MANILA (UPDATED) — Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo has ordered the physical closure of all courts and judicial offices in Metro Manila, including those at the Supreme Court compound in Padre Faura, Manila, for 3 weeks starting Monday, Aug. 2, ahead of the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the region.
The closure will run until Aug. 20, 2021, the same day Malacañang has set as the end of the ECQ period for the National Capital Region (NCR) amid rising COVID-19 cases due to the threat of the Delta variant.
The hard lockdown in NCR will start on Aug. 6.
In separate memoranda released Friday, Gesmundo cited the government’s efforts to “arrest the spread of the highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant” and the need “to avert the possible surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant” in justifying the physical closure of courts within Metro Manila.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier approved placing Metro Manila and other parts of the country under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) subject to heightened and additional restrictions from July 30 to August 5.
SUPREME COURT RESTRICTIONS
No Supreme Court personnel will be allowed to report for work at the SC compound in Manila except for those working in offices that receives pleadings, resolves urgent matters and cases, and handles the payment of salaries in the judiciary.
Also allowed to physically go to the Supreme Court are employees of the Office of the Bar Confidant who deal with matters related to the Bar Exams and medical personnel, drivers, security and maintenance personnel.
“The official time will be from 9:00 o’clock in the morning to 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon,” the memo said.
“Work that can be performed in the respective residences of the justices and court personnel shall proceed,” it added, directing all meetings to be done virtually.
Courts in areas outside NCR which are under ECQ and Modified ECQ shall also be physically closed.
Despite the physical closure in areas under ECQ, courts will still continue to operate online and conduct videoconferencing hearings only for urgent cases, which include bail applications, releases due to dismissal of cases or acquittal, habeas corpus, applications for temporary protection orders, among others.
Deadlines for filing and service of pleadings and motions are also suspended and will start running after 7 days from the physical reopening of the court involved.
For courts under GCQ and modified GCQ, courts shall be physically open with a skeleton workforce of at least 25 percent to 50 percent.
Judges may conduct fully-remote videoconferencing hearings regardless of the quarantine classification, with notice to the Office of the Court Administrator.
For urgent cases, all courts are required to act within 24 hours from filing.