Philippine courts reduce operations, night courts closed

Lian Buan

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Philippine courts reduce operations, night courts closed

LeAnne Jazul

As the Philippines struggles to contain the coronavirus, only select courts will be open from 9am to 3pm to process bail petitions and any relief related to the lockdown

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) announced on Monday, March 16, that all courts nationwide would have to “dramatically reduce” operations, while night courts are completely suspended.

The Tribunal already earlier suspended all court hearings.

“All courts nationwide shall drastically reduce operations beginning today, March 16, 2020, until April 15, 2020 unless provided otherwise,” said SC spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka in a taped address streamed on YouTube Monday afternoon.

Night courts are closed, Hosaka said. They are designated to provide legal relief to those who may be arrested at night time when office hours are closed.

“Considering that many cities and provinces have imposed an 8 pm to 5 am curfew, all courts nationwide shall operate only from 9 am to 3 pm during this period,” said Hosaka.

Select courts will remain open with its skeleton staff to act on urgent matters as enumerated by Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta’s Administratice Circular No. 31-2020 issued Monday.

What are urgent matters?

In this latest circular, the Court made clear that some urgent hearings may be able to push through. They include but are not limited to: 

1. Petitions, motions, and pleadings in relation to bail and habeas corpus

2. Promulgation of judgments and acquittals

3. Reliefs for those who may be arrested and detained during this period

4. Other related actions that may be filed in relation to measures imposed at the local or national levels to address the declared health emergency

“All court actions which are not considered urgent, such as but not limited to promulgations of decisions in civil cases, executions of judgments, implementation of other writs, services of summons, auction sales in extrajudicial foreclosures, solemnizations of marriages, scheduled during this period are likewise suspended,” said Hosaka.

Submission of pleadings

The SC said that submission of pleadings that fall within March 15 to April 15 “is extended for 30 calendar days counted from April 16, 2020.”

“However, those who prefer to file the said pleadings within the reglementary period without the need of the extension granted may do so by facsimile or by transmitting them through electronic means, if available,” said Hosaka.

All courts and offices whose operations do not fall under these categories will have to close.

Administrative staff

Those that will remain open are offices that are concerned with “the payment of salaries in the judiciary, the release of the 2019 Bar Examinations, the medical services, and the security of the courts.”

“At least majority of the justices in the collegiate courts, and 1 or 2 judges in the multi-sala stations of the 2nd and 1st level courts, together with the necessary skeleton-staff, which shall be determined by the Executive Judges, must be in court or on stand-by at any given day during this period to immediately act on these urgent matters,” said Hosaka.

Metro Manila is currently on lockdown from March 15 to April 14, restricting land, sea and air travel to and from the metro, except for workers and essential services.

President Rodrigo Duterte has already ordered the reduction of work in government offices under the executive branch of government.

“The courts would have to remain open to ensure people’s rights are not ignored even in times of crisis,” said Hosaka. –

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Lian Buan

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