By Jeffrey Damicog
The Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila and its National Prosecution Service (NPS) offices nationwide will remain closed following the government’s decision to extend the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in high risk areas and place others under general community quarantine (GCQ) due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra gave the directive under Department Circular (DC) No. 008-D dated April 25 as “guidelines for the DOJ proper and the National Prosecution Service during the period of public health emergency.”
Under DC 008-D, Guevarra said the circulars he issued in March which ordered the physical closure of the DOJ and the NPS offices remain in effect.
This means prosecutors will continue to suspend the conduct of preliminary investigations and reviews of cases filed before the NPS offices.
“The reglementary period for the filing of affidavits, motions, positions papers, Petitions for Review, other relevant papers, and rendition of resolutions, as provided under DC 008 dated 13 March, 2020 and DC 008-B dated 18 March, 2020, remains interrupted during the period of ECQ and/or GCQ and shall begin to run again after the same are lifted in the region, province, city, municipality, and/or area concerned, or unless sooner declared by the Department,” read the April 25 circular.
“All other other previously issued circulars and their respective provisions which are not inconsistent herewith shall remain valid and in effect,” added the circular which “takes effect immediately and shall remain in force unless sooner modified or revoked.”
Guevarra said the April 25 circular was issued pursuant to the declarations of President Duterte and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to extend the ECQ in high-risk and moderate risk areas placed under GCQ as well as “to safeguard the health and safety of all concerned.”
Under DC 008 dated March 13, the Secretary ordered the suspension of work at the DOJ and prosecution offices which only have to maintain skeletal work forces.
Guevarra said units and programs which “shall maintain and require to report for work such minimum number of personnel, as may be deemed proper by their respective heads” include the Office of the Secretary, Frontline Service, Technical Service, DOJ Action Center, Legal Staff, National Prosecution Service (NPS) and NPS Docket, Administrative Service, Records Management Section, Cashier, Financial Service, Office of the Secretary Appeals Management Office (SAMO), and the Board of Claims.
He also required all DOJ personnel “to stand by and be on-call, wherever they may be, as they may be asked by the Secretary of Justice to perform their functions should the exigencies of the service so require.”