Lawmaker vows help for new Cebu Palace of Justice

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014


CEBU CITY - Senate President Franklin Drilon pledged to help include P1 billion in the national budget in the next two years so a new Hall of Justice can be constructed in Cebu starting next year.

The Provincial Government offered the Capitol-owned lot in Barangay Guadalupe, where the Department of Agriculture (DA) offices used to stand, and another Province-owned property in Barangay Kalunasan as possible sites of the new Chief Justice Marcelo Fernan Hall of Justice.

In a press conference in Cebu City on Tuesday, Drilon said the site of the new building is not an urgent concern at this time.

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What is important, he said, is that the initial funding of P500 million is included in the proposed President’s Budget for 2015.

Gov. Hilario Davide III, Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale and some members of the Provincial Board (PB) discussed the need for a new Hall of Justice building during a private meeting with Drilon last Monday night.

“I urged Governor Davide and Vice Governor Magpale to work and I will assist them to request the President to include in the 2015 National Budget the P500-million initial funding for the Hall of Justice. The estimated cost that they have in mind is about P1 billion. It can be a two-year project so that in 2015, P500 million will be appropriated and in 2016, another P500 million,” Drilon said.

“But it’s important that the request be immediately made so that while the budget is being crafted, then the amount can already be included,” he continued.

Drilon was secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ) when he and the late Marcelo Fernan led the inauguration of Cebu’s Hall of Justice in the late 1980s.

Fernan, a Cebuano, was the chief justice that time.

The Hall of Justice was severely damaged during the 7.2 magnitude earthquake last Oct. 15, prompting court officials to transfer courtrooms to the Capitol grounds.

Last month, the courts were transferred to the Quimonda IT Center in the North Reclamation Area, which the Supreme Court is leasing.

SRP site, too

In a phone interview last night, Magpale said the PB will pass a resolution urging the President to include in the budget the P500 million needed to start the construction of the building.

“We will do that in this Monday’s session. We are not very clear yet on the area where it will be constructed but the governor has offered two lots—the DA lot and a lot in Kalunasan. We offered it but it’s the Supreme Court (SC) that has the final say on where it should be constructed,” she told Sun.Star Cebu.

Magpale said the SC may also opt to construct the building on the South Road Properties (SRP) lot donated by the Cebu City Government to the Court of Appeals.

Davide earlier announced the Province’s interest to retrofit and occupy the existing Hall of Justice as an extension of the Capitol. The building stands on a Province-owned lot, he said earlier.

“There are several options for the site and we already offered the Supreme Court the properties but they have no comment yet. We’re here to help them get the funds for the building,” Magpale said.

Drilon said whether or not the existing Hall of Justice is still safe and fit for occupancy has not been established, “but whatever it is, we take the side of prudence and I will support the building of the new Hall of Justice here in Cebu.”

Timing

He advised Capitol officials to prioritize the funding request and decide on the location, detailed engineering plans and design later. These can be finalized any time until Dec. 31.

“Let us prepare everything else simultaneously with the deliberation in Congress for the inclusion of P500 million. Anyway the location, detailed engineering design, those are not needed yet in the budget (proposal),” Drilon said.

The request for funding has to reach Malacañang before Congress convenes on July 28.

The executive department is required to submit the proposed budget to Congress within 30 days after Congress convenes.

“If the appropriation for the Cebu Hall of Justice is not included in the budget call and in the President’s budget for 2015, there can be no appropriation in 2015 and you have to wait for 2016 before they can start the Hall of Justice. We must start it next year, we must appropriate already in the 2015 General Appropriations Act, and I assured Governor Davide that I will support this project,” Drilon said during a press conference at the Cebu Country Club yesterday noon.

Access

The SC decision declaring the Priority Development Assistance Fund as illegal makes the task even more urgent, he said, since there are no more pork barrel funds that can be used for such projects.

In a separate interview yesterday, lawyer Elaine Bathan, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu City Chapter, said the lawyers prefer to keep the Hall of Justice in its present location at the back of the Capitol building so it will be accessible to court workers, litigants and lawyers.

“Our preference is to rebuild the Hall of Justice here in Capitol. For us, it’s the best location for our courts. But if it’s not feasible, then the next best area is the DA property or any area that’s not too far from the Capitol. Kalunasan is just not accessible,” Bathan told Sun.Star Cebu.

She lamented that even the Quimonda IT Center at the North Reclamation Area is not accessible for the litigants and the court workers, “but of course, we have to make do with what is available.” (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 02, 2014.

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