Retrofitting the Palace of Justice

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Monday, March 17, 2014


THE Marcelo Fernan Palace of Justice at the back of the Provincial Capitol was abandoned by its occupants, the courts and related offices, after it was damaged by the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that rocked parts of Bohol and Cebu last year. Now Gov. Hilario Davide III said he will ask permission from Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno that the Province will use it as an extension of the Capitol building.

The governor’s idea is for the Provincial Government to retrofit the office. I find this development amusing because the fact that the structure was abandoned means it couldn’t be salvaged. What Davide is saying by this suggestion is that the Supreme Court was wrong in abandoning the building, as the structure is still serviceable.

But will retrofitting be enough to ensure the reacquisition of the building’s integrity? That will be up to experts, like structural engineers, to answer. I just hope that if Sereno gives the go-signal for the Provincial Government to occupy the Palace of Justice, the safety of Capitol employees who will be tasked to use it would be ensured.

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But there’s a positive spin to the suggestion. It could prod the Supreme Court to come up with a paradigm shift as far as the housing of the courts in Cebu is concerned.

Maybe it can look for other sites where it can build a new and even cozier Palace of Justice. Let’s admit it, the old Palace of Justice was a cramped structure for the courts.

Interestingly, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is taking the lead in constructing a building that would house the offices of the regional, city and municipal prosecutors.

Cebu Provincial Prosecutor Pepita Jane Petralba said she will ask Davide for a province-owned lot where the said building can be constructed. The offices of the prosecutors were among the occupants of the Palace of Justice.

That means the Supreme Court can now focus on building a structure that would house the courts. But the better option is for the DOJ, Supreme Court and the Provincial Government to coordinate with each other on the construction of new buildings for the former occupants of the Palace of Justice. Their offices need to be close to each other still.

***

The crack in the Liberal Party (LP) in Talisay City is finally showing. I don’t know if Mayor Johnny V. de los Reyes (JVR) will, or could, mend fences after Vice Mayor Romeo Villarante’s tirades against him and his leadership qualities. This is something that Alayon, the group of former congressman Eduardo Gullas, will surely be monitoring.

The relationship between JVR and the original LP members in Talisay led by Villarante has always been fractious. JVR has always been his own man and cannot be contained within a party structure. That he doesn’t consult his party mates is in keeping with his nature.

His appointment of his son John Yre de los Reyes as city administrator, or “little city mayor,” further complicated matters. John Yre has shown in the past few months that he too is his own man. Sources say he sometimes make decisions without consulting his father.

Two unpredictable and headstrong “mayors” is simply too much for Talisay City Hall and for LP stalwarts in that city to handle. The setup has also resulted in the surfacing of many controversial decisions and orders that JVR (probably in tandem with Yre) has made so far. The mayor has been jumping from one controversy to another.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which side you are seeing), JVR is not even halfway into his term. If he continues to deteriorate in decision-making, his conflict with Villarante will widen. A broken LP will benefit greatly the Gullas group in 2016.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 18, 2014.

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