COVID-19 vaccines

Judiciary now part of A4 priority group for COVID-19 vaccine

Lian Buan

COURTS. A photo of a court room at the Manila Regional Trial Court.

Photo by Lian Buan/Rappler

'Truly, during this unsettling pandemic, upholding the rule of law assumes greater significance,' says Acting Chief Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe

Employees of the judiciary are now part of the A4 priority group for COVID-19 vaccination, Acting Chief Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe said on Monday, April 5.

“At present, the National Task Force Against COVID-19 has communicated that vaccines arriving this April 2021 shall be partly allotted for the judiciary,” said Bernabe in a letter.

Bernabe said she, as the acting chief justice, sent the request to NTF chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr on March 31, and that it was granted.

The A4 priority group covers frontline personnel in essential sectors, including uniformed personnel and those in working sectors identified by the Inter-Agency Task Force as essential during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

Many local government units (LGUs) are currently vaccinating the A3 group, or persons with comorbidities, but some have already started on A4.

There are around 30,000 personnel of the judiciary nationwide, said Supreme Court spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka.

“Those included in the 30K are the permanent, coterminous, and casual employees of the Judiciary,” said Hosaka.

“Truly, during this unsettling pandemic, upholding the rule of law assumes greater significance. Thus, access to judicial relief should be constant,” said Bernabe.

In the last ECQ, the police arrested hundreds daily for supposedly violating quarantine, with their releases severely delayed even though quarantine breach is a bailable infraction. Lawyers were forced to the frontlines to respond to these arrests.

As the ECQ is extended by another week at minimum, at least until April 11, over the National Capital Region or “NCR Plus,” courts in these areas have also been physically closed.

In Bernabe’s circular on Saturday, April 3, the physical closure of all courts in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal is extended until April 11, too.

“All hearings in this courts during the said period are suspended, except on urgent matters such as but not limited to petitions, motions, and pleadings related to bail and habeas corpus, promulgation od judgments of acquittal, reliefs for those who may be arrested, and detained during this period,” said Bernabe.

The filing periods of pleadings and other submissions are also extended for 7 calendar days.

For quarantine breaches, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has walked back on its initial citation of a broad law to arrest people under, and said local ordinances are “more relevant” to apply. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.