By: Atty. MAE ELAINE T. BATHAN
President – IBP Cebu City
It will officially be two months since the October 15, 2013 earthquake and it will also be two months that Cebu City is without a Palace of Justice. It will also be two months since the operations and basic delivery of services in the Judiciary has been interrupted, hearing of cases delayed and legal practice among lawyers affected. IBP Cebu City has for the past terms, passed resolutions requesting for the renovation of the Palace of Justice. We have requested for the installation of elevators and ramps for elderly and PWD clients and lawyers as well as the setting up of clinics for emergencies. These were never acted upon by the Supreme Court. Then came the inevitable damage brought about by the earthquake which makes addressing the issue imperative on the part of the Supreme Court. Unfortunately to this day, we do not see any sense of urgency or at least a pinch of empathy to the plight of our respected judges, court personnel, fellow lawyers and litigants in Cebu. Immediately after the earthquake, IBP Cebu Province and IBP Cebu City passed a Joint Resolution after a consultation with the Judges asking the Supreme Court to 1) Identify and determine a suitable and decent relocation site which can properly accommodate the displaced courtrooms and court staff offices; 2) Call and convene a meeting to be attended by the concerned stakeholders with the participation of IBP Cebu and Cebu City Chapters. We did not receive any reply from the Supreme Court on this resolution. Undersigned, as President of IBP Cebu City chapter has sent a letter to Chief Justice Sereno and Court Administrator Marquez, asking them to come to Cebu to dialogue with all the stakeholders and discuss, map out a plan and set a clear direction for the Palace of Justice in Cebu City. We have yet to receive a reply to the said letter. Court Administrator Marquez has issued a Memorandum directing the judges of the Palace of Justice of Cebu City to immediately transfer to Quimonda IT Center in North Reclamation Area, Cebu City. The said memorandum merely ordered for their transfer but never even provided for a logistical plan as to how to go about such transfer. Issues regarding the safety of the building, accessibility and safety of all stakeholders have been brought out but was never addressed if at all these were taken notice of by the Supreme Court. The judges have passed a letter of reconsideration to the Court of Administrator stressing out the said issues and concerns among others. As per verification, our distinguished judges are still waiting for the Supreme Court’s comment and action on their letter. IBP Cebu City has passed a resolution supporting the letter requesting for reconsideration by the judges. We have likewise passed a resolution reiterating the need for the Chief Justice and Court Administrator to come to Cebu and dialogue will all the stakeholders of the Palace of Justice and the need for the Supreme Court to act on this matter immediately. It is due for submission to the Supreme Court within this week. After which, we will again wait for the highest court’s action and whether or not it will once and for all merit its attention. It is the position of the chapter that the Supreme Court should once for all address these issues among others: 1) Given the fact that the Office of the Building Official has issued a certification that the Palace of Justice only needs retrofitting, what is its plan? When will it be implemented?; 2) In the meantime, where will the courts hold office? How will the transfer be implemented and where will the courts get the funding for the transfer and renovation of the office. In order for the Supreme Court to properly decide on the above issues, it is but necessary for them to hold a dialogue with all the stakeholders, take note of their concerns and come to Cebu to personally see the situation of our courts. The situation in the Palace of Justice, the makeshift courts made of tents in a murky parking lot in which our judges, court personnel, lawyers and litigants are forced make do with does not speak so well of our judicial system. Not only does it demean the profession but it has dulled the sparkle of the nobility of the Judiciary. What was once a majestic structure that used to symbolize hope, justice and equity has now become an uncertain and useless edifice. Unless the Supreme Court will take immediate action in addressing the problems of the courts in Cebu City, then this part of the judiciary will continue to violate the basic fundamental freedoms of every litigant thereby defeating the very purpose by which the said office was created. IBP Cebu City strongly subscribes to the principle that Justice delayed is Justice Denied. Cebu will never be privy to such injustice. Unless the Supreme Court will once and for all take notice and action to the final resolution which the chapter will send this week, then perhaps with the support of the general membership it is time to explore other possible options if only to bring our message to our esteemed majesties in Padre Faura. In the meantime, let us remain hopeful.