House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal Office closed over safety concerns
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) Office in Quezon City is now closed over concerns regarding the safety of its employees and the public after defects were found in the building’s structure.
Kabayan Rep. Ron Salo, who heads House contingent to the HRET, said that HRET chairperson Associate Justice Marvic Leonen has already signed an order declaring the physical closure of the HRET office starting August 20, Thursday.
“As head of the House contingent to the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), we wish to inform the public, particularly the parties to the various cases pending before the Tribunal, of the physical closure of the HRET office located at the Commission on Audit (COA) Compound in Quezon City,” Salo said in a statement on Friday.
Salo said the decision was prompted by the strong earthquake that hit Masbate recently and the recent seismologic activity at the Taal Volcano.
In December 2019, the Department of the Building Official of the Local Government Unit of Quezon City, through the Annual Building Inspection Division (ABID) conducted an inspection on the building and its premises.
During the inspection, several defects were noted on the building’s structure, prompting the Department of the Building Official to declare the building “Dangerous and Ruinous” in accordance with Sec. 214 of the National Building Code, said Salo.
“The risks are too high for the HRET employees and the public who have transactions with the Tribunal to stay in the building. Everyone’s safety is paramount; it is second to none,” Salo said.
“We cannot afford to gamble with anyone’s safety. Thus, access to the offices shall only be limited to obtaining and returning of records or documents for office work,” he added.
For now, Salo said HRET employees shall continue their work under a work-from-home scheme to ensure that the cases being handled by the Tribunal are still being attended.
“We trust that the Tribunal’s pending request to the Department of Budget and Management for an appropriation for the rental of a building to house the HRET employees and for conducting hearings by its hearing officers and the Tribunal will be promptly and favorably considered,” Salo said.[ac]