Hearings suspended at Iloilo justice hall

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Iloilo City — Hearings of regional and city trial courts in Iloilo have been suspended since Thursday last week after the Ramon Q. Avanceña Hall of Justice was declared unsafe due to damage it sustained in the earthquake that struck Central and Western Visayas last Feb. 6.

The courts, as well as offices under the regional state prosecutor, were scheduled to be transferred to various areas yesterday but did not push through because details were still being finalized.

The 18 Regional Trial Court (RTC) branches will be transferred to the grounds of the De Paul College while four branches of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) will be transferred to the Iloilo Terminal Market.

This stemmed from the agreement reached during a meeting of judges and prosecutors last Friday with Deputy Supreme Court Administrator Rene Villanueva.

Regional State Prosecutor Domingo Laurea said his office and that of the provincial prosecutor will be transferred to the Iloilo Sports Complex while the Iloilo City Prosecutors Office was set to be relocated to the Iloilo Terminal Market.

Evelyn Barroso, regional director of the Department of Public Works and Highways, said an initial assessment of the DPWH showed that the four-story building was unsafe because of cracks and other damages. The DPWH recommended the immediate clearing of the building and further assessment to be conducted by structural engineers.

“We cannot guarantee the safety of the building especially if an earthquake happens,” Barroso told the Inquirer in a telephone interview yesterday.

In an earlier interview, RTC Executive Judge Danilo Galvez said the 20-year-old building needed major rehabilitation due to cracks and dislodgement in the flooring and beams caused by the 6.9-magnitude earthquake.

The rehabilitation and repair of the building would cost from P10 to P20 million.

Laurea said the relocation of the courts and offices to several areas will affect the litigation of cases. “It would be more difficult compare to when we were all under one roof but we have no choice. Litigants will have to spend more time going to various offices,” Galvez said. /INQUIRER

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