Courts will close nationwide, judges to come to work only for urgent matters
MANILA, Philippines – In a more drastic measure to contain the coronavirus outbreak, the Supreme Court (SC) announced on Friday, March 20, that all courts nationwide have to physically close and that judges and staff will go to court on a per-call basis only.
"All courts nationwide, from the Supreme Court down to the first level courts, shall be physically closed to all court users and may be reached only through their respective hotlines, and email addresses and Facebook accounts, if available, effective 23 March 2020, Monday," the SC said in Administrative Circular 32-2020 signed Friday by Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta.
The courts will continue to function but only on the discretion of whether or not the matter is urgent.
"The litigants, lawyers, prosecutors and the general public are hereby advised to first call the proper court through its hotline, or access it through its email address or Facebook account, if available, wherein it shall be determined if the matter being raised is urgent. If urgent, only then will the justice or judge on-duty, together with the skeleton-staff, go to court to receive and act on the said urgent matter. All calls and messages shall be entertained from 8:30am to 2:00pm, Monday to Friday," the circular said.
In Manila, as many as 20 violators of the curfew were arrested and detained for almost 2 days because there were no inquest staff available to process. With the courts downscaling, legal remedy during the lockdown will be harder to access. Night courts are completely closed.
This is another downscale for the Supreme Court whose previous measure was to choose only select courts that will be open in the duration of the Luzon lockdown, which will last until April 12.
All hearings have previously been canceled, except for those in relation to bail, habeas corpus and other matters related to liberty, including promulgation of judgments of acquittals.
"Yes (they will go on), if that is scheduled. Again, that is also an urgent matter under AC 31-2020," said SC Spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka.
For example, bail postings would be considered urgent, according to the Supreme Court. The judge and staff will have to go to court to accommodate people posting bail, which will grant them temporary liberty.
"The processing of bail was identified as an urgent matter under Admin Circular 31-2020," said Hosaka.
All pleadings whose deadlines fall within the lockdown period have been extended for 30 days. – Rappler.com