By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) on late Friday afternoon (March 13) ordered a flexible work arrangement in all courts in the National Capital Judicial Region (NCJR) starting Monday until April 12 to keep the courts functioning amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The flexible work arrangement calls for the maintenance of a skeletal staff in the SC, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals, and all trial courts in the NCJR.
This means that all other court employees who are not identified as belonging to the skeletal staff for a particular day need not report for work.
Employees will be on rotation basis during the period, explained Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez, who has been ordered by Peralta to head the judiciary’s task force on COVID-19.
SC justices, those in the appellate courts, and trial court judges will be on stand-by during the flexible work period to act on and hear urgent matters.
“As part of its social and moral responsibility, the Judiciary is taking all necessary precautions to ensure the health and general welfare of its workers and the public without abandoning its mandate under the Constitution,” Peralta said.
Earlier, the SC had ordered the cancellation of all court hearings in all courts nationwide until March 18.
It had also directed trial court judges and personnel to limit access to the halls of justice and court rooms all over the country only to persons “with official business in the courts.”
Other details of the SC directives are:
- Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) contractual employees are not required to report for work starting March 16 to April 12;
- The chiefs of office and service will be required to report for work to ensure the normal operation of the office;
- Social distancing will be strictly enforced at all times;
- Creation of a task force to recommend to the SC, as a full court, actions to prevent the spread and minimize the threats of COVID-19, and to monitor the conditions of justices, judges, court officials and personnel, and workplaces; and monitor issuances of the Executive and Legislative Departments to harmonize actions of the judiciary;
- Temporary suspension/restriction on the personal follow-up of pending transactions with the courts;
- Cancellation of training programs and activities of the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA), the SC’s education arm.