The Supreme Court is slowly but safely and surely returning to normalcy.
Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo this morning led the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court in their first in- person En Banc deliberations since his appointment as the 27th Chief Justice of the Philippines in April 2021.
Prior to this, the High Court has continuously been holding deliberations online through video conferencing.
Joining the Chief Justice in the regular Tuesday En Banc deliberations were Senior Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas- Bernabe, Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando, Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, Justice Henri Jean Paul B. Inting, Justice Rodil V. Zalameda, Justice Mario V. Lopez, Justice Samuel H. Gaerlan, Justice Ricardo R. Rosario, Justice Jhosep Y. Lopez, Justice Japar B. Dimaampao, and Justice Jose Midas P. Marquez. The deliberations were held inside the Session Hall as it allowed for better physical distancing than the En Banc Conference Room.
Likewise, at least 80 percent of the SC personnel shall now be required to physically report from Monday to Friday, 8 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., starting tomorrow, February 16. The personal filing of pleadings and other court submissions will also be allowed. This is pursuant to Memorandum Order No. 21-2022 (sc.judiciary.gov.ph/24350/) issued by Chief Justice Gesmundo on Monday, February 14, in consideration of the decrease in the COVID-19 growth rate in Metro Manila “and notwithstanding the extension of Alert Level 2 until Feb. 28, 2022.” The SC’s Medical and Dental Services, Security Division, Maintenance Division, and Motorpool Section, however, shall be report on 100 percent of their workforce.
Taking the lead from the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals (sc.judiciary.gov.ph/24359/), the Sandiganbayan (sc.judiciary.gov.ph/24361/), the Court of Tax Appeals (sc.judiciary.gov.ph/24366/), as well as the second- and first- level courts (sc.judiciary.gov.ph/24354/) issued similar issuances regarding their court operations. They, too, shall also be physically open from Monday to Friday, 8 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., and shall operate with at least 80% on-site capacity.
Chief Justice Gesmundo took the helm of the Judiciary on April 5 last year at a time when the number of daily cases of COVID-19 infections nationwide was mounting.
On April 10, 2021, he issued Administrative Circular No. 21-2021 extending the physical closure of all courts and judicial offices in the National Capital Judicial Region and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal (NCJR+). The time for filing and service of pleadings and motions during this period was also suspended and only the essential judicial offices were required to maintain the necessary skeleton staff to attend to all urgent matters. Subsequently, the Chief Justice issued other administrative circulars and memorandum orders to address the growing number of daily COVID-19 infections, which peaked at more than 26,000 in September 2021.
While the courts and judicial offices were physically closed, the Court En Banc as well as the three Divisions continued with their regular deliberations online. The Court likewise heard several oral arguments, including those on the petitions questioning Republic Act No. 11479 (RA 11479), or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. The oral arguments were livestreamed to the public by the Court via its official YouTube channel. (Courtesy of the SC Public Information Office)