SC allows trial court judges, employees to reimburse costs of COVID-19 tests

Published June 19, 2021, 10:02 AM

by Rey Panaligan 

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court (SC) has allowed trial court judges and court personnel, who had symptoms or considered close contacts of persons infected with coronavirus disease (COVID-19), to reimburse the costs they paid for COVID-19 tests.

But the SC, in a circular issued by Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez, said that the tests must have been done or should be done by laboratories licensed by the Department of Health.

For the Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test the reimbursable amount is P5,000. For rapid antigen test, the reimbursable amount is P2,000.

The SC said the reimbursements are retroactive to March 2020, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

A judge or a court employee who would request reimbursement must submit a letter-request, noted by the executive or presiding judge, to the Financial Management Office of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA).

“The letter-request shall indicate the reason for getting a COVID-19 test, amount paid, type of test, date and place the test was conducted, and name of the laboratory which conducted the test,” Marquez’s circular stated.

Last June 11, Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo said that a total of 1,994 officials and employees of the judiciary has been infected with COVID-19 as of last June 3.

Of those infected, 33 had died, 1,846 had recovered and 115 are still active cases, Gesmundo said.

He also said that “of the 1,584 court workers who underwent quarantine after contracting the disease, 213 were hospitalized, 33 were quarantined in COVID-19 facilities, and 972 underwent home quarantine or isolation.”

The government has included more than 30,000 judiciary officials and employees in the A4 category of priority persons in COVID-19 vaccination program.

Gesmundo said that the judiciary has its own vaccination program. But, he said, the SC has been encouraging judiciary officials and personnel to avail themselves of the vaccination program of their local government units.

The SC had allowed all judiciary officials and employees, even justices and judges, to have a “special privileged leave” during their vaccinations against COVID-19.

This means that all of them will have a two-day leave of absence which would not be deducted from their leave credits. Vaccines against COVID-19 are given in two separate doses at least 30 days apart.

The grant of “special privileged leave” was approved by Chief Justice Gesmundo who allowed its retroactive implementation. Those who had their vaccinations before the approval of the request last May 19 are entitled to the two-day leave of absence.

Also, the SC had allowed the grant of financial assistance ranging from P15,000 to P50,000 to trial court judges and personnel who got sick, hospitalized, and died due to COVID-19.

The financial assistance, also approved by Gesmundo, is being granted to employees affected by COVID-19 “from March 2020 until the current pandemic ends.”

The P15,000 assistance is for officials and employees who suffered mild to moderate illness; P30,000 for those who had critical illness that required — among other processes — invasive ventilation, extracorporeal oxygenation or renal replacement therapy; and P50,000 to those who died due to COVID-19 whether hospitalized or not.