Apr 7, 2021 @ 9:27

IBP to NTFCOVID-19: Lawyers are legal frontliners that should be protected too

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines has asked the National Task Force Against COVID-19 to include lawyers in the priority list to receive COVID-19 vaccine under Category A4.

In a letter to NTFCOVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez, the IBP said “lawyers are legal frontliners that should be similarly protected” from the coronavirus.

“Courts and other tribunals as well as necessary physical contact between lawyers and clients have been proven spreaders of the COVID-19 virus… The legal frontliners are particularly at risk and should be similarly protected, ” the letter read.

“Lawyers essentially are deemed officers of the court in their mandate to dispense justice, maintain peace and order, and safeguard public welfare under the rule of law,” it added.

Just recently, the NTFCOVID-19 granted the request of the judiciary to include justices, judges and court personnel in the priority list for COVID-19 vaccination program as Category A4.

“I am pleased to inform you that our request for inclusion in priority population group A4 (category A4) of the Philippine National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 Vaccines has been granted by the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF),” senior Supreme Court Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe said.

According to SC spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka, the vaccination would benefit roughly 30,000 court workers.

Category A4 are frontline personnel in essential sectors both in public and private sectors, including uniformed personnel, and those in working sectors identified by the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) that are directly client facing and cannot dutifully meet minimum public health standards.

The letter-request for inclusion in the priority list stated that “justices, judges, and court personnel of the Philippine Judiciary (comprised of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Court of Tax Appeals, Sandiganbayan, and trial courts) are frontline government workers in the justice sector, whose functions are essential at all times, especially during the pandemic.”

Through its adjudicatory functions, the request stated that the” judiciary is an essential institution in the justice sector that works hand-in-hand with the executive branch of government to effectively perform its task of maintaining peace and order and safeguarding public welfare in accordance with the rule of law.”

Also, the request underscored the courts’ role as one of the five (5) pillars of the criminal justice system, thus, judiciary employees should be considered as workers in an essential public sector who are likewise directly client-facing and cannot dutifully meet minimum public health standards.”

Furthermore, the request said that the judiciary’s continuing in-court operations despite the existence of community quarantines run the risk of exposing its employees/personnel to COVID-19 infections, who in turn, regularly interact with other stakeholders that already fall in the priority groups of the Philippine National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 Vaccines.

“Thus, for all these reasons, the inclusion of Judiciary employees in category A4 of the said Plan us truly fitting. With the NTF’s favorable action on our request, the details of implementation shall be immediately worked out in order to swiftly roll out the inoculation program soonest, ” Justice Perlas-Bernabe said.

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