Courts in the National Capital Judicial Region will operate only with a skeletal force from March 15 to April 12 as a precautionary measure against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The justices of the Supreme Court (SC), Court of Appeals, Court of Tax Appeals, and the Sandiganbayan and the judges of the first- and second-level courts in the region "must be on stand-by during this period to act on and hear urgent matters," Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said, as announced by the SC's Public Information Office (PIO) Friday.
This order is part of an administrative circular by Peralta, one of a number of issuances from the SC to address the health concerns of its personnel and the public amid the threat of COVID-19.
Personnel of the SC's Medical and Dental Services, the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Property Division, the Security Division, and the Office of Administrative Services will report for work in full force, the PIO said.
Chiefs of office or service at the SC are also required to go to work. On the other hand, contractual employees of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal are not required to report from March 16 to April 14.
"Social distancing shall be strictly enforced at all times," the PIO said.
The SC also created a task force that will recommend actions, guidelines, and policies to the justices to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, and monitor the conditions of justices, judges, officials, personnel, workplaces, and issuances of the executive and legislative departments to harmonize actions of the judiciary, the PIO said.
The task force will be chaired by Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez.
The Office of the Chief Justice is also temporarily suspending the personal follow-up of pending transactions involving the public and other stakeholders of the court throughout SC offices.
"All offices concerned shall direct the public to course matters for followup to the Judiciary Public Assistance Section," the PIO said.Training programs and activities of the Philippine Judicial Academy are cancelled.
Peralta earlier ordered the suspension of court hearings from March 13 to 18.
He has also directed justices and judges to ensure that only people with official business in the courts should be allowed entry to halls of justice; those found to have fever, flu, colds, and cough will be denied entry.
The chief justice also ordered the constant sanitation of court premises and common areas. —LDF, GMA News