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Covid-19

Philippine legal updates on COVID-19 as of 30 April 2020 (Part 2 of 2)

Continuing actions from the President

Changing its earlier position, on 1 April 2020[1] the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) adopted the policy of mandatory wearing of face masks, or such other protective equipment that can effectively lessen the transmission of COVID-19 in areas that are under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). 

On 7 April 2020, the President extended the period of ECQ in Luzon until 30 April 2020 based on the recommendation of the IATF-EID. The President also issued an Executive Order of even date creating a Comprehensive Social Benefits Program for the police, military, their supporting units and their beneficiaries, most of whom are deployed to implement the ECQ.[2] Under an administrative order,[3] the President also suspended the periods for filing of petitions, motions, and other pleadings in administrative cases filed against local government officials and presidential appointees.

Pursuant to Republic Act (RA) No. 11469, known as Bayanihan to Heal as One Act of 2020, the President authorized national government agencies, government corporations, and local government units to grant a one-time COVID-19 Special Risk Allowance.[4]

On 24 April 2020, the President announced the extension anew of the ECQ until 15 May 2020, but only for selected areas that are considered as “high-risk” while other areas will continue to be placed under general community quarantine (a more relaxed version of the community quarantine) effective May 1, 2020. The IATF also categorized workers and industries for purposes of partially easing up the ECQ and recommended among others that (i) only workers and sectors belonging to specified categories may continue to work or operate in phases; (ii) the general population may go out of their homes only for purposes of accessing basic necessities; (iii) non-leisure stores in malls and shopping centers may partially open; (iv) priority and essential construction projects may resume in accordance with guidelines as may be issued; (v) public transportation may operate at a reduced capacity in accordance with guidelines as may be issued, and (vi) airports and seaports may operate insofar as the unhampered movement of good is concerned.

Trade

Pursuant to RA No. 11469, directing public and private financial institutions to implement a minimum of a 30-day grace period of all loans falling due within the period of ECQ without incurring penalties, fees, and charges, the country’s trade and industry department issued Guidelines on the Concession on Residential Rents; Commercial Rents of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises[5] to provide MSMEs economic relief during the public health emergency. For MSMEs that have temporarily ceased operations during the period of the ECQ, the cumulative amount of their commercial rents falling due within the ECQ shall be equally amortized in the six months following the end of the ECQ. The Guidelines also prohibit eviction within the thirty-day period following the lifting of the ECQ.

The trade department also issued Guidelines to facilitate the enhanced operations of BPO companies, export enterprises and their support service providers even during the period of the ECQ by allowing the movement of their personnel under specific circumstances provided thereunder.[6] It also allowed supermarkets, groceries, agri-fisheries store, public markets, pharmaceuticals, drugstores and retailers of basic necessities and prime commodities to operate up to a maximum of 12 hours.[7]

The department, together with the labor department also issued a joint Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of Covid 19, requiring employers and employees to follow total precautionary measures, including the wearing of facemasks at all times, accomplishment of daily health symptoms form, establishment of alternative work arrangements, and observance at all times of physical distancing, proper respiratory etiquette and disinfection protocols, among others.

Judiciary and the Prosecution Service

Meanwhile, pursuant to Administrative Circular 32-2020 issued by the Philippine Supreme Court (which allowed the filing of criminal complaints and informations, and posting of bail through “electronic transmission or email”), the Office of the Court Administrator issued Circular No. 89-2020 directing clerks of courts to  create their respective email addresses which will serve as the official email addresses of the respective court stations where criminal complaints, informations, and other related court pleadings or submissions may be electronically transmitted. The submissions that may be electronically submitted include the requirements for posting of bail.[8]

In view of the second extension of the ECQ until 15 May 2020, the Philippine Supreme Court reiterated that all courts in the ECQ areas are to remain physically closed and all hearing remain suspended until 15 May 2020.[9]

Securities

The country’s securities department issued an Advisory[10] and Notice[11] instructing financing companies (FCs) and lending companies (LCs) to comply with the mandatory provision of a  thirty (30)-day grace period for all loans with principal and/or interest falling due within the ECQ period. 

Central bank

The country’s central bank urged banks to suspend the fees they charge for their fund transfer services and interbank ATM transactions.[12] Also, the central bank suspended the charging of filing, processing and licensing /registration fees related to the grant of Type A and B Electronic Payments and Financial Services (EPFS) license as additional relief to BSP Supervised Financial Institutions (BSFIs) affected by COVID-19 situation.[13] It also reminded BSFIs to take precautionary measures against ongoing “illegal schemes that exploit the changes in the working arrangements, lifestyles or behavior of the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic” as these schemes “usually involve financial transactions, such as funds/wire transfers, or use deposit or other transaction accounts.”[14]



[1] Resolution No. 18 Series of 2020.

[2] Executive Order No. 110.

[3] Administrative Order No. 29.

[4] Administrative Order No. 28. (April 6, 2020).

[5] Memorandum Circular 20-12 (April 4, 2020).

[6] Memorandum Circular 20-14 (April 11, 2020).

[7] Memorandum Circular 20-15 (April 11, 2020).

[8] April 3, 2020.

[9] Administrative Circular 35 -2020.

[10] April 16, 2020.

[11] April 16, 2020.

[12] Memorandum No. M-2020-031 (April 25, 2020) Subject: Fees on Interbank Fund Transfer and ATM transactions.

[13] Memorandum No. M-2020-033 (April 27, 2020).

[14] Memorandum NO. M-2020-036 (April 29, 2020).