PH courts release new work guidelines following downgrade of NCR alert level

January 31, 2022 Hector Lawas 199 views

Philippine courts yesterday came up with several issuances prescribing the guidelines for work arrangements following the downgrading of the COVID-19 status in the National Capital Region and nearby provinces to Alert Level 2.

Starting February 2, 2022, Supreme Court divisions, offices, and services are fully operational including the filing of initiatory pleadings.

In Memorandum Order No. 13-2022, one-half of the workforce will be allowed to report on-site on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and the other half on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

The justices shall determine the number and schedule of their staff who will report on-site, while chiefs of offices and services will determine who among their staff shall be included in each shift.

Personal filing shall continue to be allowed but only for initiatory pleadings such as motions for extension of time to file petitions, petitions for review, and other original petitions requiring payment of docket fees.

All other pleadings and court submissions shall continue to be filed electronically under existing e-filing guidelines.

Lower courts under Alert Level 2 or 3

The high court through the Office of the Court Administrator also on Monday released guidelines for court operations in first and second level courts from February 2 to February 15, 2022.

To name a few, first and second level courts under Alert Level 2 shall be governed by the following guidelines :

1. Courts and offices are physically open
2. Maintain a workforce of at least 75 percent to at most 100 percent to enable courts and judicial offices to address matters and concerns, as far as practicable
3. Judges may continue to conduct videoconferencing hearings in cases that do not require in-court appearances. However, in-court attendance shall still be limited lawyers, parties, and witnesses required to participate in-court.
4. Regular office hours as prescribed in OCA Circular No. 09-2015 dated January 21, 2015.
5. Pleadings, motions, and other court submissions may likewise be filed or served by registered mail or through the services of duly accredited private couriers or by transmitting them through electronic mail in accordance with the existing electronic filing guidelines, regardless of the alert level or community quarantine classification.

On the other hand, for first and second level courts under Alert Level 3, the following shall be the guidelines, among others:

1. Courts and offices are physically open
2. Maintain a skeleton workforce of at least 50 percent to at most 75 percent to enable the courts/judicial offices to address matters and concerns, as far as practicable
3. Judges shall maximize videoconferencing hearings and refrain from requiring parties to appear in-court, except in urgent matters and in other matters as may be determined. In-court attendance shall be limited to lawyers, parties, and witnesses required to participate in-court
4. Regular office hours as prescribed in OCA Circular No. 09-2015 dated January 21, 2015.
5. Pleadings, motions, and other court submissions may likewise be filed or served by registered mail or through the services of duly accredited private couriers or by transmitting them through electronic mail in accordance with the existing electronic filing guidelines, regardless of the alert level or community quarantine classification.

The Court of Appeals followed suit as it laid down the rules governing the on-site and work-from-home arrangement of court officials and employees.

The guidelines are as follows:

1. Employees are required to report on-site during their designated work schedule.
2. The official working hours is from Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 3:00pm. To ensure physical distancing, all employees must only report on-site three (3) times a week. It is understood that those who are not scheduled to report on-site shall be under work from home (WFH) arrangement to complete the mandatory five (5) working days forty(40)-hour work week, in accordance with existing SC and Civil Service Commission (CSC) guidelines.
3. The chiefs of divisions/offices shall determine the schedule of who shall physically report for work per day. The list of employees under WFH arrangement must be submitted at the start of the week as well as the monthly accomplishment reports of said employees within the first five (5) days of the following month to the office of the Assistant Clerk of Court of the CA-Manila Station.
4. Permanent utility workers and/or messengers, especially those assigned to administrative and support offices, are not covered by this arrangement, unless for valid reason, since the nature of their work entails them to work on-site
5. The chiefs of divisions/offices and their assistants may opt to avail of the WFH arrangement for one (1) day each per week on separate dates to ensure the smooth flow of work in their respective divisions/offices. They must remain on-call at all times.
6. The Medical and Dental Division, Security Services Section,
The Medical and Dental Division, Security Services Section, Judicial Records Division (JRD), General Services Division (GSD), and Finance Group may avail of a different work arrangement as they may require more personnel to work on-site.
7. Adjudicatory and administrative functions which may be performed via videoconferencing shall be done remotely.
8. Antigen testing shall continue for returning employees who have yet to be tested and who have yet to physically report for work while the NCR was under Alert Level 3.
Office Order No. 30-22-RSF dated January 13, 2022 shall remain in effect in the Visayas and Mindanao Stations of the CA while Cebu City and Cagayan de Oro City are under Alert Level 3. All justices, officials, and employees are reminded to strictly observe health and safety protocols.

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