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COVID-19 suspends anti-terror law debates but not flag ceremony for retiring Peralta
Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta attended his last flag ceremony on Monday, March 22. He is due to retire on March 27.
Supreme Court Public Information Office/released

COVID-19 suspends anti-terror law debates but not flag ceremony for retiring Peralta

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - March 22, 2021 - 4:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — The COVID-19 threat has again suspended oral arguments on the petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act, but the Supreme Court on Monday pushed through with its flag ceremony for retiring Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta.

The SC’s Office of the Clerk of Court said the court suspended the debates set on March 23 “due to the alarming increase of COVID-19 cases.” Debates will resume on April 6.

This is the third consecutive week that the oral arguments have been suspended due to COVID-19.

More than nine months since the first petition was filed, and with debates being suspended as a health precaution, the SC has yet to issue a temporary restraining order against the anti-terrorism law’s implementation.

The court earlier said it will wait for Solicitor General Jose Calida’s comment on fresh pleadings praying for a TRO before it resolves them.

Fresh ban on mass gatherings

The suspension of oral arguments comes after Malacañang's fresh orders for stricter community quarantine measures in several areas of the country due to a spike in new coronavirus cases.

Metro Manila and four nearby provinces are at General Community Quarantine status, with new protocols enforced, until April 4.

But even with this new directive banning mass gatherings, the SC went ahead with its flag-raising ceremony, which is also Peralta’s last with the tribunal.

Flag-raising ceremonies are held on Mondays have been suspended at the SC for a year now, but they resumed the program on Monday morning. This also allowed Peralta to address the Judiciary for the last time as its chief justice.

Traditionally, SC magistrates and employees join the program but reports said there were only around 30 who attended the ceremonies held at the open-air SC compound. The livestream also showed the attendees standing some distance away from each other.

There are also only two SC magistrates who were present on ground—Associate Justices Rosmari Carandang and Henri Jean Paul Inting—while the rest joined virtually.

SC spokesperson Brian Hosaka said the SC has recorded 33 COVID-19 cases among its employees.

The Palace last Friday ordered executive branch offices in GCQ areas to put a 30-50% cap on its on-site operational capacity for the next two weeks to arrest the spread of the virus. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea encouraged the legislative and judicial branches to adopt the same guidelines.

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