Soon, the country’s capital city will have its own Hall of Justice.
The Manila Hall of Justice Project was presented to the public by Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo, Chair of the Halls of Justice Coordinating Committee for the City of Manila, during simple ceremonies at the En Banc Session Hall on October 22, 2019.
During the event, Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio was also given a Certificate of Appreciation for his invaluable support for the construction of the MHOJ. Justice Gesmundo shared, “[a]s a flagship project of the judiciary, and as the premier hall of justice of the Philippine capital city, Justice Carpio saw the importance of the Manila Hall of Justice project not just for judges, court personnel, and litigants in the City of Manila, he also saw it an opportunity to showcase it as the first self-funded infrastructure of the Judiciary.”
The Project site has a total lot area of 10,818.10 sqm. It is within an archaeological complex adjacent to the Mehan Garden, Arroceros, Lawton and areas known as “Parian” (A designated area for the Chinese Community during Spanish Colonization). The lot is bounded by Public Veterans Affairs Office on its North, N. Lopez Street on its South, Boy Scouts of the Philippines Building on its East, and G.A.J. Villegas Street on its West.
The MHOJ Project, three buildings interconnected which include the Old GSIS Building, New Expansion Building, and the Parking Building, will house a total of 120 courtrooms and three special courtrooms. Other features of the project include: a Philippine Mediation Center, Archives, Records and Evidence Rooms, Conference and Meeting Rooms, Prisoner Holding Rooms. It will also house recreational facilities such as a multi-purpose basketball court and a fitness gym. There will also be a Business Center, Library, Medical Clinic, and a Daycare Center.
Justice Gesmundo shared that the MHOJ project costs ₱2.804Billion, “with all money coming from the Judiciary’s own savings.”
Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez explained further that the budget for the Manila Hall of Justice project reached ₱2.8Billion because the three interconnected buildings are environment-friendly and green certified. The MHOJ is certified as the first green courthouse in the Philippines.
Assistant Court Administrator (ACA) Maria Regina Adoracion Filomena M. Ignacio revealed that they have completed about 75% of the project: from its inception to its final location at the Old GSIS Building, and its conceptual design as envisioned by the project consultant, Arce-Bailon-Arce Architects. She added that part of this includes the Design Phase deliverables composed of the plans and drawings, cost estimates, technical specifications, project master plan, 3D drawing utilities and operational and maintenance manual, which were approved by the Court En Banc in its Resolution of September 3, 2019. “Following this, the construction phase is expected to last for a period of 24 months, which means that we can expect the completion of the MHOJ by June 2022.” The last 25% of the project is the construction of the MHOJ. As the Chair of the Bids and Award Committee (BAC) for the MHOJ and the Court of Appeals Buildings in Cebu and Cagayan de Oro, ACA Ignacio said that the BAC is currently undertaking preparations for the procurement of the works contractor and are aiming at a timeline of six months for the procurement phase. “[B]arring any failure in the process, we can expect the execution of works by June 2020.”
ACA Ignacio also pointed out that since the MHOJ sits in an archaeological complex, construction may be halted in case artifacts or any item of historical or cultural significance may be uncovered during excavation.
In his response, Executive Judge Virgilio V. Macaraig of the Regional Trial Court of Manila expressed their utmost gratitude for the MHOJ Project, he thus expressed, “there is no denying that the construction of the Hall of Justice will greatly improve the working conditions of the judges and court employees.”
At present, Manila courts are spread out in three locations: in the Manila City Hall, the old Ombudsman building, and at the former Masagana Complex along Kalaw.