Davao City Hall of Justice on lockdown as 10 employees contract COVID-19

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 19 October) – The Davao City Hall of Justice was placed on a 12-day lockdown beginning Monday until 31 October after 10 employees of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC)-Branch 3 were tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) last week.

In a memorandum addressed to all regional trial court (RTC) and MTCC presiding judges dated October 16, Deputy Court Administrator Leo T. Madrazo said he granted the request of RTC Davao Executive Judge Emmanuel C. Carpio for the “physical closure” of all courts in the city to help contain the spread of the highly contagious disease.

The memorandum was posted on the Facebook page of RTC-Branch 8 last Saturday.

Madrazo said the MTCC employees had been swabbed last October 17 while contact-tracing is ongoing to determine the possible contamination of other court workers, litigants and lawyers who might have come in close contact with the COVID-19-positive employees.

He said the City Health Office suggested the closure of the entire Hall of Justice “in order to decontaminate the entire building,” while Mayor Sara Duterte recommended the use of online transactions or hearings and to have a work-from-home arrangement during the lockdown period.

Madrazo said the operation of the courts would continue in a work-from-home arrangement and through the use of videoconferencing technology.

Presiding judges of all courts in the Davao City Hall of Justice are authorized to conduct videoconferencing from their residences for the entire period of the lockdown, he noted.

Citing Administrative Order No. 41-2020, Madrazo said all initiatory pleadings, in both civil and criminal cases, including criminal complaints, information and applications for bail, can be filed electronically through official email addresses.

He said the pleadings and other court submissions can be filed electronically with the branch where the case is pending.

Last Friday, Mayor Duterte said the local health authorities considered the Hall of Justice as an “area of concern.”

She added that its corridors and hallways have poor-ventilation, while the sala of the judges are enclosed and air-conditioned, making it easy for the virus to spread.

As of October 18, the Department of Health (DOH)-Davao reported 4,037 COVID-19 cases with 3,097 recoveries and 141 deaths.

Of the total, 2,652 were reported in Davao City, 259 in Davao de Oro, 441 in Davao del Norte, 289 in Davao del Sur, 95 in Davao Occidental and 301 in Davao Oriental.