MANILA — The growing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has prompted the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Court of Appeals and the Sandiganbayan to physically close their offices for disinfection and reduce manpower.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday ordered the main office of DOJ in Padre Faura, Manila to go on lockdown from March 19, Friday until March 23, Tuesday.
“I’m constrained to order another suspension of on-site work at the DOJ. We have 7 new cases today, bringing the total active cases to 17,” he said in a message to reporters.
“We’ll lock down again starting tomorrow (Friday) till Tuesday. Everyone will work from home, except a skeletal staff who will receive documents and attend to other frontline services,” he added.
Guevarra said the justice department logged 18 COVID-19 cases in 2020. The DOJ, as of Thursday, has a total of 17 remaining active cases, he added.
One employee from DOJ, meanwhile, has died because of COVID-19, according to Justice Spokesperson Emmeline Aglipay-Villar.
COURT OF APPEALS
Meanwhile, the CA has recorded 18 active COVID-19 cases, as of March 16, based on a memorandum by CA Associate Justice Ramon Garcia, who heads the CA’s COVID-19 Response Committee to CA Presiding Justice Remedios Salazar-Fernando.
Garcia recommended suspending work on March 18, 19 and 22 for disinfection, cleaning and sanitation but Salazar-Fernando only approved closure for Friday, March 19, and Sunday, March 21.
Based on the same memo, the CA is set to reduce its workforce to 50% skeleton staff for 2 months, beginning from the time Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta gives his approval.
The Sandiganbayan is also closed for 2 days, which began Thursday until March 19, Friday, for disinfection.
In her March 15 letter to Peralta, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang said they recorded 6 COVID-19 positive cases in the anti-graft court from March 1 to 14 with 46 suspected cases or close contacts for monitoring.
She recommended reducing the workforce to 50 percent skeleton staff from March 22 to 26 but Peralta, in his handwritten notes, only allowed a shorter period — from March 22 to 24.
Peralta also approved Cabotaje-Tang’s request for continuing authority to conduct disinfections as the need arises but the top magistrate noted: “not closure of operations.”
The Supreme Court had earlier suspended work from March 11 to 14, later extended to March 16, for disinfection after logging several confirmed COVID-19 cases.
It also implemented a 50 percent skeleton force from March 17 to 19.
Various regional, metropolitan and municipal trial courts all over the country have suspended work independently, on a per sala basis, for 14 days.
The latest closures are some courts in the cities of Cabadbaran and Bayugan in Agusan del Sur, Antipolo, Malolos in Bulacan, San Pedro in Laguna, and Quezon City.
The Philippines recorded 5,290 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the 2nd highest tally for 2021 and the 5th highest since the pandemic hit the country.
The country currently has 66,567 active cases, the highest in 6 months, and a total of 12,887 deaths.