THE Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has asked President Duterte to temporarily suspend hearings and processes in all quasi-judicial and administrative tribunals all over the country as part of the measures to stop the further spread of Covid-19.
“The Honorable Supreme Court issued today a suspension order for the Judicial branch. Some quasi-judicial bodies have suspended hearings and processes. An order from your good office for the quasi-judicial and administrative tribunals in the Executive branch to suspend hearings and processes would be most welcome,” IBP National President and Chairman of the board of governors Domingo Cayosa said.
Cayosa said the suggestion is aimed at protecting the health of lawyers, judges, prosecutors and co-workers in the justice sector and also for the litigants, witnesses, stakeholders, and the public in general.
He added the Luzon-wide community quarantine, as well as the rapid spread of the virus to other provinces has made “physical presence in hearings difficult, if not impossible and counter-productive.”
“It may help if the tribunals remain functional with minimal staff on a rotation or on call basis, and work from home arrangements are made. A weekly assessment and adjustment of the suspension and other precautionary maybe judicious,” the IBP said.
The SC earlier agreed to the recommendation of the IBP to order a work stoppage in all courts and court offices and units in the country, except for a skeletal staff who will act on urgent matters brought before them.
In a recently issued Administrative Circular 31-2020, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, upon the recommendation of the Judiciary Task Force on Covid-19 and consultation with the members of the Court en banc, said the reduced court operations will take effect starting March 16 (Monday) until April 15, 2020.
During this period, at least the majority of the justices of the collegiate courts and one, or two judges in the mutli-sala stations of the second and first level courts, together with the necessary skeletal staff, will be in court or on stand-by at any given day to immediately act on these urgent matters.
For single sala stations, their respective judges and the necessary skeletal staff are required to be in court on stand-by.
It added that all night courts are completely suspended.
“There shall be no work in all courts, court offices, divisions, sections and units, including in the Supreme Court, during this period, except in courts and court offices concerned with the resolution of urgent matters and cases, the payments of salaries in the judiciary, the release of the 2019 Bar examinations, the medical services, and the security of the courts,” the circular read.
The IBP also announced it would release half of the 13th-month pay and the salaries up to April 15 of its national employees and legal aid clerks as the government scrambles to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus by placing Luzon under a state of enhanced community quarantine.
Cayosa said this would help their employees buy food and other basic necessities while the quarantine is in place.
“The IBP will release in advance the equivalent of one half of the 13th- month pay for 2020 and salaries up to April 15 as you may need cash to buy food supplies and basic necessities to limit mobility and prevent the risk of infection during this quarantine period,” Cayosa said.
“Please prudently use the advance benefits and salaries to buy necessities to weather the lockdown,” he added.
Cayosa also reiterated the reminder for all IBP employees to adhere to the quarantine protocols issued by authorities and health experts.
The Department of Health on Tuesday said there are now almost 200 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country with 14 fatalities.