|Kapehan (Atty. Yoyong Mamon and RTC Judge Rene Hortillo) Extention habitues|
BY PET MELLIZA/THE BEEKEEPER
If you want to know some gossips, as the saying goes, go to coffee shops.
The cafe has already dislodged the barber shop: the latter in yonder years was watering hole of the community; people, including the important spinner of yarns – the “cochero” (kutsero) congregated there to while time and increase their wisdom.
A steaming cup of coffee can inspire exchanges of stories or even prompt an ordinary man into a flash of genius dishing out ideas on how to save, not just a small community, but the whole world even.
You want to find that out? Go to one nook at De Paul’s, a former college but now serving as temporary shelter for the bulk of displaced courts and personnel of regional trial courts (RTCs) and municipal trial courts (MTCs) from judges down to messengers.
It’s in the kapehan there where De Paul’s earned its moniker “De Paul Hall of Justice”, a parody of
their original home that once prided itself “Iloilo Hall of Justice” and later “Chief Justice Ramon Avancena Hall of Justice”.
|RTC Sherif Torres (right)|
The kapehan has an extension of sort, a pair of wooden tables planted under a makeshift shade between two mahogany trees where the noisy habitués congregate. Yours truly has an occasion or two to sit there one morning while waiting for the hearing to start. Our topic? Official shenanigans
under the “matuwid na landas”, a witty inference to the battle cry (“straight path”) that Pres. PNoy promised in his 2010 campaign.
Court personnel evacuated the Hall of Justice after a 5.7 magnitude quake shook Iloilo last February 6. Incidentally, it is the only building in Iloilo that was declared a public danger in the aftermath. It is only 19 years old but it proved weaker than older buildings which were undented despite their age. Massive cracks in all four floors of the edifice exposed it frail foundation and substandard materials, particular the steel bars that were inspected.
In other words, the Iloilo Hall of Justice was de facto a monument of official thievery. It was built on a P105-million budget in 1990 at the time, local contractors say, when P40 million would suffice. In short, it was both grossly overpriced and substandard, giving thieves the luck to reap twice from a single cropping.
Then Chief Justice Renato Corona ordered an evacuation. Later, a group of judges and lawyers signed a manifesto asking the national government to erect a new building, while a motley group of lawyers grumbled that an investigation must be made to determine who-dunnit.
Curiously, another batch of engineers sent by the DPWH revised an earlier finding and recommended a refitting; instead of demolishing the entire structure, the government should rather reinforce weak portions so to save on cash.
A judge nearly threw his cup of coffee upon hearing that and expressed surprise that officials who feathered their nests from the budget of the Iloilo Hall of Justice are still at the helms of power, and key preachers of the “matuwid na landas” at that, instead of being pilloried. One of the thieves even has the gall to plant billboards around preaching honesty in preparation for his leap to Congress next year.
The court employees and the judge, however, chorused over cups of tea that “future judge” Gene Original paid for, “never”! They’ll never return to the old Iloilo Hall of Justice. They want a new home and as the word suggests, it should be “new”, not a refitted building.
The “De Paul Hall of Justice” is the only one in the entire country where uniforms are dispensed with. Personnel there may wear ordinary shirts. It is so hot and ventilation is so poor that not a few lawyers and judges had to cut short hearings due surging blood pressure.
Before the earthquake, lawyers can cover hearings in different sala and the public prosecutor’s office in one day. Isang lagare lang, as their joke goes.
That’s impossible today; travel to different offices consumes time: most municipal courts are in one building adjacent the abandoned hall of justice; the fiscals’ offices at the Iloilo Terminal Market, City Proper; the PublicAttorney’s Office (PAO) at St. Clement’s compound and the Iloilo Sports Complex,
both in La Paz.