SC urged to check safety of Iloilo Hall of Justice-A A +A
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
FORMER Iloilo Representative Augusto Syjuco Jr. asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to assess if the Iloilo Hall of Justice, which sustained cracks from earthquakes allegedly because of poor structural integrity, is still fit for occupancy.
Court operations were transferred and scattered around Iloilo City when the building suffered cracks due to a magnitude-5.7 earthquake on February 6, 2012. The Department of Public Works and Highways-Western Visayas then recommended the demolition of the building but a new director changed this to retrofitting.
Senate President Franklin Drilon supported the new plan as he allocated P50 million from his pork barrel despite the opposition from several groups including employees, judges and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Western Visayas.
The former lawmaker added that PertConsult International, which Drilon tapped to retrofit the 21-year-old structure, boasted that the Hall of Justice can withstand even a magnitude-9 earthquake once the project is completed.
And just as the contractors were asking for an additional P20 million for the retrofitting, Syjuco said the building experienced cracks to its columns and beams when a magnitude-7.2 quake hit Carmen, Bohol last week.
"This second Act of God confirmed the apprehension of the stakeholders of the Iloilo Hall of Justice that it is no longer safe for occupancy," Syjuco said in his letter to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
He also feared that compelling employees to use the building again sometime in December may "expose them to imminent and inevitable danger that can cause their death."
"So serious is the grave terror suffered by the trial court judges, lawyers, court employees and the public in general who are so worried that the Supreme Court Office of the Court of Administrator will turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to their paramount and legitimate concerns," said Syjuco.
Syjuco said the SC should also investigate and hold Drilon and several others accountable for the poor condition of the Hall of Justice. The building was constructed in 1991 during Drilon's stint as Justice secretary.
Drilon denied involvement in the construction, saying in a statement on October 1 that the P200-million fund was coursed through the main office of the DPWH.
"I was told the project was aboveboard, there was proper bidding and there was nothing illegal and anomalous about the project which was completed in 1992," he said.
The Senate President said Syjuco held grudges because he thought it was the senator who spoiled his re-election bid last May. Drilon supported Syjuco's opponent, now Representative Arcadio Gorriceta. (Sunnex)