Judge halts DEPW inspection

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Friday, December 6, 2013

CEBU City Executive Judge Soliver Peras yesterday stopped personnel from the Department of Engineering and Public Works (DEPW) from inspecting the Marcelo Fernan Palace of Justice for the second time.

Peras, presiding judge of Regional Trial Court Branch 10, said the city engineers did not get his, or the Supreme Court’s (SC), permission.

“They (city engineers) bypassed me and the Supreme Court,” Peras said.

City Engineer Kenneth Carmelita Enriquez and four DEPW personnel went to the fourth floor of the Palace of Justice yesterday morning. They were accompanied by Henry Espinosa, head of security operations at the justice palace.

The team sprayed the letter “X” on damaged walls to indicate that these need to be knocked down and replaced.

But after they finished marking the south wing, Peras called Espinosa and told him to tell the city engineers to meet him downstairs for a brief meeting.

Council’s directive

Peras told the city engineers to halt the inspection because they didn’t get permission from the SC.

Enriquez told the judge that the City Council had directed her to re-inspect the building and apprise the council of the results.

“But the council cannot just order us,” Peras retorted, adding the council should have asked permission from SC.

Enriquez told Peras the council’s directive was not for him, but for the city engineers to re-inspect the building.

Enriquez refused to be interviewed after her team’s re-inspection was interrupted.

But she gave Sun.Star Cebu a copy of the letter signed by Councilor Sisinio Andales, where the councilor reminded the city engineer of a promised second inspection of the Palace of Justice building.

The letter was dated Dec. 4 and the inspection was conducted the day after since Andales said: “Please do so at the soonest possible time, so that there’s only one venue for the judges, prosecutors (city and province), Public Assistance Office and Probation Office (and) so that they can return the soonest possible time.”

Andales was not informed about yesterday’s inspection.

He said the DEPW should have coordinated with Peras.

Peras told the city engineers that most of the court officials and personnel do not want to return to the building because it is severely damaged.

He also said the DEPW should have handed in a letter-request so he could also notify the High Court about the re-inspection.

“There must be a go-signal from the SC whatever construction or rehabilitation that may be introduced on the building,” Peras said.

Clearance required

The judge’s staff received Andales’s letter last Wednesday, but Peras said he only found out about it after the re-inspection yesterday morning.

“They (city engineers) told me that they would take out the fourth floor. But who decided that? City Council? If the City Council has plans about the building, they should coordinate with me and I will submit the proposal to the chief justice,” said Peras.

The judge said the city engineers also need to secure clearance first from Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, before they can re-inspect the building.

Last Oct. 23, the Office of the Building Official declared the building unsafe for occupancy following the 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Oct. 15.

The city engineers concluded that the justice palace is no longer structurally sound as some of its corbels, which support the roof trusses, collapsed. 

They also said the building’s concrete walls are unstable because these are no longer supported by stiffer columns and lintel beams. The wooden ceiling joints are also infested with termites, an indication that it might collapse when another strong tremor occurs.

Marquez and government architects inspected the justice palace days after the earthquake.  

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. 

The Quimonda IT Center on Don Sergio Osmeña at the North Reclamation Area in Cebu City will serve as a temporary courthouse.  

Peras had issued a memo advising court officials and personnel to prepare for the first phase of the relocation to Quimonda.

The first phase, which is set on tomorrow and Dec. 11, will involve the transfer of book shelves, tables, chairs and cabinets.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 06, 2013.

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