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Courts closed but judges, prosecutors are on call to resolve urgent cases

By Rey Panaligan

While courts and prosecutors’ offices nationwide are physically closed starting on Monday, March 23, these vital offices in the country’s judicial system are manned by selected personnel (skeleton staff) to attend to the needs of the public.

Justices, judges, and prosecutors and other personnel are on call to tackle and resolve urgent cases particularly those related to the enhanced community quarantine being implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

These were the assurances made Sunday, March 22, by Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta and Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra.

On the mobility of judges and court personnel in areas where extreme quarantine measures are being implemented, the circular issued by Chief Justice Peralta stated:

“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.”

Peralta also said in his circular:

“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. If urgent, only then will the justice or judge on-duty, together with the skeleton-staff, go to court to receive and act on the said urgent matter.

“All calls and messages shall be entertained from 8:30am to 2:00pm, Monday to Friday.

“Accordingly, all justices and judges on-duty, together with their skeleton staff, must stay at their respective residences, and shall only go to their courts once it has been determined that an urgent matter has to be acted upon.

Otherwise, they need not go to their courts.

“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.”

Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez said the list of court hotlines, Facebook accounts, e-mail addresses and other means to contact the courts will be uploaded in the SC website – sc.judiciary.gov.ph – not later than Sunday night, March 22.

For his part, Secretary Guevarra said:

“The new directive to Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors was prompted by the SC’s administrative order.

“All prosecution offices are directed to coordinate immediately with the local police and other law enforcement units and to make available the names of our designated contact/point persons and/or all contact details for purposes of inquest and very urgent court duty where and when necessary.

“Everyone is directed to stay in their respective residences. Prosecutors and support staff members shall only go to their respective offices for very urgent matters. Please ensure the availability at all times of inquest prosecutors who shall be on-call.”

Guevarra said his office will issue a circular either today or early Monday, March 23.



Source: Manila Bulletin

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