One lasting Davide legacy, if ever

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014


MONDAY was my first time to be at Quimonda IT Bldg. at the pier area in Cebu City. The structure was where the Regional Trial Courts (RTCs) and Municipal Trial Courts in Cities (MTCCs) moved in about two weeks ago upon the order of the Supreme Court.

The courts were originally house at the Palace of Justice at the Capitol grounds. The building was damaged and declared unsafe by structural engineers after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit parts of Cebu and Bohol in October last year.

The courts did not function for a few months. But to serve the litigants, they later held trials in makeshift tents around the Palace of Justice and the parking area.

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The offices of the Cebu City Prosecutor and the Cebu Provincial Prosecutor that were in the ground floor of the Palace of Justice were also displaced.

I am aghast, though, at the state of the courts at Quimonda IT Bldg. They are crammed, dusty, not well lighted and the judges do not have their own chambers. The place imply does not speak well of the blindfolded lady in white holding a scale.

The health of the court employees is also at risk. Being asthmatic, I immediately left the courtroom when I sensed that I could hardly breathe because of the dust and the unpleasant smell of the case records scattered on the floor.

Actually, many judges and court employees did not want to move out of the Palace of Justice area because the Quimonda IT Bldg., aside from being small, is not suited as a court edifice.

It was originally designed as a call center. According to my source, the building was constructed under the Philippine Economic Zone Authority. As to why not a single call center leased it is beyond me.

The judges and the court employees, as well as the prosecutors, were compelled to move out from the vicinity of the Palace of Justice after the Supreme Court gave them an ultimatum in the form of a warning that the power and water supply would be cut off.

It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court will not spend for the repair or retrofitting of the damaged floors of the Palace of Justice. It also has no plan to build a new one, like the Hall of Justice in Lapu-Lapu City.

Since the courts have moved out of the Palace of Justice, which is tantamount to abandonment, Cebu Gov. Hilario P. Davide III expressed the plan to use the building as extension of the offices of Capitol.

Governor Davide said he will discuss with Supreme Court Chief Ma. Lourdes Sereno his plan to take possession of the building since, he said, there is no record that will show that Capitol donated the lot to the Supreme Court.

The Palace of Justice was constructed during the time of Gov. Lito Osmeña. Added to the original one-floor Court of First Instance (CFI ,now RTC) were three floors more to accommodate the city courts at the fourth floor.

The other branches of the then CFI were housed on the ground and second floors of Capitol. The courts were my beat when I was a reporter of this paper while taking up law.

While I am not privy to the construction of the Palace of Justice on a Capitol lot, but I know pretty well that the intention of the Capitol leadership then was noble, that is, to provide the Cebuanos and the judiciary with a decent edifice worthy of the name Palace of Justice.

The new governor is a lawyer, a son and namesake of retired chief justice Jun Davide.

I am proud to say that he was my secretary when I was president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Cebu chapter, in 1999-2001.

The statue of Justice Cayetano Arellano stands proud in front of the Palace of Justice. That would lose its meaning soon if the governor will use the edifice as Capitol's offices.

I don't doubt the integrity and sincerity of Governor Davide. I believe he still has the heart for lawyering since he still keeps his law firm, although it is run now by his partners.

Governor Davide would leave a lasting legacy to the lawyers in particular and to the Cebuanos in general if Capitol would shoulder the retrofitting cost for the Palace of Justice and let the courts use it again.

Maybe, Capitol can collect later from the Supreme Court the cost of the repair.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 20, 2014.

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