SC justice tests positive for COVID-19; Anti-Terror law oral arguments suspended

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 22 2021 03:29 PM

MANILA - A Supreme Court justice has tested positive for the coronavirus prompting the high court to suspend Tuesday’s oral arguments on the petitions challenging the Anti-Terrorism Act, multiple sources told ABS-CBN News.

According to a source familiar with the matter, the justice took an antigen test, which yielded a positive result.

No details were given as to when the justice took the test and when the results came out but another source said the justice immediately informed the other magistrates about the result of the COVID-19 test.

But both clarified that the justice involved took a subsequent RT-PCR test, which yielded a negative test result, with one source describing it as a “false positive.”

The justice is "asymptomatic" and is feeling well, another independent source told ABS-CBN News.

By the time the negative test result came out, SC magistrates have “already decided to scrap oral arguments for Tuesday,” one of the sources said.

The other source said justices decided to suspend the proceedings “as a precautionary measure” for themselves and their staff. 

In a short announcement Tuesday, the SC Public Information Office said the next session of the oral arguments on the Anti-Terror law scheduled on Feb. 23 was suspended “considering that some of the Justices are on self quarantine as a health precaution against COVID-19.”

Oral arguments will resume on March 2.

SC magistrates also decided to suspend their weekly en banc deliberations regularly set on Tuesdays at 10 a.m.

The justice, whose identity is withheld due to privacy concerns, will go on quarantine.

Many other justices, according to a source, have tested negative for the coronavirus but some are still taking regular RT-PCR tests.

This is not the first time the oral arguments on the controversial anti-terror measure have been suspended due to the coronavirus.

Last month, the Supreme Court decided to postpone the start of the oral arguments supposedly scheduled on Jan. 19 after the Office of the Solicitor General informed the high court that an Assistant Solicitor General and some staff who were set to attend the oral arguments have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Solicitor General Jose Calida had previously cited concerns over COVID-19 in seeking the cancellation of the oral arguments several times. On all occasions, SC denied his motions.

Eight of the 15 SC magistrates have so far been able to interpellate petitioners. The OSG, defending the government’s position, has yet to be asked questions.

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