MANILA - The Supreme Court on Monday suspended night courts and ordered all courts nationwide to reduce staff until April 15 in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The judiciary earlier said it would operate with minimal workforce following the implementation of the month-long community quarantine of Metro Manila.
Under Administrative Circular No. 31-2020, all courts nationwide shall operate from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. until April 15, with all hearings suspended except on urgent matters such as bail, habeas corpus, promulgation of judgment, and relief for those detained.
Work in all courts, court offices, division, offices shall be suspended except in resolution of urgent matters and cases, payments of salaries, the release of 2019 Bar Exams results, medical services and security of courts.
Court actions that are not urgent are also suspended and rescheduled. Those with prescribed periods are extended for 30 calendar days from April 16.
All justices and judges, however, are "expected to draft decisions and orders in their residences" to be issued once the courts are operational, the circular read.
The filing of petitions and other appeals from March 15 to April 15 is also extended for 30 calendar days from April 16.
Flag raising is also suspended while all meetings and training are deferred except those called for by Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta or the Judiciary task force on COVID-19.
The panel interview of the Judicial and Bar Council for the post of Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr, who is set to retire on May 11, has been rescheduled to a later time, the high court said.
"The Constitution and our laws are not suspended. And our courts are not shutting down in times of emergencies. But with the situation still rapidly evolving, and an atmosphere of uncertainty pervading, we must all do everything we can," the high court's spokesman Brian Hosaka said. --Report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News