By Rey Panaligan
Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta on Friday ordered the indefinite physical shutdown of all courts nationwide starting Monday, March 23, “due to the unabated rise of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
In an administrative circular, Peralta said the physical shutdown of all courts is in consonance with the enhanced community quarantine or “lockdown. The move will further limit the movement and travel of justices, judges, and their skeleton-staff, in line with the appeal of the government for the general public to stay home to help prevent further spread of COVID-19.
“All courts nationwide, from the Supreme Court down to the first level courts, shall be physically closed to all court users and may be reached only through their respective hotlines, and email addresses and Facebook accounts, if available, effective 23 March 2020, Monday,” the circular mandated.
A copy of the circular, released by Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez, also head of the SC’s COVID-19 Task force, also stated:
“The litigants, lawyers, prosecutors and the general public are hereby advised to first call the proper court through its hotline, or access it through its email address or Facebook account, if available, wherein it shall be determined if the matter being raised is urgent. If urgent, only then will the justice or judge on-duty, together with the skeleton-staff, go to court to receive and act on the said urgent matter.
“All calls and messages shall be entertained from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday to Friday.
“Accordingly, all justices and judges on-duty, together with their skeleton staff, must stay at their respective residences, and shall only go to their courts once it has been determined that an urgent matter has to be acted upon. Otherwise, they need not go to their courts.
“Court personnel who were previously authorized to report to their respective courts, e.g., those concerned with the payments and release of salaries and allowances in the Judiciary, shall continue to report to their respective courts as the need arises.
“Law enforcement agents are strongly advised to let our justices, judges and their respective skeleton-staff pass through checkpoints as they all likewise have a constitutional mandate to perform.”
The SC’s PIO will upload in the High Court’s website – sc.judiciary.gov.ph – the hotlines, and available email addresses and Facebook accounts of all courts nationwide.