Editorial: Rebuilding a ‘palace’-A A +A
Thursday, October 24, 2013
THE Palace of Justice has always been a “palace” only in name. It is not a home of a king, a queen or a president obviously, the first definition of Merriam-Webster for “palace.” And it is definitely not a large and fancy building.
Okay, it looks large from the outside, but it is cramped, with small lobbies and strangely designed stairways. It’s like all that the one who conceived it wanted was to ensure that the courts, the offices of the prosecutors and the Public Attorney’s Office could be housed in it, space consideration be damned.
But for years it was functional and served its purpose, until last week’s magnitude 7.2 earthquake exposed its structural weaknesses, and the problem of putting all the eggs, sort of, in one basket.
The tremor caused cracks on the structure and heavily damaged its fourth floor. That was enough to cause worries about its structural integrity, more so because of the aftershocks that have continued to hit Bohol and Cebu provinces.
It’s not surprising that court employees and personnel of the other offices occupying the building no longer want to return there. As Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Executive Judge Francisco Seville told reporters, “We won’t risk our lives by holding office there.”
So while the courts reopened Monday, hearings could not be held still as court employees are transacting business inside tents set up at the nearby parking lot.
This is a cause for concern considering the number of courts immobilized. The Palace of Justice housed 22 Regional Trial Court (RTC) branches and eight MTCC courts. Delays in the resolution of cases, they say, is justice denied.
Because of this, judges are now looking for temporary venues of the hearings, with the Camp Lapu-Lapu in Lahug and the Cebu Eastern College (CEC) building along D. Jakosalem St. as candidates. But the operative word there is “temporary.” How temporary is “temporary” will now depend on the Supreme Court.
If the damage on the building is extensive, then the Palace of Justice may go the way of the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) building, which will be demolished and a new one built in its place. That will be even more problematic because it would mean that the temporary venues of the hearings will be used for a longer period of time.
But this will also give the Supreme Court a chance to build a new Palace of Justice that will be true to its name.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 24, 2013.