File photo shows the Supreme Court office in Padre Faura St. Manila. Cagadas
Courts nationwide 'physically closed' amid COVID-19 scare
Kristine Joy Patag ( - March 20, 2020 - 5:30pm

MANILA, Philippines (Update 1 5:56 p.m.) — Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta ordered the physical closure of all courts in the country due to the rising cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Peralta on Friday signed Administrative Circular No. 32-2020 ordering that “all courts nationwide from the Supreme Court down to the first level courts, shall be physically closed to all court users.”

“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,” Peralta said.

Messages and calls can be entertained from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Peralta said that once a matter raised to the courts is determined as urgent, justices and judges on-duty, together with their skeleton staff will go to the courts.

Otherwise, they will stay at their residences. 

Peralta also stressed: “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.”

SC Public Information Chief Brian Hosaka, however, explained hearings for bail, petitions regarding the writ of habeas corpus and other matters of liberty will still be tackled.

“Those matters will be heard as they are considered urgent,” Hosaka told reporters in a message.

Peralta also said: “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.”

The Philippines recorded 230 infections in the country, while death toll is at 18.

The whole of Luzon was also placed under enhanced community quarantine, restricting movement of people and halting mass transportation in the region.

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