Legal Updates for May 2020

BSP Grants Relief Measures to Manage the Financial Impact of COVID-19, Temporarily Suspends Administrative Proceedings, and Issues Guidelines for the Implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (“BSP”) Monetary Board has approved the granting of relief measures to BSP-supervised financial institutions (“BSFIs”) to enable them to extend the same relief measures to their clients, borrowers, and employers in view of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (“ECQ”) imposed by the Philippine government in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the Philippines. The BSP also temporarily suspended proceedings of administrative cases at the BSP’s Office of the General Counsel and Legal Services-Investigation and Prosecution Group due to the Luzon-wide ECQ. It likewise directed all BSFIs to comply with Section 4(aa) of the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act.

On April 24, 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte announced another extension of the ECQ in high-risk areas which include Metro Manila, Central Luzon (except Aurora), the CALABARZON Region (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), the island of Cebu, the provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro, and Davao City, among other areas until May 15, 2020.

Supreme Court Suspends Operations of Courts and Issues Rules on Online Filing of Complaint or Information and Posting of Bail

In line with the implementation of enhanced community quarantine ("ECQ") measures by the National Government, the Philippine Supreme Court ("SC") has ordered the physical closure and suspension of operations of all courts, except for urgent matters.  The SC has also issued rules of procedure for the online filing of complaints or informations in criminal cases, posting of bail, and pilot testing of hearings in criminal cases involving persons deprived of liberty ("PDLs") through videoconferencing. In line with the extension of the ECQ over certain areas (including the National Capital Region), the SC has also extended the effectivity of these measures until May 15, 2020.  Separate guidelines were also issued for courts located in areas placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ).  These are provided in SC Administrative Circulars Nos. 35-2020 and 36-2020, both issued on 27 April 2020.

The SC also issued guidelines on reduced bail and recognizance as modes for releasing indigent PDLs during the period of public health emergency pending the resolution of their cases.  These are provided in SC Administrative Circular No. 38-2020 issued on 30 April  2020. 

BIR Further Extends Deadlines, Suspends Assessment, and Collection of Deficiency Taxes Due to Enhanced Community Quarantine

The Bureau of Internal Revenue ("BIR") previously issued Revenue Regulations No. 007-2020, as amended by Revenue Regulations No. 010-2020, extending the deadline for the submission and/or filing of certain documents and/or returns as well as payment of certain taxes. On 29 April 2020, BIR issued Revenue Regulations No. 011-2020  further extending the deadlines to submit, file and/or pay the necessary documents and/or taxes required under the National Internal Revenue Code, as amended, as well as in the existing revenue regulations.  The extension of due dates is applicable throughout the Philippines. 

DOLE and DTI Issue Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19 for Private Establishments Allowed to Operate during the ECQ and GCQ

The whole of Luzon has been under an Enhanced Community Quarantine ("ECQ") since 17 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the Philippines.  On 30 April  2020, President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order No. 112 which approved the extension -- until 15 May 2020 -- of the ECQ over Metro Manila, Central Luzon (except Aurora), CALABARZON (comprising Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) and other high-risk provinces.  Moderate and low-risk provinces, meanwhile, were placed under a less-stringent General Community Quarantine ("GCQ") until 15 May 2020.   

On 30 April 2020, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) issued interim guidelines to assist private institutions that are allowed to operate during the ECQ and GCQ in developing the minimum health protocols and standards in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Extension of Deadlines of Payment Obligations and Submission Requirements, and Implementation of Other Measures to Provide Relief to Electricity Consumers

The Department of Energy ("DOE") extended the deadlines for the payment of certain obligations in the energy supply chain, such as those due to the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), the National Power Corporation (NPC), the National Transmission Corporation (TRANSCO), the National Grid Power Corporation (NGCP) and the Independent Electricity Market Operator (IEMOP), and also directed public and private corporations in the energy supply chain to extend the payment deadlines of their customers.  The DOE also issued guidelines for the remittance and utilization of host community funds for a targeted COVID-19 response and directed the grant of relief to electricity consumers, both individual and corporate.

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) also extended the deadlines for the payment of certain obligations in the energy supply chain, and also the submission of certain documents, and directed other energy sector participants to similarly extend certain payment deadlines.  It temporarily suspended the collection of the feed-in tariff allowance (Fit-All) and granted interim relief to the National Grid Power Corporation (NGCP) that will effectively reduce the transmission tariff borne by electricity consumers.