Life After Lockdown: Move to digital a huge trial for courtrooms, law enforcement agencies

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Life After Lockdown: Move to digital a huge trial for courtrooms, law enforcement agencies

Philstar.com's Life After Lockdown is a compendium of references on Filipinos' shift to a new normalcy during a coronavirus pandemic.

MANILA, Philippines (First published on May 25) — The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world to adopt new ways of living and conducting business, but the reduced physical interactions do not mean essential institutions like the legal and justice system can stop working.

Resumption of courts operation: Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, in Administrative Circular No. 41-2020, said courts nationwide will be in full operations starting June 1.

  • Courts in the National Capital Judicial Region are open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Courts outside NCJR will operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

No walk-in requests will be entertained, and inquiries should be first coursed through the court through telephone or electronically as stated on this list provided by the Supreme Court.

Email addresses of courts meanwhile are posted here and here.

Lawyers for indigents: In areas under General Community Quarantine, offices of the Public Attorney’s Office will be open and will have a skeleton workforce, its chief Persida Acosta told Philstar.com.

  • The office may be reached through the following hotlines: (02) 8426-2075; 8426-2801; 8426-2450; 8426-2987; 8426-2683 or 8929-9436.
  • Groups of volunteer lawyers are offering legal assistance, in cases related to COVID-19, and may be reached through their Facebook pages such as this and this.

Filing of criminal complaints at the Department of Justice electronically is still under study, Justice Undersecretary Mark Perete, department spokesperson said.

How about inquests and preliminary investigations? It remains to be seen if the electronic inquest, which Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento allowed for Metro Manila prosecutors on March 30, will continue.

“We are currently evaluating our experience with e-inquest and assessing the possibility of migrating certain systems and procedures online (which may include the filing of complaints, petitions, and even the conduct of inquest and PI) in the new normal,” Perete also told Philstar.com.


Will trials resume? Chief Justice Peralta ordered that case hearings be done “in-court.”

Hearings through videoconferencing, to be presided by justices and judges from courtrooms or chambers, shall be allowed in:

  • Cases involving Persons Deprived of Liberty who shall continue to appear remotely from the detention facility
  • Cases with extraordinary circumstances as may be determined by the justices and judges

Night and Saturday courts and hearings remain suspended.

Jails and law enforcement agencies

Visits to jails remain suspended at the New Bilibid Prison, which is run by the Bureau of Corrections, and in facilities under the Bureau of Jail and Management Penology.

  • BJMP spokesperson Xavier Solda told Philstar.com that visitation for detainees at BJMP facilities “remain temporarily suspended until we are sure that the visiting families is safe to travel and see their loved ones under our care.”
  • The New Bilibid Prison will remain closed to visitors even if the ECQ is lifted, but the Bureau of Corrections will issue “guidelines once the situation changes,” its spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag said.
  • Decisions on allowing visits to BuCor penal facilities in other localities is up to their respective superintendents.

Can I get clearances from law enforcement agencies? The National Bureau of Investigation is still waiting for orders from the Department of Justice and the Inter-Agency Task Force if it would be allowed to process clearances post-lockdown.

  • If permitted, walk-in applicants for NBI clearance will be suspended and instead encourage online registration and payment to lessen the number of people and time spent in NBI clearance centers, the bureau’s spokesperson, Ferdinand Lavin told Philstar.com.
  • Police clearance remains suspended under General Community Quarantine “until further notice or when it is safe for public,” Brigadier General Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, said in a message.

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