Davao City courts locked down after 10 employees test positive for COVID-19

Published October 19, 2020, 1:36 PM

by Antonio Colina IV

DAVAO CITY – The Davao City Hall of Justice has been placed on a 12-day lockdown beginning Monday until end of the month after 10 employees of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC)-Branch 3 turned out positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) last week.

Deputy Court Administrator Leo T. Madrazo, in his memorandum addressed to all regional trial court (RTC) and MTCC presiding judges, granted the request of RTC Davao Executive Judge Emmanuel C. Carpio for the “physical closure” of all courts in the city to contain the possible spread of the infection.

He said the MTCC employees were swabbed last October 17 as part of contact-tracing efforts to determine “possible contamination” of other court workers, litigants, and lawyers who might have come in close contact with the COVID-19-positive employees.

He said the City Health Office suggested the closure of the entire Hall of Justice “in order to decontaminate the entire building”, while Mayor Sara Duterte recommended the use of online transactions and conduct of virtual hearings, and to have a work-from-home arrangement during the period of lockdown.

Madrazo said the operation of the courts would continue in a work-from-home arrangement and through the use of videoconferencing technology.

“Presiding judges of all courts in the Davao City HOJ (Hall of Justice)… are henceforth authorized to conduct videoconferencing from his or her residence for the entire period of the lockdown,” he said.

Citing Administrative Order No. 41-2020, Madrazo said all initiatory pleadings, in both civil and criminal cases, including criminal complaints, informations, and applications for bail, might be filed electronically through the official email addresses.

He said the pleadings and other court submissions may be filed electronically with the branch where the case is pending.

Last Friday, Duterte said the local health authorities considered the Hall of Justice as an “area of concern.”

She added that its corridors and hallways have poor-ventilation, while sala stations of the judges were enclosed and air-conditioned, making it easy for the virus to spread.

As of October 18, the Department of Health (DOH)-Davao reported 4,037 cases with 3,097 recoveries and 141 deaths.

Of this total, 2,652 were reported in Davao City, 259 in Davao de Oro, 441 in Davao del Norte, 289 in Davao del Sur, 95 in Davao Occidental, and 301 in Davao Oriental.