Several hundred detainees and litigants will have to wait indefinitely for their cases to be heard at the local courts after the Supreme Court ordered a physical lockdown of all its courts last week.
In Administrative Circular 32-2020, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta ordered that due to the rising cases of COVID-19 and the recent Enhanced Community Quarantine, all courts nationwide, from the Supreme Court down to first-level courts such as Regional Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts, shall be physically closed to all court users effective Monday, March 23, 2020.
Litigants, lawyers, prosecutors and the general public are advised to first call the proper court through its hotline or access it through its email address or Facebook account, to determine if the matter being raised is urgent enough to require the justice or judge, together with the skeleton staff, to go to court and receive and act on the urgent matter.
“All calls and messages shall be entertained from 8:30am to 2:00pm, Monday to Friday,” the SC circular stated, with all justices and judges on-duty, together with their skeleton staff, to stay at their respective residences unless it has been determined that an urgent matter has to be acted upon.
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, it added.
The chief justice also strongly advised law enforcement agents to let justices, judges and their respective skeleton-staff pass through checkpoints as they all likewise have a constitutional mandate to perform.