Courts in NCR, other modified ECQ areas to remain “physically closed” until May 31

(Eagle News) – All courts in areas under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), including Metro Manila, will remain physically closed until May 31, the Supreme Court announced on Thursday, May 14.

“No walk-in requests shall be entertained in any of the offices of the courts in the said areas”, the SC said in Administrative Circular No. 39-2020.

Instead, all inquiries on cases or transactions, including requests for documents and services, shall be coursed and acted upon only through the hotline numbers, email addresses or Facebook accounts of the concerned court, as posted on the SC’s website.

Courts in areas under MECQ shall continue to operate from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, until May 29, while raffle of cases shall proceed either electronically or through videoconferencing.

Likewise, “filing of petitions, appeals, complaints, motions, pleadings and other submissions that fall due up to 31 May 2020 before the courts in areas under MECQ areas is extended for 30 calendar days, counted from 1 June 2020,” the circular said.

Periods for court actions with prescribed periods are likewise extended for 30 calendar days, while night courts and Saturday courts in areas under MECQ shall remain suspended until May 31.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, and Court of Tax Appeals will continue to receive petitions and pleadings electronically.

– Hearings via videoconferencing –

The Supreme Court had earlier ordered the pilot testing of hearings via videoconferencing on certain court stations nationwide, particuarly on urgent matters in criminal cases concerning Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs).

Under the latest circular, “[a]ll courts initially allowed to hear through videoconferencing only urgent matters in criminal cases involving Persons Deprived of Liberty are now herein authorized to hear through videoconferencing ALL matters pending before them”.

This includes “both criminal and civil cases, whether newly-filed or pending, and regardless of the stage of trial”.

Meanwhile, courts not authorized to conduct hearings via videoconferencing may conduct in-court hearings, but only on urgent matters and other concerns meant to expedite the proceedings.

In all court hearings, “health hygiene protocols and other public medical standards, e.g. wearing of face masks and face shields, subjecting everyone to no-contact thermal scanning, observance of social distancing, shall be strictly observed”, the circular said.

Eagle News Service