In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and precautionary measures being implemented throughout the country, it should come as no surprise that judicial and quasi-judicial bodies have begun to explore and use video and teleconferencing as a way to keep pending cases moving despite the pandemic.

This is particularly true for Atty. Enerio Sabulao, an Accredited Voluntary Arbitrator (AVA) in Regional Conciliation and Mediation Branch VIII, as he conducted his first voluntary arbitration (VA) video conference via Zoom on 23 June 2020 with the assistance of RCMB VIII.

“We have no choice but to catch up with technology and the new normal,” Atty. Sabulao said.

He explained that the pandemic has suspended conference hearings long enough, and with the easing of the quarantine measures, he hopes to resolve the arbitration cases pending before him.

 “We must not delay the resolution of the cases any further because it is a burden to the injured party,” he added.

Earlier, VA proceedings, alongside those of other cases, were suspended in line with the declaration of the state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This did not prevent Atty. Sabulao from exploring other means in contacting the parties.

“I contacted the opposing counsels to suggest conducting a clarificatory conference online, and both agreed to it,” Atty. Sabulao said. 

Meanwhile, Regional Vice-President for ALU-CVR, Atty. Nora Analyn Diego, commended the Branch for its innovations in adapting to the challenges of the new normal.

“We commend the initiative of Atty. Sabulao and RMCB VIII’s openness for facilitating the virtual hearing,” she said.

“Kudos to all of you,” she added.

RCMB VIII Director Rogen S. Cumba, for his part, agreed that this is a welcome development for all parties. 

“Because we cannot conduct conferences in a physical office environment, we can now take matters remotely and virtually in order to ensure access to our services,” he said.

“We should remain available to our clients, despite the ongoing pandemic,” he added. Voluntary arbitration is a procedure whereby parties involved in a labor dispute mutually agree to submit their differences to a third party, the accredited voluntary arbitrator, for a final and binding decision.