ALL COURTS nationwide, from the Supreme Court down to the first level courts, will be “physically closed” to all court users starting March 23 due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Due to the unabated rise of COVID-19 infection, and with the entire country now under a state of calamity… all courts nationwide, from the Supreme Court down to the first level courts, shall be physically closed to all court users and may be reached only through their respective hotlines, and e-mail addresses and Facebook accounts, if available, effective 23 March 2020, Monday,” the Supreme Court said in Administrative Circular 32-2020 which was released on Friday.

The Supreme Court noted that all calls and messages directed to courts will be entertained from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday to Friday.

In the case of urgent matters, only then will the justice or judge on-duty, together with a skeleton staff, go to court to receive and act on the said urgent matter, the High Court said.

Accordingly, all justices and judges on-duty, together with their skeleton staff, are directed by the Supreme Court to stay at their respective residences, and will only go to their courts “once it has been determined that an urgent matter has to be acted upon.”

Meanwhile, Court personnel who were previously authorized to report to their respective courts, such as those concerned with the payments and release of salaries and allowances in the Judiciary, will continue to report to their respective courts “as the need arises.”

The Supreme Court also urged law enforcement agents to let justices, judges and their respective skeleton-staff pass through checkpoints “as they all likewise have a constitutional mandate to perform.” — Genshen L. Espedido