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Metro Manila courts close as COVID-19 cases surge past 100,000

Metro Manila courts have been ordered to be physically closed for the next two weeks as confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 in the country surged past 100,000.

In an Administrative Circular signed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta on Sunday, courts are mandated to be closed from August 3 to August 14, 2020.

Those covered are courts in the National Capital Judicial Region and in areas under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

The courts are mandated to be available through their respective hotline numbers, email addresses, and/or Facebook accounts as posted on the website of the Supreme Court.

"All inquiries on cases or transactions, including requests for documents and services, shall be coursed and acted upon through the said numbers, addresses, and accounts of the concerned court, or through the Judiciary Public Assistance Section of the Supreme Court," the circular read.

For the Supreme Court, its en banc and three divisions will hold their sessions through videoconferencing.

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, and Court of Tax Appeals will continue to receive petitions and pleadings electronically.

For regional trial courts, family courts, and first-level courts, all pleadings will also be filed electronically and will be received through official email addresses posted on the Supreme Court website.

"For courts which are not authorized to conduct hearings through videoconferencing, in-court hearings conducted by the presiding judge, assisted by the skeleton-staff, may be limited to urgent matters and other concerns to expedite the proceedings, both in criminal and civil cases," the circular read.

Night courts and Saturday courts have also been suspended until August 14, 2020.

It clarified, however, that all courts authorized to hear cases through videoconferencing can continue to do so in both criminal and civil cases upon joint motion of the parties or upon orders of the court, without the need for prior permission from the Office of the Court Administrator.

The Philippines reported 5,032 new infections of COVID-19, bringing the total confirmed cases to 103,185. This includes 65,557 recoveries and 2,059 deaths. — DVM, GMA News