: Domingo Angelo F. Cayosa
On May 19, 2020, the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) En Banc issued Resolution No. 03-2020 which adopted the guidelines for the conduct of hearings via videoconference. The Resolution was issued in connection with the Supreme Court’s Administrative Circular No. 39-2020 which mandated the collegiate courts to conduct regular hearings through videoconferencing.
Hearings via video conference shall be made available to all tax cases where each division of the CTA shall identify and come up with a preliminary listing of cases. These hearings will be held via the video conferencing tools of Microsoft teams, an application of the Microsoft Outlook 365 platform. Each division of the CTA shall use the Philippine Judiciary 365 platform (Outlook 365) provided by the Supreme Court. No court can use any other platform or e-mail account, other than the officially provided Philippine Judiciary 365 platform.
A preliminary notice shall be sent by the Division Clerks of Courts to the email addresses of the parties and a general announcement shall be posted in the website of the CTA, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and other social media platforms. Thereafter, a notice of hearing shall be sent out by the Division Clerks of Courts through the parties’ respective email addresses. The Management Information Systems Division (MISD) of the CTA is tasked to distribute to participants some instructional materials, preferably video, on how to conduct hearings via video conference. The submission of documents by the parties which are to be presented during the scheduled hearings shall be sent to the official Outlook accounts of the Division Clerk of Court and copy furnished the other parties via email.
The Division Clerks of Court shall host the videoconference hearing and shall ensure the presence of the following before starting any hearing: (a) at least two justices; (b) the prosecutor or counsel for the petitioner; (c) the defense counsel or counsel for the respondent (d) a clerk/interpreter; (e) a division stenographer; (f) when applicable: the accused, the witness called to testify, and a staff member of the Presiding Justice and the Associate Justice/s. The hearings held via videoconference shall closely mirror hearings held under normal circumstances. To mimic actual court hearings, the parties may be required to use multiple cameras when presenting a witness to prevent any form of coaching. In case there are technical issues that prove difficult to resolve quickly, the Chairperson may suspend the proceedings.
The videoconference hearings shall be recorded by the Division Clerks of Court who shall store and file the video recordings. Such video recordings shall form part of the records of the case. Any unauthorized recording of the proceedings by any party may be considered contempt of court.
 Supreme Court OCA Circular No. 93-2020