SC extends closure of court premises in MECQ areas

SC extends closure of court premises in MECQ areas

MANILA, Philippines — Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo extended the closure of premises of courts in modified enhanced community quarantine areas until the end of April, but assured that hearings on all pending cases will proceed via videoconferencing.

“Considering that the National Capital Region, and the provinces of Abra, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Quirino and Rizal, and Santiago City [in Isabela province] are under [MECQ] until 30 April 2021, the physical closure of courts in the said areas is likewise extended to 30 April 2021,” Gesmundo said in Administrative Circular 22-2021.

The physical closure of courts under MECQ was supposed to be lifted on April 19.

Gesmundo said courts in others placed under localized ECQ and MCQ will also be physically closed during the duration of these community quarantine statuses.

“All the physically closed courts in areas under ECQ and MECQ may be reached through the listed Judiciary hotlines and email addresses as posted in the Supreme Court website,” the chief justice continued.

As with his earlier directive, Gesmundo said that affected courts will continue their operation through videoconferencing. “Judges may conduct fully remote videoconferencing hearings on pending cases and other matters, whether urgent or not, regardless of their physical location and without prior permission from the Office of the Court Administrator,” he added.

The chief justice has also extended the suspension of time allotted for filing and service of pleadings and motions during this period and shall resume seven days from the first day of physical reopening of the affected out.

Court offices however are still directed to maintain a skeleton force to attend to all urgent matters.

Gesmundo and other SC justices on Tuesday held the Judiciary’s first virtual town hall meeting with 200 judges and personnel of lower courts. During the meeting, the SC Public Information Office said the magistrates were informed of their health and work concerns brought about by the pandemic.

The newly-appointed justice has assured the court personnel that "the Court En Banc will study the issues you raised,” and added that the SC “will pass and approve appropriate issuances in due time.”

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