Build a new Hall of Justice, Iloilo judges urgeBy Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
ILOILO CITY—Decrying their “deplorable” working conditions, judges, lawyers and court employees in Iloilo have appealed to President Benigno Aquino, the Supreme Court and legislators to build a new Hall of Justice in Iloilo City.
They asked the government to allot funds for a new building to replace the Chief Justice Q. Ramon Avanceña Hall of Justice that was condemned due to damage from the Feb. 6 earthquake that hit parts of the Visayas.
They noted that the temporary offices, where the courts and other offices were transferred since March this year were “deplorable, if not catastrophic.” These also pose security risks to court personnel and records, they added.
“Please consider the discomfort and inconvenience to the administration of justice and public service,” they said in the manifesto.
Among those who signed were judges of the 17 Regional Trial Court (RTC) branches and three Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) branches.
Only one RTC judge was not able to sign the manifesto, said Paulino Salmon, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Iloilo chapter.
He said the judge was attending an out-of-town seminar and was not reached on time before the release of the manifesto.
The signatories include officers of the IBP, Women Lawyers Association of the Philippines, and Philippine Association of Court Employees; regional, provincial and city state prosecutors, and the Public Attorney’s Office.
The court branches and offices at the Chief Justice Q. Ramon Avanceña Hall of Justice were transferred to three separate locations after the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) declared the 20-year-old building unsafe due to structural defects.
The 18 RTC branches and the office of the Philippine Mediation Center were transferred to the building of the defunct De Paul College in Jaro district. The school closed down last year.
On the other hand, the city prosecutor’s office and five MCTC
branches were transferred to the Iloilo terminal market, around 7 kilometers from the RTC branches.
The regional and provincial state prosecutors and the IBP are holding office at the Iloilo Sports Complex, around 3 km from the RTC branches.
The RTC judges have complained that their temporary offices were near a dirty creek, “which emits an unpleasant smell and facilities could not cater to the needs of all.”
They said the construction of a new building at the earliest possible time was urgent “in order to avoid the erosion of public confidence in the quality of the administration of justice in this part of the country.”
The signatories of the manifesto also appealed to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Ilonggo Senators Franklin Drilon and Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and representatives of Iloilo’s six congressional districts to help in the construction of a new Hall of Justice.
The DPWH is undertaking a study on the defects of the building in preparation for plans to repair the building.
But the judges, lawyers, prosecutors and court employees have earlier said that they would feel unsafe to work again in the old building that was already condemned for structural defects.
They have also called for an investigation for possible irregularities in the construction of the P200-million building.
The building was constructed in 1992 under the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino. Drilon was justice secretary at that time.