OBO orders court officials not to use Palace of Justice due to quake damage-A A +A
Thursday, October 24, 2013
THE Office of the Building Official (OBO) in Cebu City yesterday declared the Marcelo Fernan Palace of Justice “unsafe for occupancy” following the magnitude 7.2 earthquake last Oct. 15.
A copy of the OBO inspection report was posted on the building's back door yesterday afternoon. It says the decades-old building was “seriously damaged” and should be off-limits to the public.
The Cebu City Council, meanwhile, announced that City Hall has P183 million that can be used to repair public structures, including schools.
OBO said government engineers have concluded that the Palace of Justice is no longer structurally sound as some of its corbels, which support the roof trusses, collapsed due to the strong tremor.
It also said that the building’s concrete walls are unstable because they are no longer supported by stiffer columns and lintel beams.
The Cebu City engineers also observed that the wooden ceiling joints are infested by termites, an indication that it might collapse when strong tremor occurs.
“Entry may result in death or injury. Aftershocks since inspection may increase damage and risk,” read the notice.
Judges of the Cebu City Regional Trial Court and Municipal Trial Court inCities met with Mayor Michael Rama at City Hall late yesterday afternoon to discuss alternative venues for court hearings.
The judges will also meet today with Supreme Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez.
Before city engineers condemned the building, trial court judges accompanied Mayor Rama in inspecting the building in the morning.
Rama later told reporters that anyone who enters the building can feel the discomfort of the court workers.
Rama said he requested Cebu City Executive Judge Soliver Peras not to allow hearings inside the building for the safety of court employees and litigants.
He said court employees should start packing their documents while the building is still intact.
The mayor said some Chinese businessmen already offered their buildings for court hearings.
Rama and some judges also checked the old Cebu Eastern College building on D. Jakosalem St., which is eyed as one of possible temporary courtrooms.
Last Oct. 18, two architects from the SC and representatives from the City Engineer's Office inspected the Palace of Justice.
The inspection team noticed huge cracks on the walls, dislodged slabs, cracked glass windows and protruding floors in various courtrooms.
The fourth floor and courtrooms in the east wing were severely damaged.
Architect Richard Nicolas, an SC technical staff, said their initial assessment showed the entire fourth floor is unsafe for occupancy and should be thoroughly checked by structural engineers.
Geraldine Faith Ycong, SC Program Management Office chief, said she will check why the contractor has not yet started the rehabilitation of the Palace of Justice.
The Palace of Justice houses 22 RTC branches on the second and third floors and eight MTCC branches and parole and probation offices on the fourth floor.
The ground floor is occupied by the city and provincial prosecutors’ offices, Public Attorney's Office, Office of the Clerk of Court, sheriff's office, and the Department of Justice's Witness Protection Program.
The mediation center is on the second floor while the court's library is on the third floor.
Cebu City Councilor Margarita Osmeña, chairperson of the council's committee on budget and finance, said funding for the repair of public structures includes the P105-million balance from last year's calamity fund and P80 million from the Special Education Fund (SEF) for this year.
In her privilege speech during the council's regular session yesterday, Osmeña said the balance to the 2012 calamity fund has to be transferred to a special trust fund and can be used under Republic Act (RA) 10121, otherwise known as the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.
Section 21 of the law provides that “unexpended calamity fund shall accrue to a special trust fund solely for the purpose of supporting disaster risk reduction and management activities of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council within the next five years.”
Any amount that will still not be utilized after five years will be reverted back to the general fund and will be available for other social services.
Of the P105.39 million balance, P20 million was transferred to the trust fund leaving a balance of P85.39 million, said Osmeña quoting Acting City Accountant Josefina Gonzales.
Of the P20 million that was transferred, Osmeña said, at least P18 million is unused.
Osmeña said P80 million from the total SEF of P235 million this year has not been transferred from the general fund to the SEF trust fund and can be used for maintenance and repair of public schools.
“A total of P183 million can be immediately used to address the needs of our city and our people affected by the earthquake and most especially our children whose schools have been damaged,” said Osmeña.
According to the Department of Education Cebu City Division, 531 classrooms out of 3,445 classrooms in 122 public elementary and secondary schools in the city need repair.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 24, 2013.