NOTE: This story was first published in The Bohol Chronicle’s Sunday print edition.
Atop the Banat-i Hill overlooking the provincial capital, Tagbilaran City, and tourist island of Panglao will rise Bohol’s imposing new P240 million hall of justice.
Rep. Edgar Chatto and Regional Trial Court (RTC) Executive Judge Leo Moises Lison accompanied a Supreme Court (SC) judicial infrastructure team to the final project site on Thursday.
The team, lead by Allister Joseph Alberastine, inspected the uphill area which they found to be a good location for the landmark house of courts.
They would submit to the High Tribunal the deed of donation of the project lot owned by the province which, Chatto said, was already signed by Gov. Arthur Yap.
The judicial center will stand on a half-hectare lot and converge, among others, eight RTC salas, including the new Family Court and its component social welfare office with breastfeeding and kid playing rooms.
Alberastine said the bidding for the consultancy on the design and detailed engineering will soon proceed en route to the construction of the justice hall this year or early 2021.
His team was sent here by the SC Office for Justice Halls which is under the high court administrator.
Then governor, Chatto had staunchly lobbied with then Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin for a new spacious hall as long yearned by Bohol judges, prosecutors and lawyers.
Now that he is back as congressman, project fund has been secured in the SC lump sum allocation for new justice halls in select areas of the country.
Bersamin had committed to allocate for Bohol in his time, but the project was overtaken by his retirement and appointment of now Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta.
Chatto followed through with the project and secured a sustained commitment from Peralta during the congressional hearing of the SC budget for 2020.
The former governor for nine years said it is practical, strategic and convenient to also build a justice hall in Talibon, northwest of Bohol, which project is in procurement process according to the SC team.
There are also RTCs based in Talibon, Carmen and Loay and another new Family Court in Ubay.
Used since early 90s, the existing justice hall beside the new capitol is only good for four RTCs while its small record depositories are getting overloaded, even posing a fire hazard, the executive judge said.
There are three other RTC salas based in the city for which the provincial government has been renting commercial spaces.
Lison said two Municipal Trial Courts in Cities (MTCCs) are situated at the old city hall while the mediation office has made use of an old DepEd building space below the sports complex grandstand.
While outside it has no parking space, the existing hall is leaking inside during rain and has not even been repainted ever since.
UNDER ONE ROOF
The new hall will house all the eight city-based RTCs, including the Family Court and its component Office of the Court Social Welfare with breastfeeding room and children playing station.
Also converged there are the four MTCCs, and offices of the provincial and city prosecutors, public attorney, and mediation, plus a function room for gathering.
Chatto will find fund for the improvement of the existing road to the area, where nearby is eyed for the proposed Bohol cultural and arts hub, while the city plans to open a road also leading there.
Boholano cultural reawakening is one of the pillar advocacies of the province under Yap.
According to the SC team, the Bohol hall of justice is bigger than those in Bicol and Lapulapu City in Cebu—and it reminded them of the justice hall in an elevated part of Samal island in Davao.
The mount Banat-i which is the city’s highest point located in barangay Bool, first thought to be the site of the historic Blood Compact or Sandugo between the brown and white races 455 years ago. (Ven rebo Arigo)