NUPL head cautions on closure of courts

March 23, 2020

NATIONAL Union of Peoples’ Lawyers President Edre Olalia yesterday said the decision to close courts nationwide was “prudent and done in abundance of caution.”

But he warned: “It must not unwittingly give the impression that the justice system has ground to a halt.”

Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of rights group Kaparatan, echoed this call.

“In physically closing down courts and prosecution offices, government must ensure that access to the judicial system shouldn’t be impeded by those who go to it to obtain justice. In the same breadth, I shouldn’t be used to further political persecution through judicial harassment,” she said.

Just recently, the Supreme Court announced the closure of all courts which started Monday, March 23, due to the continuous rise of COVID-19 cases in the country. 

The order was contained in Administrative Circular No. 32-2020 dated 20 March 2020 and signed by Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta. 

It was addressed to all litigants, justices, judges, and personnel of the judiciary, and members of the Bar. 

President Duterte placed the entire Luzon including Metro Manila under the enhanced community quarantine to stop the spread of the feared virus COVID-19. 

A memorandum from Malacañang on the enhanced quarantine guides government agencies to ensure the following:

Prohibition of mass gatherings and imposition of strict home quarantine among all households;

Work-from-home arrangement for the executive branch;

Only essential establishments are to remain open (those private establishments providing basic necessities and such activities related to food and medicine production i.e. public markets, supermarkets, groceries, convenience stores, hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies and drug stores, food preparation and delivery services, water-refilling stations, manufacturing and processing plants of basic food products and medicines, power energy, water and telecommunications) 

Suspension of mass public transport facilities; Restricted land, air and sea travel; and Labor, social welfare, finance, budget and trade departments to come up with programs for affected workers and businesses.