Starting Monday, May 18, courts in General Community Quarantine (GCQ) areas may physically reopen according to the Supreme Court.
"All the branches of the courts in the areas under GCQ shall be physically open from 18 to 29 May 2020, but shall function only with a skeleton-staff, by rotation, to be determined by the presiding judge," Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said through Administrative Circular No. 40-2020 issued Friday, May 15.
The rest of the country is considered under GCQ, starting Saturday, May 16, except for Cebu City and Mandaue City which are under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ); and Metro Manila, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Zambales, Angeles City, Laguna which are under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ).
In GCQ areas, full operation is allowed in essential services, and 50-100% operation for select industries, including malls.
The Supreme Court previously physically closed all courts nationwide regardless what status they were under. (READ: 'The digital court is not so far away')
The Supreme Court said all inquiries shall remain electronic in GCQ courts, and no walk-ins will be allowed, meaning only those with set business with the court will be allowed to enter.
"Justices, judges and court personnel with medical conditions making them vulnerable to be easily infected by Covid-19 may work from home, provided court personnel who will do so will have the prior approval of the justice or judge," said the Supreme Court. (READ: In Duterte’s Philippines, lawyers are pandemic frontliners too)
Civil weddings are also now allowed under GCQ provided the attendees will not exceed 5 people, as that is the limit for gatherings set by the national government.
Night courts and Saturday courts are still suspended until May 30 across all courts.
The Supreme Court earlier authorized all pilot courts nationwide to hold virtual hearings for all matters, regardless of the type of pleading and stage of trial. – Rappler.com