Chief Justice inspects courtrooms in tents, quake-damaged courthouse

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Saturday, February 22, 2014


CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno yesterday visited Cebu City and saw everything: a Palace of Justice that is no longer safe to occupy; an improvised carrier made of string and the rim of a bicycle’s wheel, which transfers documents from the upper floors to the ground floor of the old courthouse; and the tents that served as temporary courtrooms.

She also inspected the ground floor and second level of Quimonda IT Center at the North Reclamation Area, which will house temporary courtrooms.

Sereno said she came to Cebu to check the welfare of court officials and employees.

Court proceedings in Cebu City have been held under tents since the Marcelo Fernan Palace of Justice was declared unsafe. It was damaged during the 7.2 magnitude earthquake last Oct. 15.

Sacrifices

“Nababasa ba kayo rito kapag umulan ng malakas?” Sereno asked court workers inside one of the tents. They told her, yes.

“Thank you so much for all your sacrifices,” the chief justice told them.

Jose Midas Marquez, court administrator of the Supreme Court, said they hope to transfer 12 courtrooms to Quimonda in two weeks.

He said the building was declared structurally sound by independent engineers.

The High Court officials declared Quimonda to be the “most suitable” temporary courthouse for 22 Regional Trial Court branches and eight Municipal Trial Court in Cities.

Priority

The SC, though, has yet to decide what to do with the Marcelo Fernan Palace of Justice, located at the Cebu Capitol compound.

Marquez said the priority is to move out of the tents and move into Quimonda.

Mae Elaine Bathan, Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu City Chapter president, said their group also raised some concerns relative to the transfer to Quimonda.

The P36 million allotted for the renovation of Quimonda was discussed during the dialogue with the chief justice.

“Why not use it (budget) to renovate the Palace of Justice? We also want to know what the judiciary is planning to do with the Palace of Justice,” Bathan told reporters.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 22, 2014.

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